|"I don't care what it feels like boy, it's not racism."|
In his post, “Steve” (a 30-ish white male) referred to the two women who removed property from his vehicle as “dark-skinned ghetto bitches.” When I got curious with him about his choice of words, he balked. Then one of Steve’s friends responded by posting an image of a noose. We’ll circle back to that.
In addition to writing this column, I work in the community and around the state on issues pertaining to race, diversity and inclusion. Professionally trained, the works. In my experience I’ve found it true that sometimes people say and/or do racist things without even realizing it. With that thought in mind, I informed Steve that what he said was racist.
What he said was racist; not he is racist. There’s a difference and I indicated as much. Didn’t matter.
Cue the avalanche of denials, rebuttals and insistence by Steve (and his friends) that he’s not racist but a good person. My attempt to engage in meaningful dialog about a serious social issue drew ire, jokes, personal attacks and “race-baiter” accusations – all leveled at me by supporters of his statement. And there were a lot of them. Lots of colorful metaphors launched in my direction too.
What I considered a teachable moment on how stereotypes about persons of color are perpetuated, engrained and objectifying, turned into a lesson on white supremacy. That is, how racism is consciously and unconsciously propagated.
|Local government-sanctioned terrorism|
About the noose.
The noose conjures ominous connotations among African Americans and other communities of color. Since slavery ended, throughout Reconstruction, Jim Crow and government sanctioned segregation – all the way through the Civil Rights era – lynching was/is a form of homegrown terrorism. It’s designed to strike fear into targeted groups. The purpose? Intimidation and control.
Between 1882 and 1968, upwards of 3,500 African Americans were lynched in the United States. This, according to a publication from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
The fellow who posted the noose image thinks he was being clever. I believe he was being calculating. The evidence? This country’s historical reputation for systematic lynchings. That, combined with present day nooses hung from school yard trees, on college campuses, in workplace cubicles and restrooms, and in police and sporting team locker rooms.
As for the rest of the attackers on the Facebook thread, it’s remarkable their refusal to accept the possibility that “dark-skinned ghetto bitches” is offensive to African Americans, persons of color, and even some white people. Remarkable because no matter how many different ways communities of color explain their oppressive experiences when it comes to race, inevitably most white people believe they understand racism better than we do.
It’s our experience but they are the experts. White supremacy at its purest.
It all begs the question: where’s the empathy?
How do you get people to “feel” compassion toward folks subjected to racism? Do
they feel but are ultimately unable to articulate it (hence the joking and
sickening banter)? Are they shut off from or denying their feelings? Why the
callousness and denial?
|Why you complaining? All y'all like watermelon, right?|
Back to “Steve.” For a moment I thought to “unfriend” him. Then I considered: how many times in the past have I unthinkingly said or acted prejudiced, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, classist, you name it?
So instead of shutting out the ugly, I choose to face it. I choose to continue posting information on systematic inequities, especially topics on racism and how to combat it. And name it when I see it.
There are scores of white folks and people of color who believe as I do. Good people. Earnest people. If only they enacted their thoughts and values, rather than remain silent on the sideline. We are all on a journey. Who will walk with me?
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.