“Randi, why couldn’t you just keep your *%^!& mouth shut,” is my 2nd most repeated self-admonishment, after “Why in the %%^@$ did you just eat that?” This damn “Robin-Hood, Thurgood Marshall, Chuck D” mouth of mine compels me to speak out when I see blatant bigotry, particularly when it involves kids.
My latest verbal explosion involved me doing a video about a neighboring school who had a dance and flier mimicking and stereotyping elements of Black culture.
Most people of all races were very supportive of my message and critique. Of course, I had some dissenters (all of whom were White and from the town at issue). To maintain my sanity, I rarely go back and read comments after I’ve posted something that I know will cause upset and almost never respond directly to the outraged few. But, to address the typical buckets of responses, I’ll respond to them now.
Typical Response 1 – You Are Looking for Trouble
Boo-boo, do you read the newspapers, or watch any news program (even Fox)? If so, you should know that as a Black woman, with a Black husband and two Black boys– living in dis-here-America; I don’t need to look for trouble. I don’t need to search for instances of racism. It is delivered to me as regularly as my morning newspaper; it is ubiquitous as Starbucks on city corners and H&M in malls. Black people face racism daily either via tiny microaggressions such as heightened scrutiny when we enter a store —-to macroaggressions such as racial epithets and unwarranted police stops; and we pick which ones we have the mental bandwidth to deal with – kind of like a kid picking his favorite flavors out of a large bowl of Jelly Belly’s. But it is NEVER fun, and is NEVER because we are looking for additional hardship or pain.
Typical Response 2 – Stop Making Everything About Race
I’m Black. Black folks think about being Black the same way a person in a wheel-chair thinks about being in a wheelchair. They must consider it everywhere they go, whatever they do, and with whomever they interact. We must.
Typical Response 3 – I’m Not Racist
First, when I say “White people” or Black people in some of these vlogs and blogs, I am speaking in the pejorative. I know that there are millions of exceptions. Please know I’m not talking to you—unless, of course, you are guilty. Then, I am talking to you.
This phrase is oftentimes proclaimed after someone has done some racist ish. You may not be racist; but that does not mean that you didn’t do or say something racist or racially insensitive. You don’t get to do or say something grossly offensive and then proclaim that you aren’t racist and release yourself of any judgment or responsibility.
Typical Response 4 – THAT Doesn’t Exist in Our Neighborhood or Our Organization
Who are these people that think that they are somewhere over the rainbow, or down a rabbit hole, or in a Disney movie? Stop—please—stop with your arrogant, out-of-touch proclamations that certain negative things don’t exist in your neighborhood or organization. I’m speaking to ALL the neighborhoods and organizations in the world: yes, it exists. Whatever it is—it is there. Neighborhoods and organizations are made up of many people—not one is monolithic, pure, or perfect.
Long ago, a neighborhood kid named James called my son a nigger, said that niggers are dumb and that it’s tough living around niggers. He said all of this in front of several classmates at Bacich Elementary School. The principal tried to sweep the incident under the rug and file it as name calling. So, I went public with the incident to try to put some pressure on the administration to punish James and to work on creating policies that would address the county’s increasing diversity. Many parents became angry with me; and very protective of James’ mother who never apologized to me but instead went on a publicity campaign declaring that innocent James was simply repeating a word that he heard on a comedy show (eye-roll). I cried to my friend, who happens to be a psychologist. I sobbed, “How could they be mad at me when it was my son who was victimized.” I will never forget what he said back, “They are angry with you because you are disturbing their fantasy of the perfect place they live. They are allowed to believe they are pure because they have been allowed to be their own, mono-cultural, judge and jury.”
I won’t apologize for waking you up from your dream–not while many of us are having to manage some nightmarish situations.
Typical Response 5 – But My Friend is Black and She / He Said
You can have a Black husband, wife, child, grandchild, friend, and still say something ignorant. Slave masters had children with their slaves and still believed in slavery, kept them enslaved, and were racist. Your affiliation with someone of another race, sexual orientation or gender— does not provide you with a “exempt from bigotry” card. I’m sorry.
And oftentimes, the individuals listed on your “I’m not a bigot” resume are questionable anyway. I wonder, does your Black friend have a Black friend? Seriously, stop telling us what your Black friend, Chad, said about some race-related issue when Chad doesn’t associate with Black people except when his mother makes him do lunch with her twice a year. The Ben Carson’s / Clarence Thomas’ of the world bought a one-way ticket into the White world and the price to stay there is to be non-confrontational, acceptable, and agreeable. There dedication to assimilation is impenetrable.
Typical Response 6 – Not My Friends or She/He are Really Nice People
I’m assuming, but I bet there were people at a time who thought that Hitler, Mussolini, Genghis Khan, and Bull Connor were nice people (certainly to their closest friends and spouses). I would guess that they were nice to some people. That does not mean that they aren’t bigots, or at least ignorant.
Typical Response 7 – You Are Causing Division
It’s not nice to say something is dumb, but this response is dumb. Bringing attention to and discussing xenophobic-fueled incidents and problems is part of the solution to address the real problem. I know the talking part feels uncomfortable to a White person, so that’s where the problem may start for you; but the feeling part is much tougher for the Black community, and when we felt the sting of the offense that’s where the problem truly started. The talking about it, the constructive, honest, and yet painful and uncomfortable discussions is the vehicle to take us to healing and fixing.
Your discomfort in discussing the incident cannot supersede our pain as the victim of the incident. We can’t pretend that everything is good to pacify you; and you must stop labeling us as troublemakers or difficult when we bring issues to your attention.
Typical Response 8 – We Really Need to Do Better to Help the Brown People in Our Community.
The one point I wish I could get through to White people is that racism hurts you too (and I’m not talking about that bullshit: reverse racism). Don’t be honest about the issues in your community for me and other Black folks. Do it for yourself and your family. By 2040 (wall I’ll be damned) there will be more minorities in America than White people. Your children will undoubtedly have to know how to get along with people of color. You don’t want your son kicked out of college because he wore Black face and attended a “Gangsta Party” thrown by his fraternity, do you? You don’t want your daughter getting fired from her job because she called a Muslim coworker a terrorist. You certainly don’t want your husbands’ company having to file bankruptcy because the EEOC received a $65 million verdict in an age discrimination class action. You need to look at videos such as mine as opportunities to learn and opportunities to educate those around you, particularly your children.
Folks like me are going to call you out on your racist behavior…even if it makes you uncomfortable. Many of those who were quiet are sick, but they ain’t hardy tired. They are ready to speak up and call offenders out. Mind your behavior; and ensure you are being considerate and respectful to all people.