Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Do I Need to Scream?

:sigh: What a musical genius. Wow. And I have to admit, "Black or White" aside, I didn't realize Michael Jackson was that attuned to race in America.

So anyway. We know I'm a frequent commenter over at racismreview.com. A discussion that's still ongoing (can you say "still ongoing") got me to thinking.

A commenter, Gloria, said something very interesting.

I'm gonna cut and paste cause it's easier than trying to explain it to you myself. Now, of course, she denies systemic racism. I guess this is a rhetorical question:

You truly believe the United States of America is full of horrible white supremicists who systematically practice white racism each and every day?
So of course no one had said that. That's what she thinks we think. I'd like to know if that's what all white people think of black anti-racists. But that aside, the answer to her question is fairly simple: yes.

Does this mean we think all white people are evil little devils plotting and planning how to keep black Americans from being as successful as white Americans. No! That'd be silly!


Do I think the majority of white Americans would freak-out and have a meltdown if African Americans enjoyed the same privileges that have? Yes. You saw those "tea parties" after the first ever black president. You've heard of the recent spike in hate crimes and DHS's concerns about right-wing extremism. Can you imagine if there were employment, housing, education, and lending equality? Can you imagine if their were equality in the justice system? Can you imagine the unemployment rate being the same for all racial and ethnic groups? I mean, do I need to remind you of the race riots throughout history?

I probably do, huh? There've been anti-black race riots in Detroit, Boston, Wilmington (NC), and Tulsa (OK) just to name a few. I hope you've seen the movie Rosewood at least once. I get so angry, I've only been able to watch it once.

And recall, the construction of the interstate highway system uprooted black communities and destroyed thriving black business districts. I'll try to get more info to you about that, but this link will have to suffice until then. And there's more. I just need to move on.

So you see the historic reaction of white America to black progress.

So, no, black people don't think all white people are evil, mis-shapened creatures who only look human to us. We just think y'all are complicit and guilty in maintaining a system that by its very nature disadvantages us. If you don't like that, then stop being so complicit in the racism happening around you, and we'll think differently. Don't get me wrong. We don't think this of each and every white person. Tim Wise is cool. Joe on racismreview is cool. A couple of my high school teachers, Prof Janken at UNC. Here's a cat who seems to get it, both he and his student. Big ups to the white folks who protested the Valley Club. I mean. Every black person know at least a few white people who are honestly anti-racist. But there're 70 of you to every 13 of us. You do the math. (No seriously. My head is buzzing and AP stats is fuzzy.)

Anyway. Back to Gloria's comments.

I am a teacher during the school year, and in the summers I hostess at a restaurant here in town. I have worked with some lovely black hostesses. I have also worked with some black hostesses who celebrated being black in a negative way. They enjoyed talking the black street talk that Bill Cosby ( read my former post) detested. They knew better because they didn’t speak that way to the guests. However, they spoke that way to their fellow employees and To Me.
I’ve heard them say, endless times, if the manager reprimanded them for being late or leaving their post to take a break while the restaurant was slamming busy, “He racist! Dat why he doin’ me lak dat.” OK..so would someone respond to that please? Is poor behavior excusable Because You’re Black?
I did respond. I pointed out that what her coworkers were probably referring to was that when white workers were late or left their post, the manager didn't speak to them in the same disrespectful, condescending tone. I asked if possibly there were a difference in how the manager reprimanded everyone. Gloria didn't answer my question.

Here's the kicker and what inspired this post:

I know many lovely black people. Funny..I never hear them yell racist! They just go about their business of working hard, getting an education, and being good friends and nice people.
I should tell you that Gloria's had a wide-range of experiences. Her grandfather is an Italian immigrant. Her father was held up by a group of black teenagers. None of that excuses her racism; I just thought it would only be fair to Gloria to give you a bit more of her frame of reference. Also, she said a whole lot more. Much of it absent any facts. And a good chunk I didn't read. Sorry.

Now, let me get to the meat of this post. I'll have to share with you my line of thought, if only just to have it here where I could read it. My initial reaction to that last comment is that that's how the overwhelming majority of African Americans conduct ourselves. We don't complain about racism to our white coworkers, neighbors, or friends. We complain at the barber or beauty shop. We complain at church. And it's not the topic of every conversation and we don't think about it every day or even every week or month. But when we do, we don't complain to the white people in our lives.

Then it occurred to me that I hear and read that a lot from white people, that they have black friends who don't complain abour racism and what's wrong with the rest of us. So I'm thinking, maybe black people should complain about racism to the white folks in our lives. Usually we don't because we're already upset and if we have to hear our white "friend" tell us we're probably "over-reacting," we're gonna "pop go the weasel till the weasel go pop!" (That's a shout out to Bernie Mac.) But I'm thinking, maybe we oughtta go ahead and risk it so more white people can understand how frustrated it can be to be judged negatively based on the color of our skin. And don't even go there. The little bit of irritation most white people feel when the learn, or remember, that most black people regard them with suspicion is jelly beans compared to what we go through.

Then I have this sudden, crystallizing thought. I don't think I've ever heard or read a white person say they didn't no any black person to complain about racism. They do the same thing Gloria did: separate black people into good and bad, and decide that it's the opinion of the(ir) good blacks that matters.

Which makes sense on the face of it, right? No one who really wants to know the news goes to Fox for information, cause Fox is bad. If two kids get in a fight, you may ask both what happened; but you only really take the word of the kid known to be good.

But, there's a problem with what Gloria and others like her do: just complaining about racism makes you a bad black person. Go back and look at what she says about the black hostess at the restaurant. Really think about what she says about them. They seem to perform their duties well. It doesn't seem as though she tried to get to know them personally, even though they did reach out to her.

(Huh? Where did I get that from? When we're talking to a white person, we use standard English. We know what white people think if we don't. Even I use standard English with all my white acquaintances. I can only think of 2 white friends I'd use black English with, and we're fairly close friends. So to talk in our vernacular at the workplace to a white co-worker shows so effort, or expectation at least, at comraderie.)

Gloria doesn't really have anything bad to say about them except that they will come to work late and not stay at their posts during busy hours. That's not really bad. I'm sure their were some white co-workers who showed up late and left their posts during busy hours, too. So really, there're only 2 complaints Gloria has with these hostesses: 1) They dare speak black vernacular to her; 2) They assert that the only reason the manager spoke to them the way he did was that they're black. Even notice that. She doesn't say that they complain about being reprimanded at all, just that the manager did them "lak dat" [sic]. So part of what makes them untrustworthy for Gloria and folks of her ilk is their complaining about racism. You can't have a formula where whether or not you trust someone's take on racism depends on whether or not that mention it in your presence. And if you do, it can't be that the ones who don't complain about racism are the ones you listen to. Cause like I said, black folks generally don't complain about racism to our white acquaitances. Though, maybe we should.

Plus, it's not like Oprah and Bill Cosby and President Obama don't acknowledge racism. They do. They just focus on achieving inspite of. So referencing them in your "there's no systemic racism" argument only shows the selectivity with which you listen to black people, in the few ones in positions of power.

So stop saying you know (these certain) black people who don't complain about racism (to you) and so therefore it must not exist. That's just plain ole ign'rant logic.

Scream - Michael Jackson

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This isn't too complicated. If you disagree with me, I'm more than happy to have an honest discussion. I'm quite open to learning new facts and ideas. I'm dying for a conservative to explain their ideas in a sensible way.

But, I do have rules, and they also apply to those who agree with me. They just get the benefit of my already knowing the fact they'll be referring to.

So, here're the comment thread rules:

1 - Use facts.
2 - Refer to policy.
3 - Don't rely on theories and conjectures. Show me how, for example, a public health insurance option will lead to "rationing" of health care.
4 - No unfounded attacks on any entity.

If you break those rules, I will edit your comment to my own whimsical satisfaction.

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, I'm not going to entertain too much pro-white/racism-denying discussion. I want this to be a space to discuss strategies to fight racism, not space where I have to fight racism. I want anti-racists to be able to come here for a mental respite. If what you're interested in doing is attempting to demonstrate the fallacy of anti-racism by repeating the same ole comments and questions and accusations we hear all the time, please do that somewhere else.

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But Don't Jack My Genuis