Thursday, June 20, 2013

Acceptable Racism (or it's only wrong when YOU do it)

So…racism. “Oh no, not THIS again”. Nope. You’re right. Not “again”. Because “again” implies that it’s been successfully addressed in the past and it’s unnecessary to do it…again. But…that’s not accurate, is it?
Recently, Salamishah Tillet used the term “white supremacy” during a discussion about abortion. Bill O’Reilly immediately labeled that racist. Paula Deen admitted to using the word “nigger” (I don’t say “the n word” because I’m an adult, grow up) and some people (ok…a LOT of people) were outraged. Let’s look a little deeper, shall we? (when you read “shall we”, read it with a British accent. It’s fun. Do it. DO it.)

First of all, if racism has been “addressed” successfully, then why would Salamishah Tillet’s use of the term “white supremacist” be deemed racist? Here’s the entire quote that got O’Reilly’s undergarments gathered together in the most uncomfortable manner 

Well, I think, the Census just released data, so part of it is the changing racial demographics in the United States. For the first time in American history, children born under the age of five are racial, the majority of them are racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S.

So I think that there’s a kind of moral panic, a fear of the end of whiteness that we’ve been seeing a long time in that I think, you know, Obama’s ascension as President kind of symbolizes to a certain degree. And so I think this is one response to that sense that there’s a decreasing white majority in the country and that women's bodies and white women’s bodies in particular are obviously a crucial way of reproducing whiteness, white supremacy, white privilege. And so I think it’s just a kind of clamping down on women’s bodies, in particular white women's bodies, even though women of color are really caught in the fray.” 

Now…as I read that, I notice she said “one response is…”. I’m not a genius, but when I see “ONE response” I assume that there are other valid responses as well. So…if she’s not saying everyone who is against abortion is a white supremacist…what’s the problem? Is it that people can’t believe that there still exist others who hold thoughts of white supremacy? Really? A Google search can show you that Aryan, Neo-Nazi, etc. groups still exist. Do you just not WANT to believe that? Or do you believe that by not acknowledging it, it doesn't exist? Cut that crap. Her statement was clear. Bill O’Reilly is a VERY intelligent man. So either, he missed the “ONE response” part of her statement, he’s being extreme for ratings, or he’s really accusing her of using “coded language” to arouse racist sentiment. Ironic.
Now, the question I asked myself…”did I perceive her statement that way because she’s black? Because she’s a woman? Because she’s attractive (I like natural hair, sue me)? Or because I really believe her intent wasn’t to call all white people “white supremacists”? I sincerely believe that wasn't her intent. But let’s be real. I AM black. Does that have ANY impact on how I perceive the world around me? Hell yes! I work on that constantly. I question, then adjust, then repeat. But, the converse is true. Did O’Reilly perceive her statement that way because he’s white? Maybe not. But he IS white. And whether we want to admit it or not, being a particular race, gender, etc. DOES form the basis of our perception. We CAN overcome that by constantly looking at our beliefs and at least TRYING to see “the other side”. But this arrogant belief that our perspective is the only logical one is one of the reasons that racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination exist.

Let’s go the opposite direction. Paula Deen. Completely different take. She used the word nigger jokingly. I didn't buy that.  By her own account she never used it in a cruel manner. Nope...didn't buy THAT either. I’m honest. My thinking is colored (no pun intended) by my own experiences. So the fact that Paula Deen is a southern white woman definitely impacts the way I perceive her situation. Again, I have to ask myself “would I give her the benefit of the doubt if she were someone else?”. The answer is yes. I've admittedly defended several comedians’ use of the word nigger (the jokes were funny. That’s my criteria for whether or not it’s acceptable) while drawing the line at Michael Richards use. I don’t know Louis C.K., Bill Burr, Michael Richards, OR Paula Deen…so how did I come to these conclusions? I guessed. I used logic, reason, and my gut. And you know what…I could be wrong about ALL of them.

That’s it. We’re debating the intent of strangers. Arrogantly. Ignorantly. But we’re at least having the conversation. Because one thing that’s inarguable…there is a real difference between being real and being right. Racism is real. But it ain't right. It won’t go away with silence. But I’m still naïve enough to believe that enough of us can rid ourselves of racist/bigoted mind sets, that we’ll marginalize the remaining idiots. Or not. 

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