I'd apologize for this being a long one, but I'm not sorry in the slightest. Take a seat, children, adults, elderly geezers and geezer ladies, and strap in. Put down your tea unless it's got a shot of truth in it. Put on your hearing aids and tape open your eyes. We're going for a ride to reality.
Racism is bad. People who actually experience racism and their allies can tell you as much. Only a select few have the privilege to not experience it and perpetuate it without even being conscious of their actions.
After sacrificing virgins, goats, and virgin goats, the Powers That Be at PopWrapped have agreed to my demands that I get to write an article about a topic that affects people beyond measure. Okay, not really, they approached me because they're awesome and my two cents matter, so get ready to pick up some change as I talk about a silent disease.
Racism is a prevalent issue in our society. It affects all people of colour and those not affected by it are able to turn a blind eye on it because it doesn't affect them. It's the same thing if you walk past a homeless person and don't give them any change or feel any empathy, because their homelessness does not affect or impact you personally. It is analogous to someone elsewhere dying of hunger and you not giving it a single thought because you have a full fridge and the funds to feed yourself. It's similar to you walking to opposite side of the street when there's a fight going on, when you don't call the cops on thieves breaking into a neighbour's house because they're not stealing your things, when you don't help someone being beaten by the police because you're not being beaten yourself.
And yet, were the situation reversed, you would want someone to give you some money if you were homeless; you would want someone to feed you were you hungry and without money; you would want someone to help you if you were jumped or mugged; you would want someone to call the cops if they saw someone breaking into your house; you would want help if the police were beating you.
So why are we so apathetic to those who experience misfortune? Is it because we all enjoy a healthy dose of schadenfreude? Heaven knows I find misery in others, but that's because I'm a twisted fuck. As my friend likes to say about himself, I'm "warped." But that's no excuse for everyone, and I already called dibs, so...what's your excuse?
Truth is, you, I, your mama, and your mama's mama's daddy don't have one. Absolutely none.
Every day I wonder what made white people centuries ago believe that they were better than everyone else, by merit of either religion or skin colour, and how they even began to justify such twisted logic. Like...how does one wake up one day, explore the world, be welcomed with open arms by the Native people living there who show them every courtesy and hospitality, only to genocide them, take their resources, systematically decimate their culture and heritage, impose their ideals on anyone who's left alive, and eradicate those people's entire history, only to repeat this with the enslavement and abuse of Africans?
I wonder how they are going to genocide the Native Americans and then enslave Africans, abuse, lynch, rape and kill them after making them do all the work, and treat them less than human or kill them for wanting the basic human instinct of freedom or punish them for being lazy when it was white people who sailed halfway around the world to get out of doing work?How they conquered peoples and traded for spices and herbs, but their food is considered bland the world over?
What kind of ridiculous-sized ego, what kind of backwards-fuck crazy kind of logic led them to believe they were superior in any other manner than another peoples in this world?
I genuinely ponder on that question every day, and then wonder how people dare deny that racism exists or that everyone is equal or that "black people (or any person of colour) should get out of America and go back to Africa (or any other nation)! You're not African!"
I'm just going to stop you right there, and remind you that there were Natives here before you, and that if anyone should never use the "you don't belong, go back to your own country!" bullshit diatribe, it's probably white people. Scratch the probably. It is white people.
Please miss me with that bullshit.
That said, recently there have been people who have been denying me my Blackness. Whether or not it's the tried-and-trusted-to-fail-but-still-for-some-inexplicable-reason-used fan favourite "I don't see colour!" and it's cousin, "You don't [Insert TALK/LOOK/ACT/SOUND] like a Black/[INSERT PERSON OF COLOUR] person!", it's always there.
And it is Dumb. As. Fuck.
It's paradoxical. Mind-boggling. I see my blackness. My family sees my blackness. My friends see my blackness. My teachers see my blackness. Strangers see my blackness. Potential-employers see my blackness. Store owners see my blackness. Police definitely see my blackness.
And they all treat me accordingly. So why are you colour blind? What about you is so special that you think you can try me with that shit? Do you know what it means to say you are "colour blind" or "don't see colour" or that the law and justice is blind?
It means that you are racist as all hell. Why? Because what all that means is that you are saying you do not recognize or acknowledge the history of my people, the unnecessary suffering and trials we had to endure, the torture, rape, abuse, lynching and murders of our people and our ways because you felt being of a lighter skin tone made you somewhat more pure or holy than us. It means that you are looking me in the eye and telling me that everything my people had to endure was nothing and pointless and "part of the past" (bullshit) and that you are saying to my face that you choose to ignore it because you have the luxury to do so.
You are telling me that because it does not affect you or your history, you do not particularly care and wish to dismiss my history for the sake of your guilty conscience.
It means you are attempting to dictate how history went and imposing yours on mine, just as your ancestors did on mine.
And what's even more infuriating is that you probably don't even realize you are being racist out of your ignorance, because your privilege affords you that. You can literally act as though you don't realize what you are saying is wrong, no doubt it's well-meaning and you're trying to convey that all people are equal, but let's be real: they're not. We are meant to be, but we are not treated that way.
Lots of celebrities have had their input on such a serious issue, but among them, shining like a beacon of intellectual light and reason, is Jesse Williams of Grey's Anatomy fame.
Say hi to the cameras, Jesse.
He is alwaystweeting about the subject, and it's always a joy to read. I'm going to be breaking down what he's said for your ease of consumption.
Basically, police are shit. If a black person kills a white person, or even is assaulted by a white person, they are arrested, beaten, and probably killed on the spot. But if a white person kills a black person, police are loathe to do anything, are perfectly fine leaving the body in the streets for hours unprotected and in plain view, or take their sweet ass time arresting the murderer only after significant push from the community. And by "take their sweet ass time," I mean they don't do shit at all until Zimmerdouche turns himself in six weeks after the day he murdered Trayvon Martin.
Take that in. Over a month later, and Zimmerman had still not been arrested, the police were dragging their feet, but they immediately arrested someone who sent an e-mail threat to the police chief. Amazing how quickly they work, eh? Can you imagine if it had been a white person killed? A white woman or girl, or a white man or boy? They would have used extreme force.
In the case of Michael Brown, gunned down after being shot at and surrendering on his knees, his body is left face down on the streets for hours, and peaceful protests suddenly warrant the National Guard coming in and a curfew being instated? Media being shut out? Are you for real? When the actual fuck did America time travel?
It didn't. It just gave us an opportunity to see it for what it really is. A racist, sexist, homophobic, against-any-minority/doesn't-conform-to-outdated-ideals, faulty, fucked-up society that claims to speak for "truth" and "freedom", but makes people pay to stay healthy, pay to acquire the right to learn, and even then end up with a useless degree that renders you no jobs in your field. And that's the entire West.
Yeah, a fucked-up, broken one. Earlier, I mentioned that people always personify justice as a blind woman who cares more about the truth than those who perpetrate the crime. If so...then why are there a disproportionate amount of Black people in jail, even when not compared to white people? White people commit crimes more on average than Black people, and yet the arrests inaccurately reflect more Black people being arrested and tossed in jail. It's been said that jail is the new Africa, and all I say to that is, "Where is the lie?" Because it's sad and stupid and bullshit, but it's true.
Of course there are going to be more arrests when the police heavily monitor and increase their activity within "troubled" or low-income areas that are predominantly Black. Police presence alone is going to make people more nervous and not think as clearly. And it's not like they need a reason anyways -- police will arrest Black people for anything, under any pretext. Don't believe me?
Check this out:
And this. And this.And this.And this.And this.And this.And this.
There is literally no dearth of cops abusing their power against Black people and people of colour. Google it. It's everywhere.
I particularly liked the last one, because the female cop said, "Why're you bringing up the colour thing? It's not about black or white."
Don't even try to bullshit.
Also, I like this one:
You know why this is so funny? Because it's relatable. Because it's genuine. It's actually true.
You know why this is sad? Because it's relatable. Because it's genuine. It's actually true.
Cops will find any, any reason to antagonize a Black person, male or female, trans or not, gay or straight, handicappable mentally/physically or not. They do not give a shit. They most definitely see colour, but the colour we see is the blood of our people pooling on our streets.
Self-explanatory. Cops don't believe in this shit. You expect us, who are arrested for no reason, tried (if that) in a court of law, and tossed in jail to, while white people can murder people and shoot up schools and be labeled 'troubled' or 'a sweet kid with a history of mental health issues' to just accept that? Don't make me laugh.
Again, self-explanatory. Black man or woman, boy or girl gets shot and killed or assaulted by a white person, and people will do everything in their power to exonerate the person who committed the violence, cop or not, and deem them mentally-unstable or "in fear of their life."
This is what confuses me. Why would people who support Darren Wilson point out Mike Brown's blood is in the car, while Darren Wilson's is not? Would that not verify that Mike Brown was the one that was wounded? How...does that help your claim? I legitimately do not understand.
Everyone's an expert online.
And this is where shit is going to get realer than it has been. *crawls into a bomb shelter before truth bombs are dropped*
Why indeed. I ask myself that question every day.
Oop, there it is.
On this point: just when it happened, I remember white people dressing up in Blackface and wearing hoodies and carrying Skittles and Arizona can drinks and making a mockery of it. There was even this one white guy -- this one stuck with me, as it struck me as particularly poignant -- where he held up Skittles and Arizona and was shirtless with a hoodie and wore what he no doubt thought was a cute smile. He captioned it thus:
R.I.P. Trayvon Martin.
cute? sexy? lol :p
And I swear, in that moment, all I saw was red. I was fucking furious. This "man" was exploiting a black boy's death and trying to garner likes and reblogs and followers on how "hot" or "cute" he was. He was literally capitalizing off the death of a black boy for his own personal gain.
What the actual fuck.
Furthermore: I posted these two posts to Tumblr over a year ago when it was the night of the verdict and Tumblr was up in arms and in a furious, tempestuous rage over the outcome. I may as well post them now:
Trayvon was the catalyst for another burst of media around racism and racial profiling
How long do you think until it goes away? It always does.
It’s always popular for a while, but then it dies down. Dies down to mumblings, whispers, contained to blogs online and not translated into action outside.
These things are always ephemeral, because at the end of the day, we, as black people, apparently don’t matter.
You know what isn’t ephemeral? The fear I’ll have for my children.
What do I tell them? How do I even begin to explain the concept of racism and hatred and bigotry and intolerance to them? How do I break it down so that they can understand, even when I myself cannot understand why I am disadvantaged because of the skin colour I was born with?
How do I tell my child and have them understand that if they go outside with a hoodie on at night, they are liable to get killed and have no justice served for them? How do I tell them they will be watched, followed, whispered against, slandered against, hated upon, all because they exist? How do I explain to them that they are different, that they are always going to be considered less than human, expendable, not even have their murderer found guilty?
How do I tell them that, while we may have gotten to sit at the same table as them, they will still not pass us the food? That content and character mean nothing next to skin colour and ignorant stereotypes and misconceptions?
How do I tell my child that they will experience hatred simply for being alive?
Those questions will last a long time after the outrage surrounding George Zimmerman’s acquittal has died down.
And I hate that the world is in such a way that these questions have to even exist in the first place.
The jurors pissed me off though
A majority of them white women who were far too emotionally and historically removed from the plight of black people
Enforcing and perpetuating racism and the lynchings of black men by white women who cried foul notwithstanding
But they simply lived in luxury
And made no sense in their verdict, ruling him not guilty despite all the evidence and common sense that pointed otherwise
One of them had the audacity to feel sorry for rachel jeantel as though she were a simpleton as opposed to a coherent, intelligent human being
Further stating that her “testimony wasn’t that credible”
Yes, because the murder victim’s best friend who was on the phone with him at the time is not allowed to have her testimony verified in your eyes because she talks with a lisp
And while you’re raining down judgment upon her and disregarding evidence and intelligent arguments to convict and imprison zimmerman
You yukked it up at the court’s expense, $33,000 worth
And now plan to write a tell-all book about how hard your decision was while you were relaxing at a 5-star hotel and going to watch World War Z and enjoying yourself on the court’s dime.
You. Need. To Swerve.
It still rankles my cockles. And it always will.
Blackface. Do you not understand the concept of blackface, and why it's offensive despite there being an entire socio-historic context as to why it is offensive? Do you know nothing of minstrel shows? What aspect of your history are you familiar with? The swinging, tune-jingling, love-story times of the 50's? Or the carefree and experimental, non-judgmental, "love and peace" times of the 60's? Or the grooving and jiving of the 70's?
Yeah, no. All those times bring to mind is racism, water hoses, animal attacks, lynchings, and countless other negative things. You can keep your quaint little fantasy though.
I had a vice-principal in high-school who, a few years after I had graduated, did Blackface for Halloween and went to school as Mr. T.
This is a vice-principal. A person in a position of authority in a secondary school, which is an institution for education of higher learning.
How the fuck are you a vice-principal in a institution of higher learning education and not know that blackface is offensive? Please explain this to me. It does not compute. After I posted a Facebook status about it, there was this one white girl who argued with me how it was not offensive and it was not his intent and that it was not a big deal.
Because you, as a white person, should be the one to dictate what Black people find offensive, right?
Learn to not appropriate our culture and consume our customs when they suit you and then shame and rebuke us for having created them. This point will be discussed more in depth soon.
Three guesses as to who does.
Here's looking at you, kiddies. Especially these problematics: Ms.MileyCyrus, JustinBieber, Macklemore, IggyAzalea, EllieGoulding, ColtonHaynes and just recently (and regrettably) TaylorSwift (as of Shake It Off).
What does this mean? It means that white people do their utmost to appropriate, steal, and "reclaim" Black culture, and are praised for it, being labeled "quirky" or a "rebel" or "cool" or "cute" or "finding/expressing themselves" while those who created it are shamed as "ratchet" or "nasty" or "ghetto" or a "hood rat" or "trash."
And I am not here for that dichotomy.
C'mon, Jesse, you know this. It's Black people. Not like they matter or anything. No. Of course not.
Oh dear, something controversial but true. Please, Jesse, stop it. I can't handle facts. Let me resort to a tried-and-true debate tactic: ad hominem.
Your...uh...your acting on Grey's Anatomy...uh...sucks? Yeah, yeah that. There, I showed you. Ha! I actually do not watch Grey's Anatomy.
Oh God, I can't handle all these facts. Stop! Make them stop! Your eyes...uh... they're blue! Yeah, take that!
You're treading into dangerous territory, Williams! Don't open this discussion! It will be the downfall of society, I tells ya!
'Cause they're Black. Duh. Not like we need any Black pride or anything. We can't have these people feel as though they're human or belong! Can you think of the consequences of such actions?! They'd start to vote and go to the store and not be harassed and not fear for their lives. They'd -- dare I say it? -- be productive members of society who do not have to experience any negative situations. My God, what a reprehensible thought.
No! Stop this! Too much knowledge and fact will overwhelm them, Jesse! Stop truth bombing them!
Great, now they'll feel obligated to be decent human beings. Good going, Jesse! This is all on you! >:(
I'm melting. I'm meeeeeelttttiiinnnngggggg.
Remember to be courteous and employ common sense and tolerance?! You're asking for a lot, Jesse. You're better off asking for world peace or an end to famine and hunger and drought, or for the Movie That Shall Not Be Named The Last Airbender to be considered decent. Six earthbenders moved a pebble, man. I'm still pissed.
Okay, sarcasm aside, let's get real for a second. White people, in and of themselves, are not bad or evil. Except Hitler. And maybe a handful of others. But on the whole, they're awesome. Or rather, they have the potential to be awesome.
To maximize awesomeness potentiality, follow this guide to being a better white person:
Don't be racist.
Acknowledge your privilege.
Do not presume you can or may speak for a person of colour.
Do not impose your opinions on people of colour.
Do not dictate the terms when speaking to a person of colour.
Do not tell people of colour what they experience.
Empathize with people of colour and acknowledge that you have privileges that they do not.
Realize that you are not evil, but your white privilege is A.) unfair, B.) gotten through negative means, and C.) does exist.
You are not your ancestors, but you benefit from their actions. This is why you have white privilege.
Don't be ignorant. Ignorance works against you as much as it works against people of colour.
There. The Ten Commandments to be a better white person, from a person of colour to you.
"But isn't racism about one person of a race being racist towards another?" you scream, sipping on a pumpkin spice latte while clutching your shotgun and sitting in your rocking chair with your original uggly boots. "Doesn't that mean that a black person can be racist towards me, a white person?!"
Haha. That's adorable. No.
What racism really is is the discrimination of a person on every facet of society, including social, employment, health care, education, and even just basic rights like being protected by cops. White people, in general, do not face these problems because of, you guessed it, white privilege.
That is not to say you can't experience discrimination and prejudice. White people can and do face them. But racism? Haha. No. That's cute.
Hopefully, this educates you, but you can only take in and take away what you want. If you don't come with an open mind, you'll probably leave with nothing.
At the end of the day, it's up to you to conduct how you act. You want to be helpful? You want to be a true ally? No, having one black friend doesn't cut it anymore -- the minimum to defend against racist claims is now two. (Speaking of which, go support DearWhite People and support movies like this, which allows us to segue into more Black-supported movies in mainstream media made for the consumption of white people).
Support shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra that not only tackle social issues with deft grace and skill, but also treat characters of colour with respect, dignity and masterful portrayals without appropriating.
The creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, commonly known as 'Bryke', are some of my favourite show runners. Why? Because their shows are fantastic, and draw from a variety of sources, especially Asian concepts and things with a heavy Eastern influence.
They appreciate, not appropriate. And there's a difference.
Michael Jackson's video for "Black and White;" he himself doesn't don their costumes or garb, but he stands with them. That is appreciating, not appropriating.
You want to be an ally? Be like this lady.
Be an ally. Be helpful. Learn about your privilege. Learn about your history. Listen. Don't speak over us. Let us tell you who we are. Do not dictate what we are. That is not helping. But you learning more about yourself and your privileges will.
"But what about black privilege!" you cry, outraged as you kiss your poodle dog on the lips. "White people aren't the only ones who benefit!!!"
You know what? You're absolutely right. Black privilege does exist. Honestly, I should check my privilege. These are some of the perks that I, as a Black person, enjoy that you, as a white person, does not:
Walking down the streets means people part crowds for me, and/or walk to the other side. I am never caught up in sidewalk traffic.
Every time I enter a store, I gain a camera crew and instant entourage. It makes me feel like a celebrity.
Police take time out of their busy day crime-fighting and upholding the law to ask me how I'm doing and check up on me. It's adorable.
No one wants to fight me because I'm Black. It's either do nothing or kill me, and it's reassuring to know that I won't be injured unless I'm to die. And, realistically, in America and the West, what are the chances of that?
I can easily collect unemployment cheques without shame because it is expected of me and I can just canter to the stereotype that Black people don't work (never mind that we have our job applications tossed out for "odd-sounding" (i.e. non-Anglo-Saxon) names.)
I, as a Canadian, am living the American nightmare dream. I am so blessed and lucky. I should really check my privilege.
To all the allies, keep on keeping on. You're fabulous.
To the people of colour, stay strong. You're fantastic.
We shall overcome.