Racism is alive and well, especially when our faces aren’t exposed.
Let’s call it…Cyber-racism. We often hide behind our ignorant comments on facebook, twitter, or other social media/blog sites. Our generation is famous for making big claims and not showing our face.
And we’ve all experienced that wasteful hour we spend when we give in to a “rabbit trail” and end up reading horribly racist, sexist, and purely ignorant Facebook, YouTube, or NPR blog comments from people who would most certainly get throat-punched or drop-kicked if they said these things aloud in a room full of half decent people.
Before I say more, let me say connect this to our class. I watched this amazing video on what black men have to say about who they are. (Please watch before proceeding).
Their demands are simple. To not be thought of as simply an athlete, a rapper, a thief, or as lazy and absent, but instead as an intelligent, individual, compassionate and multifaceted. I understand that the stereotypes discussed in this video do not necessarily pervade every single moment of every single day of a typical black man. Most people understand that, including the men who made this video. As revealed in the video, a black man’s awareness of these stereotypes are particularly prevalent in specific contexts (i.e. when the police are around, or passing a white woman on the street, hanging around culturally insensitive white folk, etc.). Yet, the fact that these are encounters that I think most black men, and black people, can identify with, is what makes this video so moving and pertinent, and is why Buzzfeed authors felt inspired to create it. What is clear is that black men are aware of their “double-identity”, meaning the fact that what other people think of them often vastly differs from what they think of themselves. And the difficulty in navigating other peoples projections of identity is what this video seeks to highlight, an everyday aspect of a life while black.
And then, your finger grazes the mouse pad and you accidentally scroll down, only to be thrown into a fantastical world of ignorance, like a high school food fight but… this time, the food is words. lol I find it relevant to share some comments that particularly interested me, because they reflect some of the racial attitudes that we discuss in class. I just picked the first four that interested me (Selection bias).
Comment 1: Want to switch places with me? I’m a disabled white woman with a learning disability who can’t drive. I would love to be a non-disabled black person even it is only for a day.
Similar to what we talked about in class, this is a perfect example of how whites of lower socio-economic class, or other types of disadvantage, often place blame on blacks because of this idea that there isn’t enough “American dream” for them. The situation of this commentator, unfortunate as it may be, has no need to be racialized nor take place within a conversation about racial injustice. Yet, here we find this comment, just as we find comments about education and academic opportunity, job opportunity, housing opportunities, etc.. Those topics too are often racialized in conversations between poor whites and blacks. I find it especially interesting that she chose to make known her “victimized” place in society in a video specifically discussing “black manhood” in America. Why? Unnecessary, woman.
Comment 2: I just hate ghetto hoodrats, which is not limited to black people (119 likes)
It is interesting that this person felt it appropriate to make a comment about “ghetto hoodrats” on a video that is directly linked to stereotypes about black men, only to insinuate that they are not being racist because they are not limiting this derogatory term to only black people. I think this is common in many of our conversations about race, when people make obvious connections between race and personality attributes, and then claim to be completely innocent in terms of racial bias. Eliminating these nuances is a key component in overcoming what these black men are discussing in this video. Personally, I think that just as institutional racism has been re-stylized and coded to associate “blackness” with “criminal”, in more social contexts, the appropriate measure of racism is where, in conversation, “blackness” equals “hood-rat” and “ghetto”. It’s simply racism with a different name.
Comment 3: Obviously not all black men fit under these stereo types, but when 85% of all crimes in the U.S are committed by African American males then people are going to be inclined to pre judge. (With 219 likes)
Another common response we hear in conversation, but especially online– this notion that black men, black people, have earned their reputation through the way that they act. For an example of why these statistics are skewed by racial profiling, we can examine drug related crimes that contribute to that supposed “85%”. Racial disparity in marijuana arrests of blacks alone account for 3x more arrests than whites, even when between 2001-2010 accounting for ages 18-25, white usage of marijuana is higher. This is just one obvious example of how these statistics that reflect an epidemic of “crazy black crime” and this “85%” is absolutely skewed by racial profiling in arrests.This is not to excuse actual crime committed by black people, but people of all races commit crimes and some are more likely to get arrested and thus put on file as criminals.
Comment 4: Things white people are tired of hearing…
1.) You are a racist if you point out the epidemic of black violence in America.2.) Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown were innocent children who were gunned down just for being black. 3.) All whites are “privileged” just based on our skin color. 4.) Black people can’t be racist because they don’t have power 5.) White people are the main problem in failing black communities. 6.) The way the media portrays when a white person kills a black person, as if it’s the real epidemic. When in fact, it’s the other way around. 7.) Hash-tags like #blacklivesmatter when a white person kills a black person, even though the majority of interracial violent crime is black on white. 8.) White people can’t be the victim of an interracial hate crime. 9.) We need to bow down to black people because of the racism our ancestors inflicted upon their ancestors.
(with 107 likes)
I could go on forever in response to these claims. I’ll just touch the first and maybe y’all will dibby up the rest for further conversation. First, talking about the epidemic of black violence does not make you a racist. I am a firm believer in looking at problems raw and head first. However, there is always a causal root to any “epidemic”, and it is clear that this commentor does not seek to solve this problem, rather seeks to point the fingers. Claiming that as a white man, you and yours have innocent hands in the reality of violence within black communities is an injustice and a reflection of the very white privileged you neglect in your further points. Following slavery (yes, I read point #9), blacks were thrown into a reality of freedom much like throwing a young child onto a adult bike without training wheels. White Americans has the privilege of going through economic progressions with educational advantages, while the end of slavery only marked the beginning of attaining institutional justice for black and brown people. Fast forward, blacks obtain industrial jobs, those are taken away as rich, white owned companies outsource for the sake of even cheaper labor, and urban communities are left in utter economic and social dispair. Enter joblessness, enter drugs, enter cyclical poverty and enter violence and gang activity. To eradicate the problem of violence, we have to address the problem of non-opportunity, unequal balance of power, and white hegemonic forces. So are you racist for pointing of violence in black communities? No, but you are racist for insinuating that black on black violence is simply a “black” problem. When a white person goes crazy and shoots a bunch of kindergardeners, or college students, it isn’t a “white” problem. It’s a “human” problem, and people of all races care and wonder, how could this happen in our world? I’m sure that Lopez, author of “white by law”, and other critical race scholars would agree that people of all races need to examine violence in black and brown communities and consider it a “human” and a “structural” problem, and not a “black” problem, like we do when white people commit senseless acts of violence.
In conclusion, It’d be nice to think about these Youtube comments as isolated incidents of racially unaware citizens, however I find that these comments reflect a lot of what I hear in actual conversations about race. It is intriguing to me, though, that the bluntness and “absoluteness” that commentors have about their statements are especially apparent online. When Trayvon Martin’s trial was going on, I was utterly surprised to see the overtly racist facebook statuses that were defending zimmerman and the “white population” posted online by some of my closest friends. Some of this technology is great, being apart of a generation that has access to so much information all at once, and is able to easily post and respond to social issues right from our smart phones. But on the other end, I feel that this ability to hide behind a computer screen and make such racially charged statements is partially why we are able to avoid having serious, face-to-face conversations about racist nuances in our language and thinking.