Earlier today via Instagram, I shared the following post by Tracy Moore.
In Tracy’s caption, she commented on people gaslighting her and other Black people, in response to speaking out about racism.
In this post, I want to talk about the rationale behind that gaslighting.
In a nutshell, most Black people know the truth: A number of white people are addicted to the status quo. They enjoy being comfortable. And they want to avoid admitting that racism actually is a problem, because doing so will disrupt their comfort levels.
In other words, “If racism really, truly is as bad as Black people say it is, then we, white people will actually have to do something about it.”
And for more than a few, that “something” is going to involve all sorts of changes. From rearranging their thinking, to their vocabulary. Regular white folks need to evaluate how their actions support the systemic racism that’s ingrained in our culture. And that’s a type of inner work that a number of them don’t want to tackle.
Nobody with a rational mind would think that racism is ok, or a good thing, or that it involves conditions that people ought to be comfortable with. But to call it out? Or to actually believe a Black person when we have a problem with something that you’re eager to excuse?
It’s sad, but true: People hate change. Even if it will eventually lead to the restoration of other people’s dignity.
WHO DO YOU LOVE?
Props to LL Cool J for inspiring this segment’s title.
If you’re an ally, let’s talk about who you give your time and attention to.
For, you see, there’s a white public figure that I don’t really care for. One of the reasons is his attitude towards racism.
Over the years he’s interacted with a few Black people. Certainly, enough that a casual observer might say, “No way he’s racist.” For some, tokenism is all that it takes to make accusations of racism irrelevant.
But also I’ve seen clips where it’s clear that he has a problem with people who tell the truth about racism — what constitutes it and what it will take to get rid of it.
Racism is a form of socioculturally sanctioned abuse. And if you believe you can eliminate abuse by lying about it, you’re a fool.
Therefore, what’s the sense in ignoring racism’s true impact?
In the comments beneath someone’s recent Instagram post, I noticed that a person said “we’re all souls”. And someone else that I’m thinking of likes to refer to us humans as “individuals”.
I won’t mention the job of the public figure I’ve been referring to, but I will say this: I’ve seen white people dismiss those who have harmful views because they’re an “actor” or a “comedian”. Supposedly, Black people have no reason to worry. These people’s professions render their opinions insignificant. Yet if you think this is the case, you’re missing the point.
The fact remains that celebrities tend to have large audiences. And said audiences respect their views — or at least think they’re worth listening to. If people are willing to listen to someone, it’s often because they agree with them.
So, then. What’s wrong with white people agreeing with a celebrity? If the person in question perpetuates harmful ideas about people of colour, it’s not white people who will suffer.
Take the simple notion of focusing on individuality, over how Black people are treated as a whole. This type of thinking ignores the fact that racism endangers the lives of an entire group of people.
Here, let me point out an analogy. In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo mentions people who like to say, “Race is a social construct”. She compares race as a social construct to the idea of money as a social construct.
Now, in the wake of COVID-19, via social media, I’ve seen a few reported cases of deferred rent. So one could argue that money is, in fact, a social construct.
Yet typically, if I go to a store for groceries, I can’t get my food rung up, and then, when the cashier asks for payment, say “Money is a social construct. Let me load my bag and go!”
We live in a world where concepts such as race have real-world meanings with very serious implications.
I’M NOT A FAN
If you’re an ally, and you’re genuinely interested in helping others, you can start by not lying to yourself.
Think: How do your heroes talk about those of us who are honest about race? Do they like those of us who dare to call a thing a thing? Or, do they think we’re a bunch of crybabies?
Last week I watched a video of a popular media figure who said that white privilege is a “racist idea”.
But is it actually racist? Or is it a term that accurately describes a societal issue?
Keep in mind that this person was white. White privilege isn’t something that causes him any sort of hardship. And although white people who think of themselves as “normal” like him, he also has fans who are white supremacists.
Question: If you’re white and you’re a fan of a “thought leader” who has admirers who are racist, why do you like them? Because I’ll tell you right now: The folks who like these sort of people aren’t interested in them because of their fashion sense, or their favourite food.
Stop lying to people about racism. Too much time, and far too many lives have already been lost. The sooner you face the truth about what’s going on, the sooner we can work towards eliminating this social disease.