My former teacher (White) shared a video (That I find yucky). I replied to him privately. For me this wasn’t a “gotcha moment”, but hopefully an opportunity to teach. It’s rare that people aren’t emotionally triggered by messages like the one I sent him (Read it below). I’m resigned to think that that triggering is necessary. Hopefully after much confronting, there can be a better world. I should note that this is a person I respect and one who wrote a recommendation letter for me. He posted the video (link below) with this caption:
“Thanks ___ for sharing these deeply insightful perspectives on the roles of media and family in our perception of race. These interviews have invited me to reconsider the reality versus the portrayal of race including how it is far too frequently reduced to mere black and white terms. While I remain unconvinced that the virus is primarily a reflection of hype, Morgan and Denzel have given me pause on the issue of race.”
Morgan Freeman, Lil Wayne, Denzel Washington, and many other Black celebrities give their thoughts on race in America. This is a MUST WATCH!Posted by The Hodgetwins on Thursday, June 25, 2020
(This is my full response)
I truly hope you and your family are doing well in these peculiar times.
I was scrolling through Facebook and happened across a recent post from you. In it you share a video with clips from Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and others. I wanted to share some thoughts about the post privately out of my respect and deep appreciation for you. There are certain narratives being spread on social media, predominantly by White audiences, but some Black individuals as well, that are extremely problematic. These arguments are rooted in misinformation at best and white supremacy at worst.
When some people want to diminish or completely ignore the history, impact, or reality of racism they will often cite prominent Black figures to make the case for them. (I don’t think this is your goal, instead I truly believe you, like so many, are trying to be a good person and make sense of the world) Some believe that because these statements are made by black people they cannot be racist. They do this to undercut the very real work, thoughts, and experiences of black people who would otherwise disagree with them. They’d make the point that racism isn’t actually the emergency that some make it to be or say, “Well what about Black on Black crime”, “Black people wouldn’t be brutalized by police if they just obeyed they law”, “if they (Black people) worked harder they could leave the ghetto, “I had hardships too, so White privilege doesn’t exist.
Or, they use a much more problematic tactic; finding the most successful Black figures they can to say it for them. They rely on the myth of “Black exceptionalism”. This myth would have Blacks and Whites to believe that if one or a few Black people achieve some measure of what the dominant culture defines as success, then racism must not be the barrier some claim it to be. By saying that these exceptions should be the model for all Black people, they’re really saying, “something is wrong with the rest of y’all”. It’s the Barack Obama effect. “If Black people can become president then Black people who point to racism, as an obstacle, are just lazy”. THIS IS FALSE. The presence of Michael Jordan or Jay-Z doesn’t negate the reality of racism. In fact the feats of these “successful” few are perceived as so much more impressive when one acknowledges the very real racial barriers they had to overcome to obtain it. It proves that this type of achievement though statistically unlikely can indeed be possible, even though there is only a tiny chance.
For those seeking resources or factual information to support the reality of racism, a simple Google search is all that’s necessary. I, as proof of how readily available these facts are, have a clip on my Facebook profile about racially explicit government policies in housing for example. Whether it is, housing discrimination, mass incarceration, voter suppression, etc… Racism is systemic in America and very much alive. The ability of a few to “break through”, is a testament to the inherent potential and indomitable spirit of people, yes Black People.
Consider the impact of the statement, that Racism is “far too frequently reduced to Black and White terms”. Saying that people should look at racism outside of the terms used to identify race is saying in essence that racism isn’t actually the problem. It goes further to suggest that because we don’t think of terms of White or Black, it wouldn’t make sense to see racial oppression (physical or otherwise) as intelligent and willful actions committed by those who believe themselves to be White and superior on Black people and other people of color in American, and around the world. This is White privilege; When someone White doesn’t like a discussion because it makes them feel uncomfortable, guilty, or lays responsibility on them, they can simply change the parameters of the discussion, and thus feel much better.
My humble suggestion would be to lean into the uncomfortable. Do the light work of assuming that people all over the world aren’t protesting, hurt, grieving and angry because of something momentary or fleeting. Don’t share the videos of people who are willfully hiding the facts or too ignorant to know the truth. Remain unconvinced that the virus of racism is not “primarily a reflection of hype”.
All Black Lives Matter,