“I’m not racist.” these three words are ineffective and meaningless. meaningless or at the very least, ineffective. In today’s climate of civil unrest, people assurance in proclaiming, “I’m not racist.” But, so what? I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat. However, I don’t have a problem with people who eat meat. I go to restaurants that serve meat; I shop at stores that sell meat. Does saying “I’m a vegetarian” really mean anything for the preservation of animals? No. Does saying, “I’m not racist,” do anything for racial equality? No.
The word racist” is triggering. It conjures up an image if ignorance, entitled and a false belief in supremacy. Much like the popular word now of being “woke,” conjuring up images of people being aware of social injustice and systematic infrastructures supporting oppression. Saying “I’m woke,” is meaningless and ineffective also. These expressions evoke the questions of – what does that mean, what actionable things have your done or are you doing to support what you say? Socially fashionable now are pledges to support equality.
This week, an older white couple, friends of a close friend were forced off the highway in Napa by an angry white male who got out of his vehicle, massless and “… launched into a garbled diatribe about Black Lives Matter being a Marxist plot to destroy our way of life.” Are those who proclaim, “I’m not a racist,” willing and able to handle a situation like this? Because this is meaningful. Having honest conversation with black people is meaningful. Calling others out when you hear their biased prejudice, even when it is uncomfortable is meaningful. Post a hashtag, that you took a pledge, if it makes you feel good; but don’t congratulate yourself. When Notre Dame was burning, social media lit up. People posting their photos and memories of Notre Dame and did nothing to stop the burning building; few worldwide donated money to fund rebuilding. Yes, you feel something you want to express; feeling something and doing something are two very different things. Nothing wrong with posing your photo of Notre Dame, nothing wrong with saying “I’m not a racist,” or saying, “I pledge to use my voice to fight racism.” What do you do; where do you stand?
Right now, I don’t feel safe as a black person, so I can honestly tell you, hearing someone say I’m not racist, or I see a post on social media for a pledge, it does not help. Incidences like the one in Napa highlight the black lash; if white people are attacking white people, it does not bode well for me. What helps, those acquaintances who are willing to engage in a conversation. Thank you to all of you who have checked in, asked how I was doing or about my experiences; you have made a difference. Those who are brace and willing to consider their privilege. This week is intervention week. If you are black, take a moment and give thanks and appreciation for those who have stood in solidarity for racial equality. For those who aren’t black when did you intervene?
Many years ago I was riding on a semi-crowded BART train when a very pregnant, well presented black woman got on the train. She asked a white man (I can’t say gentleman because of his behavior…hoodlum is a better term) if she could sit in the handicap seat. His retort was I didn’t get you pregnant along with some expletives. I glared at him and he did get up. Then he proceeded to make negative comments about her….I made a comment back at him letting him know that not only did I not agree but that he was inappropriate….he was pissed and maybe a bit embarrased…he stormed off at the next stop even though it was not his.
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