A few interesting things happen when someone suggests that racism might have played a role in someone’s actions (say, for example, an overly aggressive police officer’s actions). A couple of days ago I published THIS POST talking about how important is is to watch uncomfortable videos (like the one of the girl getting her face shoved into the ground at that pool party), along with a video about systemic racism, and one about videotaping police interactions. This is not the first time I have written posts that point out racial bias and discrimination–I actually write about it quite often–And I’ve noticed that the response to posts like this (at least in my white bread world) follow a fairly predictable pattern. In no particular order, here is what seems to follow any accusation of racism:
- Blame the media for trying to make it a “race thing.” People genuinely don’t want to believe that race had anything to do with it, so they blame the media for attempting to “turn it into something it’s not.” This is an especially powerful scapegoat if you suggest that they are only trying to make money.
- Suggest that the fault lies in the moral failings of the person getting hurt. It is a sentiment that says, “They should have obeyed, and they wouldn’t have gotten hurt/shot/killed.” This was most clearly seen when Walter Scott got shot in the back as he ran from an officer, and many people’s response was, “Why did he run?” It is also easily observable with people like Fox”News” anchor Megyn Kelly suggesting that the 14 year old girl was “no saint either.” Or pointing out that slain teenager Trayvon Martin had smoked marijuana during his short life. That list goes on and on. People don’t want to believe that the world is the sort of place where an innocent person gets harmed like that, so when they find out moral shortcomings, it comes as a relief.
- Blame the parents. You probably can’t get three comments into a thread about racism without someone blaming the parents. “WHERE WERE THEIR PARENTS??” If the person being victimized is too young to take responsibility for his or her actions, the moral failing must lie with the parents, because SYSTEMIC RACISM DOESN’T EXIST!!! This comes out when the question “What if that was your kid being harmed?” is answered with a response like, “That wouldn’t happen to MY kid, because MY kids have been taught to be respectful.” Which leads to the next one….
- Make calls for more corporal punishment. This is a very common solution for people at the stage of consciousness which refuses to see systemic racism–“They need to get their little behinds whooped.” It is either that, or this sort of person will chalk up their own respectfulness to getting THEIR asses whooped while growing up.
- Call you a racist for noticing racism. Saying things like “The people who see it all as racism are usually the people with the biggest problem with race” is basically the “Whoever smelt it, dealt it” of racism….
- Look for a black person who says it WASN’T about race. Oh my god, there is nothing sweeter for a person insisting that race had nothing to do with it that finding a person with dark skin who says they don’t think it was about race. They cling to those testimonies almost as tightly as they cling to the 3 out of 1000 scientists who claim that the proof of man’s effects on climate change is still unclear.
- Blame it on “thugs.” This makes it easier to differentiate between the “good” black people and the “bad” black people. It is the sort of thing that leads people to say things like, “I don’t have a problem with black people…. I just have a problem with THOSE KINDS of black people.”
- Dismiss the concept of White Privilege. There are few things more upsetting to us white people than someone suggesting we didn’t EARN everything we have. For example, a person on my Blogs’s Facebook page actually wrote the words, “I am white, and the priviliges I have are because I obey and respect the law.” I mean… I just can’t.
- Make yet another “One Bad Apple” defense. If the evidence seems overwhelming that race played a role in a person’s actions, an appeal will often be made that this was an isolated incident…. But how many “isolated incidents” does it take before something become a pattern?
- Say things like “Racism goes both ways.” This is basically saying, “Sure, it looks like there is some racism involved here, but there are plenty of black people who are racist against white people too.” Yes, I’m sure you feel the effects of that racism every day…. Try sending in a resumé with a black sounding name, and see how many times you get called back.
- Post “the other side of the story.” Just because you found an article from some ultra-conservative website that claims to tell “the other side of the story,” doesn’t mean you should repost it. Many people posted this article while trying to defend the actions of the officer Eric Casebolt in the pool party video. Read some of the comments…. Do they seem like the sort of thing you might hear at a KKK rally? Do you want to align yourself with that sort of thing? These are the people whose ideological company you keep.
- Follow political lines to a frightening degree. I’m being honest here…. I bet you that I could tell you–with about 95% accuracy–who a person voted for in the last presidential election just by reading a comment that person makes on a racially charged story like the McKinney pool party. And that is some scary stuff when you think about it. And what is even weirder is that the party of “less government intervention and more freedom” seems to be taking the side of side of the government in cases like these, but if the police were filmed violently throwing just the white kids onto the ground, people grab their trip-fold hats out of the closet.
- Stick your head in the sand. Even when presented with seemingly insurmountable evidence that race played a role, people’s cognitive dissonance kicks in, and they simply refuse to accept facts that don’t line up with their accepted world view.
Compare how the police treated participants of a shootout in Texas between white bikers (which left 9 people dead) to Officer Casebolt’s reaction to kids jumping the fence of a neighborhood pool. You might not be aware that the police officer in this case was sued in 2008 for racial bias and abuse (the case was dismissed, as the man who brought the suit said “he struggled to track down evidence while incarcerated”). In addition to this, officer Casebolt has a YouTube playlist titled “Police Training” that contains videos with titled like, “Man Attacks Baltimore Police Officer,” “Man Sucker-Punches Cop Gets Kicked in the Face,” and “Chief tells the TRUTH that Black People don’t want to hear.” He has since set the playlist to private, but below is a screen-capture of the contents before he changed the settings on his account:
It’s not super easy to see in this setting, but notice that he added the video “COPS CRASH POOL PARTY” (the video of him manhandling the girl in the bikini) to the list of “Police Training” videos…. These videos on this list are videos of violent altercations with police officers. All of the videos on this list happen to be altercations with black men.
Not long ago, I wrote a post titled “If It Wasn’t About Race Before, It Is Now.” It chronicled some of the hugely racist comments that followed the protests to the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. And as much as I know we’re not supposed to read the comments, if we’re going to have a realistic view of the problem of racism, I think we have to from time to time. The anonymity the internet provides allows people to show their true colors, and just like men anonymously burning crosses in people’s yards 70 years ago–The internet is today’s new pointy white hood. And sure, there are always going to be freaky, ultra-racist people there, but the overwhelming number of people who “Like” these horrible comments shows that the “freaky, ultra-racist people” are not alone in their sad way of seeing the world. Here is just a sampling of some of the comments from that viral “Other side of the story” post:
There are hundreds of them…. And they are everywhere. Imagine being a black family in this neighborhood and reading so many of these hate-filled, racist comments. Look at just about any of the comments on the videos Eric Casebolt had on his playlist, and you will see stuff that is way worse. So bad that I don’t even want to repost them. But it’s not just YouTube comments and conservative blogs where you’ll find them. Here is one posted on story about the history of segregated pools from NPR:
To which came what is either an awesomely sarcastic reply, or an awesomely tragic reply:
These are dark times, but don’t be discouraged–In the dark, the light shines even brighter. Sometimes it seems like ignorance and hatred are everywhere, but truth and love are so much stronger. We cannot let cynicism take root in our hearts. We must watch the videos, we must (occasionally) read the comments, and we must let the reality and gravity of the situation become fuel for us to love people even better than we do. ALL people–The ones making the hateful comments, the ones being degraded and diminished by those comments, and the ones having those 13 reactions that I listed above who refuse to see racism for what it is–Everyone and everyone…. Until the light of our love illuminates the darkness of people’s hearts.