A little while back, I made a flippant comment on Facebook about white supremacy taking a break for one day. You know, just get off the backs of People of Color for one fucking day. Man, a break like that would be nice. I could go to work and not hear casual comments that reinforce white supremacy from co-workers or guests. I could turn on the television and not see KellyAnne Conway spew her white supremacy apologetics (and I could turn on the tv and not worry about which apologist for racism a mainstream media outlet coughcoughCNNcoughcough gives a platform to). I could turn on NPR on the drive to and from work without hearing the authoritarian fuckstain POS racist POTUS. This day could actually allow myself and other People of Color to exist for 24 hours without the constant reminder that socially, politically, and economically, we are viewed as inferior at best, and unworthy of existence at worst. The idea of having just a brief respite from the onslaught of white fuckery is sooooo appealing.
To be honest though, I wouldn’t really want racism to take 24 hours off. Aside from the damn near impossibility of such a thing ever occurring (though it might make for an interesting sci-fi series–kinda like The Purge–one day, every month, white supremacy takes a vacation, just don’t ask me how in the world that could happen–probably need some magical plot device), knowing that the next day would see a return to the same old, same old shit would be so frustrating that I’m not sure I could enjoy such a day (I imagine others could though).
As I thought about my flippant comment (which was tinged with frustration and a desire for PoC to just catch a break), I realized that 24 hours was being generous. Half a day is generous. 60 minutes is generous. In fact, racism pervades the United States to such an extent that I imagine not even a minute passes between one example of racism and another. These incidents cover a broad range, from individual acts of microaggressive racial bigotry that act to reinforce white supremacy in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways to more extreme examples that not only reinforce white supremacy, but directly oppress PoC collectively. In the days since the inauguration of POTUS45, there has been a constant stream of infuriating incidents of racial hatred. These incidents have range from smaller, individual cases of racism that affect an isolated Person of Color (or a handful of PoC) to larger cases that affect mass numbers of PoC.
Now, before I go any further, I want to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-state the definition of racism I am operating under, which fits with the sociological definition (but not the definition many, many, many white folks–including some ostensibly progressive white folks–love to pull out of dictionaries):
racism is a system of oppression in which social, political, and economic power is concentrated in the hands of one racial group (in social justice circles, the preceding sentence is typically reduced to “power plus prejudice”). said group holds implicit and explicit racial prejudices and biases and uses their power to harm racial minorities through discrimination, marginalization, erasure, and oppression. in the united states, the group at the top of this artificial racial hierarchy has always been, continues to be, and likely will be for some time to come, white people. while intent to harm people of color is very often a hallmark of racism, intent is not necessary for racism to occur. outcomes which have a disproportionately negative effect on people of color are also racist.
racism is applied white supremacy. as a concept, white supremacy is the fact-deprived assertion that white people are superior in some or all ways to those of other races. it is, however, more than just a concept. in practice, white supremacist beliefs are not limited to white people thinking they are superior. these beliefs lead white people to treat People of Color as inferior or as less than human. This dehumanization of People of color provides white supremacists the justification for their oppression.
I know that many people–mostly white folks, but there are more than a few People of Color who have not woken up and become aware of the pervasiveness of white supremacy and racism in this country–will want to argue that the dictionary definition of racism–which, stripped to its core, is “prejudicial or bigoted behavior or beliefs about a person(s) based on their actual or perceived race or ethnicity”. These people will say “a black person refusing to be friends with a white person is racist” or “reverse racism is real” or “calling a white person a cracker is racist”.
Those people would be wrong because while prejudicial or bigoted beliefs can be racist, they are not automatically racist. Why? Recall that racism is a system of oppression. That system oppresses all people of color (whether the race traitors like Stacey Dash or Sheriff Clarke recognize that or not). But there is no system in the United States that oppresses white people qua white people. There has never been a system of oppression that discriminates, demeans, derides, dismisses, and dehumanizes white people because of their whiteness.
With all that in mind, I want to look at those examples I mentioned at the beginning of this post and hopefully along the way, folks who cling to an outdated view of racism will begin to understand how wrong they are. And, perhaps, a few will gain a greater understanding of the various ways in white supremacist ideology is reinforced in our society.
The first incident seems innocent enough on its face. In fact, it almost seems like a really nice, feel good story. And *that’s* where the problem lies, because when I read about the 3 White Men Leave Black DC Waitress $450 Tip With Note: ‘Not Race. Not Gender. Just American’ I realized they were going to break their damn arms patting themselves on the back.
A black Washington, D.C., waitress received a pleasant surprise Monday while working her usual shift at Busboys and Poets, a Washington restaurant that has its own distinct social-justice mission, the Washington Post reports.
Rosalynd Harris went into work still in a great mood from Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. The optimism of her customers over the weekend had been contagious, and so she was particularly upbeat as she got to a table of three white men in her section around midmorning Monday.
According to the Post, they all chatted warmly, with the men revealing that they were from west Texas. One man was a dentist and complimented her on her smile. But what Harris never expected was for them to leave her a $450 tip on their $72.60 bill, attached to a personal note.
“We may come from different cultures and may disagree on certain issues, but if everyone would share their smile and kindness like your beautiful smile, our country will come together as one people,” the note read. “Not race. Not gender. Just American.” The note ended with, “God Bless!”
On the surface, this story seems like a good one. White men do nice thing for black woman. And I certainly am glad that she got what I imagine was a much needed and much appreciated tip. I’m glad she was happy, but I’m going to stop far short of congratulating the guys involved.
That. Last. Paragraph.
Though not always intended in this manner, the end result of the phrase “We’re all Americans” (which is almost always used by white folks) is erasure of the experiences of People of Color in this country–experiences that differ substantially from those of white people. No guys, you are not just like Claudette Colvin (Don’t know who she is? Here’s a hint: Rosa Parks was not the first). You are not just like Malcolm X. You are nothing like Ida B. Wells. And there’s no way you can be, because their experiences as African-Americans informed their lives in ways you can never fully understand. And they, like all other African-Americans in this country, lived their lives with the constant weight of racism weighing down upon them. To make matters worse for Colvin and Wells, they didn’t just experience racism. They faced misogynoir, the intersection of sexism and racism that black women uniquely experience (read up on Moya Bailey, the creator of the term, if you want to learn more about misogynoir). To tell a black woman that “we are all Americans” is to erase her experiences along two axes of oppression.
Another problem with the phrase is that it is saying “your race, gender, sexuality, or gender identity are not important. The only important aspect of your identity is nationality”. Not only is it insulting to tell people which part of their identity ought to be considered most important, the phrase asks of blacks to ignore the important role race has played in our lives, which is not reasonable to expect of black people. White people can go through their lives being ignorant of the way race shapes their identity (and being a member of the dominant racial group in this country does shape the lives of white people) because they have not (as a group) had to grapple with how their racial identity impacts them. Black people (and other PoC) do not have such a luxury.
Denying the importance of racial identity and erasing the experiences of black people is racist because it says “what you’ve gone through is unimportant and who you are is unimportant”.These guys heaped an extra layer of racism upon an already racist cake. And they managed to do that while patting themselves on the back for being people who are not racists and for being nice to a black woman. Not being racist should be the default state of every human being, so holding that up as some spectacular accomplishment is setting the “I’m a decent human being” bar pretty damn low. Then there’s the fact that they actually *are* racist, which undermines their feel-good actions.
(Also, I have to mention how fucking insipid I find grade-school comments like “if we could all just smile and be kind, everything would be rainbow shitting unicorns and perpetual sunshine”. Yeah, smiles are going to save the Affordable Care Act. “Being kind” miiiiiight achieve a little more success, but if one group of people is working tirelessly to reverse Roe v. Wade, I do not believe showing them kindness will lead to the desired outcome).
I would consider the previous story an example of benevolent racism, which sounds about as oxymoronic as benevolent sexism. In my opinion, the ‘benevolent’ part stems from what appears to be the intent of the patrons. They wanted to do something nice for a black woman to show they weren’t racist. But what they did was still racist because they demonstrated that they are completely oblivious to the experiences of black people in general and black women in specific. Despite attempts to paint it as treating all people as equal, Colorblind Ideology serves one master: white supremacy.
Now, where the last story was an example of benevolent racism, the next one is an example of the everyday forms of racist bigotry that People of Color face in the United States. The story of a Restaurant worker accused of using racial slur against LVC student is what most people in this country tend to think of as racism:
Rickey Lee Bugg Jr., a junior member of the LVC men’s basketball team from Hummelstown, said he and a friend were eating at Just Wing It around 1:30 a.m. Sunday when a man be believed was a manager came out and said “I don’t need you n…’s money,” calling him a racial slur.
When I say this is an example of racism most people in this country tend to think of, the people I’m referring to are white. White folks are the ones who view interactions like those above to be racist. And they are right, but on such a superficial, simplistic level that I’m not going to grant them that little win. Their perception of this incident as a racist one is based on their archaic ideas of what racism is. Far, far too many white USAmericans think racism is all about someone holding–and expressing–racially prejudicial opinions. But as I pointed out at the onset of this post, simply holding racially prejudiced opinions of others is not enough to qualify as racism, bc where is the power component? The public use of racial slurs in this story demonstrate anti-black bias on the part of the manager. He clearly holds black people in disdain and contempt. All for being black.
The manager’s “I don’t need your money” attitude hearkens back to the time when white robe wearing vigilantes roamed the country lynching black folks. A time that many look back upon fondly as when America was great. Speaking of that racist catchphrase frequently used by Chitler during his campaign, the owner also had this to say to Bugg:
“I flipped a few chairs,” Bugg said, adding he yelled at the owner, “That’s not the way to treat people.” He said the manager told him that now Donald Trump is president, “I can say what I want.”
Many people have talked about their fears that Chitler’s successful presidential campaign will embolden some of the extreme, unsavory elements in society, and this is the perfect example (though I do find it amusing that the manager seems to intimate that he couldn’t say what he wanted before POTUS45 took office. As if he were somehow prevented from making the same racist comments during President Obama’s time in office).
The aforementioned examples were racism on a small, personal scale. One on one interactions where white supremacy is reinforced person to person (more or less), and in a manner that is often viewed as non-violent (where violence is defined as the use of physical force with the intent to harm). Unfortunately, white supremacy is often reinforced through acts of violence against members of racial or ethnic minority groups. And when entire racial or ethnic minority communities become the targets of violent acts, the effect is one of racial terrorism:
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), a civil and human rights nonprofit, recently launched StandAgainstHatred.org, a website to track Anti-Asian hate crimes.
The group felt compelled to do so after not only seeing a disturbing amount of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant crimes, but also a huge jump in anti-Chinese hate as well. And the rise of this violence towards Asian-Americans is something the group wants to call attention to, stating that awareness is lacking.
“While hate crimes and incidents have surged to the top of news coverage leading up to and following the November 8th election, attacks against AAPIs have received little attention,” said Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of AAAJ – Los Angeles, in a press release.
In the wake of the election of the Terrible Tyrant, hate crimes against marginalized groups surged. The SPLC reports:
Pulling from news reports, social media, and direct submissions at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, the SPLC had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country as of Friday, November 11 at 5pm. These range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents. There were many examples of vandalism and epithets directed at individuals. Often times, types of harassment overlapped and many incidents, though not all, involved direct references to the Trump campaign. Every incident could not be immediately independently verified.
Modern-day lynching. That’s what an increase in race-based violence looks like to me. And while it is hard to definitively prove that the increase in violence against people in marginalized communities is the result of the Tangerine Tyrant’s win, it’s very hard to shake the idea that violent extremists have been emboldened. After all, to them, Chitler is their savior and hope for a whiter tomorrow.
It’s hard to argue against the idea that POTUS45 is a white supremacists wet dream. He wants a wall built on the Mexico/U.S. border, has installed an open white supremacist and far-right extremist on the National Security Council, and, in an act of peak white supremacy, has effectively banned Muslim immigrants and refugees*from entering the United States: (for 90 days, but I genuinely believe this is a precursor to a wide ranging bill aimed at preventing any and all immigration from predominately Muslim countries).
There are some people who deny that the ban is specifically on Muslims. Those who say this are not thinking critically enough. I’ve read the full text of the travel ban, and two paragraphs offer enough insight to understand who is being targeted by this ban:
To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).
to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.
As I jokingly said on Facebook,
Just because one section says this [the above quoted portion] doesn’t mean that the executive order bans Muslim migrants and refugees.
All it means is that some unspecified group of people who hail from seven [coincidentally] predominately Muslim countries will not be able to enter a country whose dictator in chief has expressed overt anti-Muslim bigotry and campaigned on a variety of promises including an end to Muslims entering the US.
Yeah, it’s totes not a ban on Muslims. And here I was thinking that conservatives were employing their tell tale facile thinking and failing, once again to use a fifth of a tenth of an ounce of critical thought.
So glad I was wrong.
Also, if the executive order really were about protecting the United States from Islamic terrorists, it would have banned travel from the countries who actually have produced terrorists whose actions have harmed the US:
Friday’s executive order, signed at the Pentagon, suspends the issuing of U.S. visas or travel permits to people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Not a single American was killed on U.S. soil by citizens from any of those countries between 1975 and 2015, according to statistics tallied by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute.
However, the same set of statistics show that nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by citizens from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt in the same time period — with the bulk of those killed being victims of the 9/11 attacks. Yet, people from those three countries are still welcome to apply for U.S. visas and travel permits.
He has business dealings in the countries excluded from the ban, incidentally. I’m sure that has nothing to do with their exclusion from the travel ban.
I look at the above examples, as well as so many more cases of racism in this country (including the very election of Chitler himself) and it’s scary how much power is possessed by white supremacists in this country. At the national level, they have a POTUS who is all-too willing to do their bidding, an entire political party that has been in bed with white supremacy since the Nixon era, they have a National Security Adviser who thinks the US is at war with Islam, an outbreak of race-based acts of violence, and a climate in which a leading Nazi and advocate of “peaceful ethnic cleansing” is granted a public interview by the media.
Hmmm….in the face of all that, 24 hours without white fuckery is beginning to sound more appealing.
*yeah, yeah, I know “Islam isn’t a race”. If you’re thinking “why did he include Muslims on a post about racism and white supremacy “, save your breath. You’re not ready for this discussion and you need to go learn a good deal more about anti-Muslim bigotry in the West.