(Content note: I’m going to be using a racial slur here. A lot. And no, I will not be entertaining any bullshit discussions on whether it’s right or wrong or who can say it. Take that basic shit somewhere else)
There’s this video that has gone viral about a black teen punching a white teen for calling her a nigger.
I’ve sat on this for a few days, trying to organize my thoughts about it before I spew them on the Internet. I’ve considered my usual stance of non-actual-violence. I’ve considered my stance on what I would do if I were to be called a nigger to my face.
The conclusion came to me in the wee hours of the evening: I want to shake Ms. Aleeyah’s hand. The exact one she used to knock this girl to the ground.
“But, but Niki!” I can already hear you tickity-tacking on your keyboard. “What about turning the other cheek and not answering violence with violence? Doesn’t this reaffirm the stereotype of black people being violent? No one should be hit for saying something froggy!”
And to you I say: Fuck. Off.
No, really. There is some nuance in this case. See, people bold enough to use a slur to a person’s face is assuming that nothing will happen to them. They have the power, they can call the police and the usual result would be the puncher getting arrested.
Sometimes, you have to let a person know you’re not going to stand for that shit. That their power isn’t going to make that sore cheek go away any faster. That they may want to think twice before being so bold as to drop that slur again. Sometimes, that reaction is a glare or a verbal confrontation, and sometimes it’s getting knocked the fuck out.
…and it wasn’t like Aleeyah didn’t give this girl a chance to walk it back or walk away.
For too long, minorities of all stripes have been expected to be on their best behavior, to be the bigger person to turn the other cheek so much that they’re turning around in circles. Circles that get us nowhere. If we respond to injustice with a civil unrest, then we’re automatically in the wrong. If we ‘bash back’, we’re in the wrong. If we stand up for ourselves in any way, we’re in the wrong.
Just be cool, we’re told. Just wait our turn. Just be the bigger person. Sometimes, this advice is even given to us by our own people.
And to that I say: Fuck. That. All of the fuck that. Hell, I’d even go so far as to consider any slur against a minority to be ‘fighting words‘. And yes, I’m making that distinction so that no, you can’t swing on someone for calling you a cracker, Basic Beckies reading this.
In 2016, black folk can’t even go to a Trump rally without getting harassed and/or assaulted. We’re still having to explain to people that we’re humans and not rabid animals that can be just extrajudicially killed in the streets by those who have been sworn to ‘serve and protect’. We have to keep reaffirming our humanity. And that can get real tiresome.
So if one of us, a few of us, respond to someone bringing that dehumanization to our very face with a punch, I can’t condemn it. It ain’t something I would do, or even could if I wanted to, but I understand.