I've made it a point not to write about other people's experiences on this blog, but to shine a light instead on my own identity and privilege(s). The video below illustrates well why this matters, allowing two poets with presumably radically different experiences and perspectives (even privileges!) to speak for themselves in a powerfully collaborative spoken word piece.
The incidents in McKinney have been in the news this week and I have lots of privilege-related thoughts on those matters. So do stay tuned for that! But first, something that I've had stewing...
Last June, I wrote about how the 2nd amendment is for whites only:
While it might make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside that everyone has supposed rights, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, class and any other individuating factors, the stark reality is that we're not all equally disposed to actually engaging those rights.
Indeed, when it comes to the 2nd Amendment of the US constitution, whites enjoy a great heaping pile of privilege, as demonstrated by the video below:
Now, I don't particularly care for the concept of open carry. Doesn't strike me as a particularly good idea, nor a necessary measure for anyone to be or feel free from oppression. I certainly don't perceive the boot of the man on the necks of folks in states where open carry is not allowed. In fact, the insistence that many (mostly white people) have to open carry strikes me as irresponsible at best; terroristic at worst (to be fair, though, I also believe that the US should follow the model of certain European countries, where NO guns are allowed and even law enforcement officers do not carry weapons).
And I certainly don't condone the experiment above, recognizing that the gentleman and lady in the latter half of the video put themselves at great risk, considering recent events across the country involving police officers and unarmed black men and women.
But the fact remains that whatever the gun laws of any given state dictate, they should apply fairly and equally to all citizens, irrespective of race. It is unconscionable that white men wielding weapons, even pointing them at police officers, often walk away from such incidents alive and well, while black men and women (even boys, as in the mournful case of Tamir Rice in Cleveland) are too often gunned down and killed in similar circumstances.
Indeed, it is a most vile and egregious white privilege.
The following is from an article on alternet, wherein writer Terrel Jermaine Starr demonstrates that life for Black men and women in the US really is as challenging as they say it is. White folk do not face the same fears and struggles, as the title suggests, and therefore benefit from -- you guessed it -- White privilege.
I have nothing more to add, subtract, or highlight as the entire article hits straight to the heart of this blog. Enjoy!
When black people wake up and begin the day, we have a wide range of issues we have to think about before leaving our homes. Will a police officer kill us today? Or, will some George Zimmerman vigilante see us as a threat in our own neighborhoods and kill us? We brace ourselves for those white colleagues who are pissed Barack Obama won both elections and take out their racist rage on us. When we drive our cars, we have to wonder if we’ll be pulled over because our cars look too expensive for a black person to be driving. If we’re poor and sick, we wonder if we'll be able to be treated for our illness. We have a lot on our minds, and sometimes it’s overwhelming.
Here are a few examples of things we have to be afraid of that white people don’t (or not nearly as much).
1. Getting fired because we don’t fit into white cultural norms. Rhonda Lee, an African American meteorologist who worked at a Louisiana TV station wore her hair in a natural hairstyle one viewer found offensive. “The black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. The only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. I’m not sure if she is a cancer patient. But still it’s not something myself that I think looks good on TV,” the viewer wrote on the station’s Facebook page.
After Lee posted a respectful reply to the man’s insulting remark, she wasfired for violating the station's social media policy, even though she wasn’t made aware there was one. It took her nearly two years to find a new job. She has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the station that is still pending.
Another example: In 2013, Melphine Evans, a British Petroleum executive, was fired from the company’s La Palma, Calif. location because, she says, she wore a dashiki and her hair in braids. She sued for racial discrimination. In her 24-page lawsuit, Evans claims her supervisor told her that, "You intimidate and make your colleagues uncomfortable by wearing ethnic clothing and ethnic hairstyles.”
“If you are going to wear ethnic clothing, you should alert people in advance that you will be wearing something ethnic,” Evans says she was told, according to the lawsuit.
These are just two examples of ways black people are treated if they don’t perm their hair, dress in a way white bosses deem “professional,” or conduct themselves in a way that is “non-threatening” to their white colleagues.
2. Encountering a police officer who may kill us. ProPublica reports that black males stand a 21 times greater chance of being killed by cops than their white counterparts. What’s more, a 2005 study reveals that police officers are more likely to shoot an unarmed black person than an armed white suspect.Madame Noire created a list of at least 10 armed white men who aggressively brandished weapons or even shot at police yet were taken into custody alive. Black women aren’t treated any better, as this list by Gawker demonstrates.
There is a reason black people bristle when a white person says, “#AllLivesMatter” during a #BlackLivesMatter discussion. In the eyes of many police, clearly all lives don’t matter.
3. Not being able to get a job. The black unemployment rate has been twice the rate of unemployment for whites, basically forever. According to a studyconducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013, the unemployment rate for black Americans has been about double that of whites since 1954.
The current unemployment rate is 5.7 percent overall. For white people, it’s 4.9 percent; the percentage is 10.3 for AfricanAmericans, a little more than double.
Not much has changed for us since the '50s, has it?
4. Our daughters being expelled from school because of “zero tolerance policies.” According to a 2015 report titled “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected,” that analyzed Department of Education data from the New York City and Boston school districts, 12 percent of black girls were subjected to exclusionary suspensions compared to just 2 percent of white girls. In New York City, during the 2011-2012 school year, 90 percent of all girls subject to expulsion were black. No white girls were suspended that year.
Let that marinate for a minute. Before you do, data from the Department of Education reports that "black children make up just 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of preschool children suspended more than once."
The black kids aren’t being suspended simply because they aren’t as well-behaved as the white children.
5. We are much more likely to be harassed by police than by white residents in NYC.Though the NYPD has legally put an end to its racist stop-and-frisk policy, the department’s “Broken Windows” policy is in full effect. What the policy does is arrest people for smoking small amounts of pot, peeing on the streets, riding a bike on a sidewalk, selling cigarettes on the corner and other minor offenses. Between 2001 and 2013, roughly 81 percent of the summonses issued have been to African Americans and Latinos, according to the New York Daily News. Most of the arrests were made in black and Latino neighborhoods, as if white people never pee on the sidewalk or smoke pot on their stoops.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton swears by the policy, saying it keeps the city safe. Eric Garner, who was apprehended for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, likely wouldn’t agree. He died after an officer on the scene put him in a chokehold.
Every black person walking the streets of New York City knows he or she could be the next Eric Garner. That’s not just a fear, it’s our reality.
6. Being bullied at work. Fifty-four percent of African Americans claim to be victims of workplace bullying compared to 44 percent of white respondents,according to the 2014 Workplace Bullying Survey.
A recent example of workplace bullying comes from Portland, Oregon, where two current and two former black employees of Daimler Trucks North America are suing the company for $9.4 million. Joseph Hall, 64, says half a dozen white employees threatened him with violence, wrote graffiti showing "hangman's nooses" at his job, and placed chicken bones in his black co-worker's locker. There’s much more ugly racism alleged in the case, if you have the stomach to read it.
Black people who just want to earn an honest buck sometimes have to put up with crap like this.
7. Being pulled over by the police. Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, according to the Washington Post. We fear this pretty much every time we enter our vehicles. Sure, we sometimes violate traffic traffic laws. But we get stopped even when we don't.
8. Being accused of shoplifting when we’re shopping. Shopping while black can be pretty stressful. Just this week, a black NYPD officer filed a lawsuit alleging that employees at PC Richards & Son store, in Lawrence, N.J., harassed him for "shopping while black.” Sammari Malcolm, 40, of Brooklyn, says employees accused him of using a stolen credit card when he purchased $4,150.23 worth of electronics, even after showing his ID. Malcolm also claims store employees frisked him and detained him for two hours. He is seeking $5.75 million in damages. Sound familiar?
Perhaps you heard about the incident at Macy’s flagship Herald Square store, in Manhattan, where "Treme" actor Rob Brown was handcuffed and accused of using a fake credit card to buy his mother a $1,300 watch in June 2013. He filed a lawsuit against the store and the city of New York over the incident, which was settled in July 2014. In August, Macy’s paid $650,000 to settle a state probe into racial profiling allegations at the store. The store profiled and detained minorities at far higher rates than whites, according to the state’s investigation.
Money and success doesn’t shield us from racism. Even black celebrities are far from immune. Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker was racially profiled in February 2013, when he was falsely accused of stealing an item from a deli. An employee frisked him in front of other shoppers. The Academy Award winner didn’t sue, but he wasn’t happy about it.
9. Getting sick and not having access to health care. While African Americans have gained better access to healthcare since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, black people have less access to medical care than whites in core measures, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality. When we do gain access to care, it’s far worse than whites in 40 percent of core measures.
Much of this is tied to poverty, which disproportionately plagues African Americans.
10. Having white people say we’re exaggerating these issues. This isn’t so much a fear as a chronic and sometimes debilitating annoyance. It seems that no matter how much we can statistically demonstrate that racism is pervasive and damages us on many levels, there are white people who fight us tooth and nail with arguments that life is not as challenging for us as we say it is.
I’ve given up convincing white people about the harsh realities of my life as a black man. I’ll devote that energy to fighting for my black liberation in our very racist society.
Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior editor at AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @Russian_Starr.
I came across this video a couple weeks ago and it just blew me away.
There's a lot packed into this short piece of spoken word by Ernestine Johnson, about what it means to be a black woman in the United States today. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen below:
I don't want to say too much about this performance, because I do think that it speaks for itself. However, I would like to highlight one line and share a bit about how I see it speaking to the reality of White Privilege.
I remember my ex's mother telling me "I didn't know how I was going to react when he brought home a black girl, but I like you because you talk so white." Well, when did me talking right equate to me talking white?
Indeed, there is a cultural presumption in the U.S. that talking and behaving in a white way is superior to talking and behaving in a black way.
This is one aspect of White Privilege and a notion that is so incredibly racist; but I think that most people who speak this way don't even realize it. It's a kind of internalized racism that even many people of color espouse, talking in much the same way about white/black speech and behavior.
It's this dichotomy that pigeonholes a black person into an "oreo". You know, black on the outside but white on this inside. If a person speaks eloquently, dresses professionally, and behaves in an upright, respectful manner, then s/he is really just accessing the white person deep at the core of his or her self. Nevermind their actual skin color, shared culture and experiences, or actual identification as a person of color.
I remember describing my black friends as "oreos" when I was in high school, because they dressed like me and listened to hard rock music. Perhaps they would have described themselves in the same way at that time. But what I hadn't realized yet was just how racist the very notion was.
It's true, a black person can retain his or her identity and integrity as a black person while listening to music that is generally enjoyed by a white demographic. And s/he can still keep their blackness in full view, even as s/he speaks the English language in an "eloquent" way -- not because s/he's actually white deep down inside, but because s/he is educated and chooses to speak in that way when appropriate.
Perhaps it's worth noting at this point that there are other scenarios where speaking in a regarded-less-eloquent, presumed-to-be-black way might be more appropriate. There's absolutely nothing wrong or inferior about speaking like that, it's called vernacular. And yes, plenty of white folks use it too, but then they are often called whiggers (!!!).
It may be argued that there is a right, civilized way to speak English, and that people of any race ought to conform to this manner of speaking if they wish to advance themselves in our society. But to conflate such a "right" way of speaking with whiteness and a contrary "wrong" way of speaking with blackness, and to imply that people of color should conform their speech to the proper (white) way of speaking if they wish to ever be taken seriously, smacks too much of colonialism and white supremacy.
And lo, behold, it's what we hear all-too-often in this day and age (don't believe me? Try scanning the comments on the video above).
The reality is that the young poet in the video above is beautiful, intelligent, well-spoken, and -- yes -- black; there's no reason that this confluence of traits should come as any surprise to us. She might as well be the average black girl.
I haven't contributed anything to this blog since June last year, some time before Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson. Or Eric Garner choked to death by NYPD officers in Staten Island. Or John Crawford and Tamir Rice, boys brandishing toy guns, abruptly shot to death by police officers in Ohio.
When the grand jury decision came down for Darren Wilson, I was packing up for my wedding trip to Florida. I stayed up late into the night, watching the live streaming footage from activists on the ground, responding to the news with peaceful indignation. And when the decision came down in Staten Island, I was in Barcelona on honeymoon.
Nevertheless, I've followed these events rather closely, following many citizen journalists, and contributing plenty of tweets and retweets to get the word out about what's been happening in Ferguson, New York City, and so on. But I've just not had the time or emotional energy to post about all these events and their implications on this -- my blog about privilege.
So this post is very long overdue!
As millions have noted before me, there's a regrettable pattern to the killings listed above -- the victims were all black males, murdered by police officers under extremely dubious circumstances. #BlackLivesMatter became the rallying cry as activists around the country felt the need to emphasize the sheer humanity and intrinsic value of people of color. Even today they march the streets of Madison, Wisconsin as they lament and protest the killing of yet another young man of color.
Indeed, black lives matter, and for many people this may seem self-evident. Especially if you (still) believe, as so many do, that we live in a post-racial color-blind society. You might wonder why the statement needs saying at all ("aren't such statements divisive?") and the temptation for you might be to respond with a more inclusive statement -- ALL lives matter!
Certainly many folks have responded with this statement. And while yes, it's true, that all lives matter, we must really inquire to the spirit behind such a response.
I, for one, agree that all lives matter. As a Christian, I believe that all people have intrinsic value and are to be loved, held in high esteem and dignity, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, or any other individuating factor. And I'm plenty sure that those who have hit the streets behind the #blacklivesmatter slogan also agree that all lives matter.
But saying so doesn't really get us anywhere, does it?
Contrary to the reactionary "all lives matter," I hear "black lives matter" as a declaration of self-worth in the face of racism, prejudice, and white supremacy. People of color in the US continue to feel that they are devalued and disregarded by society and its institutions. They worry that it's "open season" on black men and women. And their worries are totally legitimate!
I mean, how many unarmed black men and boys must be killed by those who have sworn to serve and protect them, before we see these events not as isolated incidents, but as reflecting a pattern of deadly racism, violence, and injustice? How many before the police and justice systems of this country are fundamentally reformed?
And why should so many die in the first place?
The answer that we are receiving from this society and its institutions, with each black life that is so handily discarded, is precisely that black lives don't matter. Thus the slogan you've heard at protests is a counter, a defiant rejoinder -- "nay, black lives do matter!"
If you agree that black lives matter (like all other lives), then you really ought to check your privilege at the door, sit down, and listen up. Now is not the time to assert that all lives matter. That statement doesn't edify anyone, it only serves to denigrate activists and diminish the statement that they are taking to the streets. If you truly agree that black lives matter, then let's afford them the dignity and respect to say so, until we (the rest of society) make it abundantly clear to them that we agree, until it's no longer necessary for us (the rest of society) to be reminded of it.
Most of us understand now that the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were written exclusively by White land-owning men (not women), primarily for their own benefit. So when we read words like "all men are created equal... endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights," and take into account the actual history of this country, we must concede that the authors of such documents must have had themselves - and only others who were and would be exactly like them - in mind.
Thankfully, times have changed. We now apply the words of the founding fathers to all men (yes, even women!), which I think we'll agree is a very positive change for our society.
There's only one problem.
While it might make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside that everyone has supposed rights now, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, class and any other individuating factors, the stark reality is that we're not all equally disposed to actually engaging those rights. Perhaps our 2nd Amendment Right to own and carry arms is the most obvious example of this, as Jon Stewart and his team so masterfully demonstrated in an episode earlier this month.
I give you: the White Privilege of the 2nd Amendment.
Civil rights activist and Sweet Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagan once said about coalitions that if you're comfortable, "you're not really doing no coalescing." I've taken this quote to heart the past couple weeks, while processing two great articles about privilege.
The first is a discussion with activists Suey Park and Dr. David Leonard, on the "problem" of white allies in the movements against racism and white supremacy. I posted some choice excerpts last week, worth checking out.
Please now find excerpts of the second article below. It is a great primer about class privilege. As a young middle-class white activist, involved with Occupy Wall Street, twinkle-fingers, and dreadlocks - I found it to be highly illuminating.
For professional-middle-class progressives activists like myself, it's easy to understand why working-class people would be alienated by the mainstream culture of well-off people. After all, we tend to be alienated by it ourselves, because it represents values we've rejected, like greed and materialism... [we] imagine [that] working-class people will have a negative reaction to the cultural style of the ostentatiously wealthy — not to our own cultural style.
Yet in reality, what I hear from working-class and very low-income activists is very different: many aspects of middle-class culture are baffling, infuriating, intimidating or just plain weird. And while mainstream professional-middle-class (PMC) culture may be familiar from television and from teachers and social workers, PMC activist subcultures can be unfamiliar and thus even more alienating.
Doing community organizing jobs in which I worked with hundreds of grassroots working-class activists, I saw people meet their first vegetarian, their first Buddhist, their first woman with hairy legs, their first white dreadlocks-wearer, and so on, almost always a college-educated PMC activist.
We PMC activists have a tremendous resistance to seeing our own subcultures through a class lens. Whether or not there's an obvious connection with money or status, if cultural clashes happen across class lines, then class dynamics are at work. Of course there are also working-class vegetarians, Buddhists and so on, and when they get culture-shock reactions from other working-class people, it's not a class issue. But whenever there's a big difference in income, assets, education and/or status, then cultural differences become laden with class dynamics.
In professional-middle-class progressive culture, the axis of the world is mainstream versus alternative. The majority of us were raised in non-progressive families; the exceptions, such as "red diaper babies" and children of hippies, grew up aware of their families' outsider status. We grew up surrounded by expectations that we would maximize our income and status by conforming to PMC lifestyles and career tracks. At some point we made a conscious, life-changing decision to take a different course and to put some of our energy to work for a better world. We each place ourselves in a particular place on the mainstream/alternative continuum, contrasting ourselves with those more and less conventional than ourselves. One thing that virtually all of us PMC activists have in common is that we are proud of living a values-based life. It's our best trait — and leads to some of our most classist traits, such as culture-bound elitism. "More-alternative-than- thou" is not a helpful stance to take in building bridges with anyone, and it's especially unhelpful with people with a lot less social privilege than ourselves.
PMC activists often feel like the underdogs in middle-class society. This is not a bad thing; it can help us identify with targeted groups — not just with working-class people, but with people of color if we're white; with women if we're men; with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people if we're straight [and perhaps the author blows open the subconscious impetus behind this entire blog]. But if this underdog feeling leads PMC progressives to think that we are similarly oppressed, we have fallen into a misunderstanding of the nature of systemic oppression.
No matter how unwelcoming your Christian family is towards your wiccan practices, that mistreatment is not actually equivalent to the racism faced by people of color, or the classism experienced by working-class people. The uptight bosses and relatives who make you wear a tie or pantyhose are not actually the equivalent of the employers who pay their employees minimum wage. Bohemian lifestyles and voluntary simplicity have a long, honored history in middle-class culture, and it's time we recognized our counterculture impulses as part of our professional-middle-class identity.
The cultural differences between PMC and working-class activists are not just neutral differences in taste or style, in which each party should give the other equal deference, but power differences between people with different amounts of education, social and cultural capital, and clout in the wider society. In my experience, I'm usually identified as PMC at 20 paces. We might as well accept that working-class people will know who we are; there's no hiding our privilege.
But how can we be ourselves and still build bridges with people who find our differences weird? For the answer to this question and lots more great insights into class and PMC privilege, read the full article here!
Civil rights activist and Sweet Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagan once said about coalitions that if you're comfortable, "you're not really doing no coalescing." I've taken this quote to heart this past week, while processing two great articles about privilege.
The first is a discussion with activists Suey Park and Dr. David Leonard, on the "problem" of white allies in the movements against racism and white supremacy. Leonard offers suggestions as to how white-privileged activists ought to regard and approach racism in society, alongside communities of color, while also accounting for their privilege. Find some choice excerpts below!
I will soon follow up with the second article, about PMC (professional middle class) privilege and building bridges across class differences.
SP: As you know, the concept of the white anti-racist or white ally has been put into question. Why do you think this is? Are these words oxymorons? What is a better word?
DL: First and foremost, [these terms] presume that struggles against injustice are the responsibility of someone else – those who are subjected to the violence of racism, sexism, homophobia – and that the “allies” are helping or joining forces with those who are naturally on the frontlines. The idea of white allies also reinscribes the idea that whites have a choice as to whether to fight racism, to fight white supremacy. And while this may be true, it turns any agitation into a choice worthy of celebration. At the same time, it turns struggles against racial violence and injustice to a discussion of “what people are” rather than one focused on what people are doing in opposition to white supremacy.
Secondly, the mere fact that we don’t talk about Black, Latino, Indigenous or Asian American anti-racists, at least with the same public resonance, reflects this idea: people may see anti-racist struggle as organic and natural within communities of color, which not only embodies this logic but erases the risks, sacrifices and hard work necessary to battle racism. The idea of allies reinscribes this binary, whereupon white allies are seen as doing something different, special, and necessary, furthering the privileging of white action.
Thirdly, I also have a problem with the entire focus on defining white people in these exceptional terms. White, yet anti-racist – these are the ideas that emanate from the labeling. As if participation in struggle or consciousness cancels out whiteness, privilege, and position within America’s white supremacist hierarchy. No amount of work cancels out my whiteness, my masculinity, my class status, or my heterosexuality; no amount of activism erases the power and privilege generated because of white supremacy... It’s not about choosing the right word, it’s about making the commitment to racial justice.
SP: I often hear that “people of color should not have to educate white folks” [indeed, that's why I started this blog about privilege] and “white folks need to take their cues from people of color” simultaneously. Is this a contradiction?
The presumption here is that white people need/want to be educated about issues of racism, about inequality, or about differences in experience, and that this desire should compel people of color to act. This is all about white desire; it is about white agency and the expectation of Others helping white folk grow, learn, and be better people.
Asking whites engaged in social justice or anti-racist work to “take their cues from people of color” is about accountability and decentering white desire and white needs. It is no longer about what white people need and want but the agency, action, and politics of organizations of color. It is about being accountable and listening as opposed to demanding recognition, ownership or power.
Each is about asking whites to put aside their own needs, desires, and privileged position.
Many white folks, including Tim Wise, say that racism needs to be fought not to “help” people of color, but because all people are hurt by it, including white people. Do you agree that racism hurts white folks?
Whether or not it hurts whites is the wrong place to start. The centering of whiteness, of white humanity, desire, and history, is a core element of white supremacy so our conversations and actions should not and cannot focus on “how racism hurts” white America.
When we talk about white supremacy, we need to focus on the structural violence directed at communities of color – we are talking about issues of life and death, from healthcare to food insecurity, from labor exploitation to systems of mass incarceration. Recognizing intersectionality and varied levels of privilege, racism empowers, privileges, and protects white America.
Do you think that being a white man gives you more agency to do anti-racist work with folks who might not be ready to hear it from people of color?
White supremacy codifies agency, choice, and freedom, so it would be ridiculous to deny its existence within the spaces I occupy as a teacher, a writer, a commentator, and an activist... When I walk into a classroom, I am often seen as more objective, as embodying what many view as an “expert” and a “professor.” When I walk on campus, whether wearing a hoodie or argyle sweater, I am seen as non-threatening, as belonging, and as being desirable.
I have a role, to teach. I have a role to challenge racism, to educate those who believe there is equal justice under the law, those who think that racism is a thing of a past, who perpetuate rape culture through jokes and media culture, who think that sports are innocuous rather than a site of racial pedagogy.
Do you have any tips for white folks who are trying to engage in anti-racist work?
It is important to think about one’s whiteness and what it means to be white within contemporary society.
It’s crucial to push back the urge to make every conversation about “self.”
... to move beyond “I am an anti-racist individual” to see oneself as part of an anti-racist community.
... to move beyond just talking, and listen.
... to push beyond the desire to be seen, to be praised, and to be celebrated, to consider instead the ways that we can facilitate justice and equality in ways not seen.
... [and to] JUST DO THE WORK.
It should go without saying that the rhetorical angry black person is nothing more than ad hominem dismissal of legitimate frustration with a white-dominated racist society. But in case you needed the angry black person myth dispelled scientifically, here is the take by Black Geoscientists (@BlackGeoRocks).
The other day a friend and I were discussing controversial stereotypes... I was venting my frustration at the fact that black people have very few positive stereotypes and my friend stopped talking. A few minutes passed and he finally said, “Okay sorry.”
And then I realized what had just occurred. I had just stumbled into becoming the most dreaded stereotype of all, the Angry Black Person.
It took me several days of reflection (ie obsessively repeating the conversation over and over in my head) to realize why my friend responded the way he did. I realized he has no idea why I got so angry! In his mind, what we were discussing was understandably frustrating but he can’t connect to my level of frustration over the topic. And truthfully, sometimes the level of hurt I feel surprises me as well.
So today I’m going to explain the Angry Black Person phenomenon the only way I know how to, scientifically of course. Presenting…*drum roll*…
The Black Allergic Reaction to Racism (BARR) Response
If you treat racism, bigotry, or any discrimination as an allergen, then the BARR response becomes very obvious.
Most of the time the allergen isn’t an obvious threat. After all, a peanut doesn’t look as dangerous as a lion chasing after you. Yet to many, a peanut spells certain death while they might just have a slim chance with the lion. Well it’s the same thing with discrimination! ... it’s not your life that’s threatened, it’s your sense of hope. And you become vigilant in safeguarding it.
We often think “Was that comment really necessary?”, “Please be thoughtful with your words before exposing us to them. Thanks.” and “If you’re not 100% certain, please refrain. This is my life you’re playing with.”
The BARR response to discrimination is as varied as allergic responses. Just like with allergies, some people grow out of them and don’t suffer from them any more. While other allergies, no matter what you do, only get worse with each exposure.
So folks, even though anger, frustration, irritation, etc is not an emotion that’s pleasant to be around. Before judging, ask yourself “What did this person experience to illicit this response?” Because, excluding the hot heads, most people exhibiting the BARR response have been exposed to more than they should.
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.