Getting back to the issues or Not now, Black people

Since the untimely demise murder of Michael Brown in August 2014, matters of race and racism (both systemic and personal) have been very much at the forefront of many discussions in the US. The barrier of politeness that made in-depth talks of racism taboo outside of academic and racial justice spaces has been lifted and we are all talking. Now, that’s the kind of thing I encourage normally, but the problem is we aren’t all having the same conversation on race and racism. Sometimes, it seems we aren’t even speaking the same language.

The racialized silos that we live in make honest racial discussions very hard to come by. Far too many white people have no meaningful interactions with people of color and, frankly, in many cases they have literally no interactions period with people of color. For people of color and specifically Black people, a power imbalance creates a system where speaking openly and honestly to a white employer, colleague, etc. could have disastrous effects.

Yet a younger Black generation is showing itself to be fearless. They have seen their parents and grandparents grapple with race, they have seen the realities of racism play out in their communities and with their peers, and they are saying “Enough is enough.” This presidential campaign season we have seen candidates forced to address the racial questions in ways that many of us are not quite used to seeing. However the questions must be asked. Racism is the stain that we can’t quite seem to ever wash out in part because we aren’t trying hard enough. We aren’t comfortable with discomfort, and to acknowledge that a white middle class was created at the expense of Black people sits uneasily in the pit of stomachs. Which is why most white people don’t try to think about it much.

To acknowledge that the “hood” and the “ghetto” were government constructs used to keep those people in their place is to acknowledge that many of the truths that white Americans were raised to believe in are lies.  To look at the last 60 years in the United States is to see an ugly reality, and some realities are so horrible and so ugly that for many of us we cannot allow ourselves to feel the weight of that inequity. So we look at inequity in bite-sized morsels that won’t choke us to death and we pat ourselves on the back because we aren’t “those” ugly racists, and we do the best that we can and leave it at that. But to those of us staggering under the psychic weight of racism, bite-sized morsels of racialized compassion and care are more a slap in the face than anything else.

I was thinking about this a few days ago when a video surfaced of two Black activists who attended a private Hillary Clinton event and confronted Clinton with words that she had spoken in the 1990s. Clinton wasn’t the president in the 1990s (her husband was) but she also was not a “typical” first lady. The Clinton legacy of the 1990s is one that created hardship for Black and Brown communities, and we are now living with the impact of mass incarceration and other societal changes adversely and disproportionately affecting people of color that really picked up during the Clinton administration. So there is a justification in asking Clinton where she stands on issues that impact communities of color.

In the end, the activist was thrown out and we hear Clinton utter “Let’s get back to the issues.”  That single sentence is how I feel most matters of racial justice play out for white people. When you are fully free (and acknowledged as fully human), you don’t understand the urgency of someone else’s desire to get free because you have never not been free. Whether you are the poorest white person in the backwaters of the Delta or Appalachia to the waspiest WASP in the northeast, to possess white skin in a society that normalized and centered whiteness is to hold a privilege that others see but often the holder of said privilege cannot see. Your issues and actions are normalized; they are business as usual. They are the important issues; they are not seen as pesky interruptions or uncomfortable moments. To see someone demand accountability and full humanity is often viewed as rude when the real rudeness is that people have to ask these questions in the first place. Then again, if we lived in a world where all lives mattered, maybe we wouldn’t.

Lately, I find myself wondering how we can shift the narrative so that Black Lives Matter becomes something that really matters to all. That it is as important to us all as the air we breathe and the people we love.  How do we take racism out of its compartment and make the full weight felt enough that we all will say enough is enough? I wish I knew…
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Revisiting White Privilege and the Hillary Supporters

Last night I had a chance to catch Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC convention, all I can say is wow! I swear I like her better than her husband, she appears to be authentic, I look at her and see myself and so many other Black women in her.. she represents well.

So I went to bed, feeling warm and fuzzy since between that emotional speech and those 2 gorgeous daughters, I was feeling good that I actually had the chance to catch the happenings last night.

Well the bubble was busted this morning when I woke up to my usual dose of NPR and the coverage about last night’s happenings at the DNC and they were discussing the Hillary factor, and had a couple of die hard Hillary supporters being interviewed. Let me just say they pissed me off, both women were clearly white, one described herself as an academic, the other a professional. They both spoke of how passionately they believed in Hillary and just needed proper closure before they could even consider supporting Obama. Wait! Hold the fuck up… you need closure. Um, newsflash, your candidate lost, time to move the fuck on.

Then it hit me, what has been bothering me most about the Clinton supporters who cannot let go and those that have  expressed the fucked up thought that they would rather vote for McCain over Obama (um, that’s not even logical but what the fuck does a little black chick from Maine know?). I think what bugs me most is that every time I hear these women speak, I am hearing them speak from a place of white privilege yet none of them would dare call it that. Oh, no, its coded in such a way that it sounds good, they use deep words, very emotional and moving language that while passionate, what they are really saying is  that losing to a nigger was never part of their expectations. I rarely use the n-word here but this is one time it feels fitting.  No, white privilege is predicated on the very false notion that whites are better than lowly people of color? Now, I admit I am not going to take the academic route here but white privilege is real and I sincerely believe the reason Clinton supporters can’t let go is that losing to a man of color is just not acceptable. When one operates from a place of privilege they in essence are able to look at the world through rose colored lenses, as I have written before white privilege allows one to make assumptions and not ever have to think about it, as I posted once before its simple shit like literally shitting where you want.

I have been Black all my life and its been my observation that whenever a Black persons bests a white person in something, no matter how trivial, the average white person gets uncomfortable. I won’t say all as my spousal unit is white and I know some good white folks but the vast majority only pay lip service to wanting to be equal.. in the end, for many white privilege comes into play.

At this point I feel like white privilege is too deeply ingrained in many Clinton supporters (where were these women when Hillary was being made to look like a fool while Bill was having not real sexual relations with Monica?), then again maybe just as I see bits of myself in Michelle Obama, perhaps these women see bits of themselves reflected in Hillary. Staying with a man, you really want to throw hot grits on when he has publicly humiliated you.. yet you stay because through him you can access power. However at the same time staying in a soul-less partnership drains you but at the end of the day, much like Scarlett O’Hara you believe there will be a better tomorrow, after all you are woman.. hear you roar. That was until that interloper aka Obama showed up. Ok, I admit I am getting goofy..not enough coffee yet.

Really though, the bottom line is that for me I believe white privilege is playing a large role in why some of the Clinton supporters cannot or will not support Obama. The pundits love to say Obama cannot close the deal, well unless the brotha gets a vat of white paint to give himself a makeover, with some folks he won’t close the deal and the sooner he accepts that and focuses on those he can convince to support him, the better off he will be.