Scrubbing racism from the air we breathe

This post contained some reflections on the racist assumptions and stereotypes that laid the groundwork for the unjust verdict exonerating George Zimmerman, who racially profiled and killed teenage boy Trayvon Martin. In the post (after a trigger warning for examples of racism), I admitted to having been in some ways influenced by these awful and pervasive stereotypes, and the horror and shame that this realization induced in me.

I wrote about it because, like many white people, I was afraid to admit this to myself for a long time because on a conscious level I abhor racism, love my friends of colour, and want a world that doesn’t oppress people based on race. I thought perhaps my admitting it publicly would spur other white folks to engage in similarly critical self-reflection, which I think is wholly necessary if we are to truly address our racist culture.

Some preliminary feedback indicates the post did spur that kind of self-reflection. However, it also caused pain for friends of mine, friends who are already experiencing enough pain in the wake of the verdict. I think there may be some value to this type of reflection in eradicating racism, until I have found better ways to share these reflections that don’t cause pain to the people who are oppressed by them, I opted to remove this post.

3 thoughts on “Scrubbing racism from the air we breathe

  1. Alright I’m going to do something I never like to do – go read what I wrote here:

    I can’t speak for Black people, Black women, biracial people or biracial women, I can only speak for me.

    I see the intentions of this post. Logically, I understand them. For many people who want to be allies it’s important to have this discussion out in the open to examine the way you think and feel critically in order to be able to deconstruct your “-ism”. My advice, deconstruct away from the people you are “-isming” against. Racism is not for Black or biracial people what it is for whites. Sexism is not for women what it is for men, etc. I see feminists often getting incredibly upset when men say inflammatory things in feminist discussions or spaces – race is no different.

    I saw people saying we should re-read “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Having people say “nigger” over and over while discussing it class in high school was not an experience I’d like to relive but I’m not white.

    I was raised mostly by my Black father and his family – aunties and cousins. I saw people cross the street or give the sideways glance. I was questioned more than a few times “if I knew the people I was with” – I didn’t understand until I was older what people were really asking. I also was raised to know that people would hate me and hate on me because my dad was Black.

    I can’t see a post like this and not wonder what other thoughts lurk beneath the surface. I’ve heard people say blatantly racist things in front of me, assuming I’m white.

    I can’t understand what it’s like to see a Black man and think you have to cross the street, I wasn’t raised that way.

    The first 3 paragraphs of this post I agree with wholeheartedly and then, I can’t. I read it because I was asked to, if I could weigh in. The post could have addressed any Black male stereotype but went straight to rapist. That puts knots in my stomach. You could have said gang members, drug dealers, well endowed, there are no end of stereotypes to choose from. Rapist. I think what if you walked past my cousin and thought he might rape you just because he’s a tall Black man? That’s my family you fear and who in turn has to fear you and the society that comes with these beliefs.

    Just like I appreciate men who offer their support in feminist space, listening, processing and supporting, while doing their own learning away from the safe space is necessary, all non-POC need to process things like this outside. Warnings, etc should be clear. This is not something POC need or want to consume, we know it, we’ve experienced it, it’s our lived life, not rational numbers.

    (I’m not even sure any of this makes sense)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, and for sharing your piece as well. I apologize for the hurt this piece caused you, and likely others who read it. My initial trigger warning was not specific enough (it was just the first sentence of the current one), and I’ve taken an important lesson away from that. That lesson can’t undo the pain experienced by those who already read it, though, and for that I’m deeply sorry.

    I understand what you’re saying about processing things like this away from the safe spaces of people of colour. I don’t want to throw my reflections on personal racism into the faces of people of colour. Having taken in the feedback from you and another friend, I wonder, are these reflections things I should be keeping off the Internet entirely?

    The reason I shared was because I felt it might spur similar critical self-reflection among other folks – more folks than I could ever reach by having private conversations in IRL spaces about this. But at the end of the day I don’t want to hurt people. Is this kind of reflection shareable with the right trigger warnings, or should I keep these reflections in spaces where I can be certain no person of colour will be exposed to them? (This question isn’t specifically for you, it’s for anyone really, but your thoughts are of course more than welcome.)

  3. Hi Steph,
    One of the problems we all have is that we’re so scared to get it wrong we never get it right. This being here – in the form its in – is instructive to me. I will reflect on it and use it.
    Thanks to the commentator for laying things out, long after laying things out has gotten tired. And yes, it makes total sense.
    Thanks to you both.

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