‘White racists are not monsters’.
Perhaps this sounds strange because the word ‘racist’ itself is like a bitter pill. Black people bu are confronted with its dosage: daily, yearly, rarely (if in a predominantly black country); white people get a dash of its flavor in their mouth once its brought to the surface of an individual’s lips in accusation, declaration or through argument. Strong emotions rise, from both, one or several feeling offended and then there is that fleeting moment in the black individual’s mind where he/she might think or wonder:
- I feel so hurt about this, I wish I didn’t have to deal with this, I won’t stand for it (!)
- Did I say too much? Maybe ‘racist’ is too strong of a word to use? Just look at the way everyone’s looking at me like I said unicorns exist and they only eat bananas.
- Maybe it’s all in my head? Then why do I feel this way, see these differences in treatments between myself and so and so?
- Nothing will change, now I’ve gone and added angry/hallucinating black woman/man to the list.
The accused may very well think or wonder:
- I’m being accused of being a racist, am I really one?
- I don’t feel like a racist, what did I do wrong?
- I don’t particularly like black people but racists were white colonizers who injured,abused, raped, lynched black people for no other reason than the color of their skin.
See…that’s the problem. Racism is perceived as an action directed against black people by white people in the past. “These are modern times, ladies and gentlemen!” Yes, which is why it is harder to pinpoint because racism now is subtle, sometimes subconscious ( embodied knowledge).
“Why do you keep bringing up race?” “Stop whining, everything can’t be handed to black people” “How do you explain why there are so many successful black people then?” “There you go playing the race card again” (by the way, if the race card does exist then black people have had a pretty bad run of luck while using it)
QUESTION: why are we so uncomfortable and afraid of talking about race? And what’s wrong with feeling uncomfortable? Talk to your non-white friend and let the icebergs break. Also, why do you assume black people think all white people are enemies when they do speak on race?
Racists are mainly seen as evil soulless people when in fact this is just a generalization that benefits no one. I don’t exactly love the word black people or white people either because it is usually followed by a generalizing statement, but anyways, we have to deal with it because we need those words to give order to written and performed things in society, to bring change…However, racism could be viewed like a treatable disease. ‘Regular people’ can have it, yes, like Josh who volunteers at the pet shelter and then goes home to his lovely wife and kids. Or Catherine who has a black friend but still thinks What do you think? As suggested by a character named Ifemelu in the novel Americanah, maybe the word ‘racist’ should be scrapped so that we can find something new like Racial Disorder Syndrome that can be listed under mild, medium and acute. I wonder what that treatment will consist of. I wonder what category Donald Trump falls into. Or is he just plain ignorant, regurgitating stereotypes that feed on ignorance?
Personally, growing up in the Caribbean which is predominantly black, I haven’t experienced racism (should I say yet?), maybe colourism and/or classism, of course. In the Caribbean I am simply Jamaican but If I travel to America or Canada or England, for example, then I will be perceived as black and/or African-American. But I try to have an open mind and an open heart for all people, regardless of colour. I, like some of you, wish we didn’t have to close our eyes to, tiptoe or stomp past race issues. Will we ever be able to hold conversations without that knowledge of history that makes one bitter, reverential or apologetic? Without that tense rumination of how to go about communicating? To be able to sway the misguided/prejudiced and know people for who they are, not who they are portrayed to be?
I think we can, but it won’t be easy because it requires effort on all sides, a willingness to risk feeling stupid or doubtful or upset, the choice to really look at each other in order to find understanding, true friendship, and a deep, powerful love. Will you try?