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July 2019

3 Reasons You Yes YOU Are Blind To Racism

3 Reasons You Yes YOU Are Blind To Racism 1200 800 Corey Leak

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen two very public displays of blatant racism. We witnessed a white youtube executive profile a black software engineer outside an apartment building in SanFranscisco where the engineer was visiting a friend. The exec not only profiled the black man but proceeded to call the police. See the video of the interaction below. The executive, Christopher Cukor, has since apologized.

WARNING THERE IS SOME ADULT LANGUAGE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3TnFqXI-ok&t=7s

In another public display of racism, #NotMyAriel was trending on twitter on the FOURTH OF JULY! Let that one sink in. White people didn’t respond well to Disney casting actress and singer, Halle Baily as Ariel in the upcoming live-action “Little Mermaid” film.

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Disney “defended” their choice after protests arose due to them choosing a black star to play Ariell. I wonder how many of the protestors are offended at Euro-Jesus, a full cast of white Persians, or Katherine Hepburn playing the role of the legendary African Queen Cleopatra.

I took to social media to call out both of these situations as racist. I felt like both were pretty blatant examples of modern racism, but I found that there were people who didn’t see it. That left me wondering how it’s possible that people can be blind to such blatant examples of racism, and I came up with a list of three possible reasons for the blindness.

Privilege

Privilege positions the person with it in a place that removes them from the plight of typical POC. As such, even successful people of color are also susceptible to being unable to recognize racism when it appears. Once people begin to benefit from the status quo, they are less likely to participate in dismantling the structures that support it, no matter how unjust they may be.

When people can’t imagine themselves being the target of racist behavior, words, or sentiment, they begin to side with the oppressors in the name of being “objective.” Trying to see racism from “both sides” is a fallacy. The victims of racism don’t have a role in perpetuating racism. If they have a “side,” it is passive at best.

Whiteness

In a previous blog, I wrote about the construct of whiteness. Ironically,  some people were so attached to the construct they’ve accepted as their central identity that they read the title and headed for the hills without even reading it.

The construct of whiteness was built to protect racism. When someone attached to whiteness sees something racist in front of them, they do what they are conditioned to do –  defend it. This reaction goes into effect unconsciously. For many sympathizers of racism, they aren’t even aware they are behaving as white supremacists.

Ignorance

Duh. I know. Hear me out. I’m not talking about a general ignorance but rather an ignorance as to what racism is. Some people genuinely believe racism is about hating people because of skin color. Due to that minimal view of racism, people blinded by ignorance assume that if there is no white hood, a burning cross, or cotton field, then there is no racism.

These folks believe in myths like “reverse racism” because they don’t understand that racism is about hatred and power. Without the energy or systemic cultural reinforcement of racial supremacy to support hatred, there can be no racism.

 

These are a few of the blinders. Can you think of any more? Which blinder do you see most in yourself and the people around you?

 

Two Practical Reasons Why Betsy’s Flag is Offensive

Two Practical Reasons Why Betsy’s Flag is Offensive 1200 600 Corey Leak

Before eight hours ago, “Who is Betsy Ross?” would have stumped me in a trivia game. I’m sure she is someone that came up at some point in my elementary education at Christian Life, but I can’t say I remember much about her.

The folks over at Nike are aware of who she was. They designed a special edition sneaker that featured the American flag she created on the heel of it.

Image result for betsy ross nike

Nike decided to cancel the release of the shoes after Colin Kaepernick informed them that the “Betsy Ross flag” was offensive to people of color. However, I’m sure there is a preacher or two who got their hands on a pair and will be featured on preachers n sneakers later this month.

This story seems pretty straight forward and non-offensive to me. A company plans to release a product. One of their spokespeople informs them that it has the potential to alienate a large number of its customer base, so the company chooses to change course. But, maybe it’s simple to me because I’m not white.

I don’t have a deep attachment to American history. The role my ancestors played in America’s history was as extras and props in a story about the excellence of white people.

That’s the excellence and pride that Nike was headed towards celebrating with the flag they originally chose for their shoe. Thankfully Kap stepped in and spoke up.

Today a couple of white friends asked me what I thought about the uproar. Neither of them understood why the flag was a problem. I explained to them why the flag that Nike initially chose was problematic (see the list below), and after I did, one of the friends asked me if I was personally offended by the flag.

I pondered the question for a bit. I hadn’t given the Betsy Ross flag much thought before today. As I thought about my friend’s question, Cracker Barrell immediately came to mind – I ate there this morning with my family.

I remembered what it felt like walking around the gift shop and seeing the antique decor and old-time American trinkets and images, and I text back: “Bro… Some days I find Cracker Barrell offensive.”.

Imagine you’re the offspring of a good man who is beheaded by an evil king. It’s been a few years since your father was beheaded, but you still live in the region. Every year there is a celebration of the king’s “victory” over your father.

The locals celebrate with images of the king, songs, re-enactments of your father’s demise and the banner of the king. How would you feel? I’m going to guess like a black man walking around Cracker Barrell or staring at an image of the Betsy Ross flag.

For those of you looking for practical reasons why POC would find this flag offensive, I’ll give you two.

1. The America of Betsy Ross was oppressive to black people. 

Image result for American slavery

America has had 26 official flags. The latest was officially recognized in July of 1960, and while blatant, state-sanctioned racism, riddled the US in the 60s, the country was progressing toward equality.

There has yet to be a time in American history unplagued by the disease of white supremacy, but at least our latest flag comes from an era where blacks are legally 100 percent human.

2. White Supremacist hate groups use the Betsy Ross flag as a symbol.

Image result for hate groups betsy ross flag

Perhaps Betsy is rolling over in her grave knowing that racist bigots have taken to her flag as a symbol of their supremacy and hatred for POC. That wouldn’t change the fact that it has come to represent hate by virtue of the fact that hate groups use it.

I highly doubt Betsy would be too upset to know that white people are using her flag to remind upity niggers that they aren’t white, but even if she would mind, that flag is problematic today. Some would argue it always has been.

 

How do we as Americans manage the tension between remembering our history and being sensitive to the groups that suffered to make the American dream come true?