In the past couple of days I’ve had some serious shade thrown my way. I have been accused of race baiting, having an agenda, causing division, and dwelling on the past. These accusations didn’t come from the same person or in the course of an argument. They were in response to how I choose to use my voice on social media.
Most of the above was in response to me posing a question I was personally wrestling with. (The top two were sent to me direct message, and I chose to respect the fact that they wanted to speak to me in private.) I posted: “I wonder what our news feeds and weekend religious gatherings would look like if the majority of the victims of racial injustice were white”
I’ve chosen to be vocal about issues that affect society with this blog and other social media platforms, and on FB I usually pose a question for people to wrestle with and dialog over. People have varying degrees of maturity, and that shows through some of the comments. However, most times there is very healthy conversation happening about extremely sensitive topics of race, religion, and political issues. I’m convinced that open dialog about polarizing issues is necessary if there is every going to be genuine unity. It seems like when the subject of that dialog is race, a dangerous and subtle idea tends to rear it’s head.
The idea is this – that bringing up issues of racial injustice is holding a “victim’s mentality” versus the “victor’s mentality” which is held by those who choose not to acknowledge that there is any racial inequality or racial injustice in America. I’ve literally been told that if we stop talking about racism it will go away. (Again, I’ll point out that none of the people who have thrown shade recently or made statements like this to me are POC.) Juxtaposing the victim’s mentality against the victor’s mentality as an argument against speaking out about racism is a cryptic way of telling POC to get our Jim Crow on.
Somehow speaking up about false arrests, police brutality, disproportionate incarceration rates, or any other violation of the civil rights of black people is “playing the victim”. This binary approach isn’t helpful for moving forward in how we as Americans learn to live together in true harmony. It’s possible to lament systemic oppression AND take personal responsibility for living a successful life. People who call out injustice or racism aren’t looking for a hand out or living in the past. Both are fallacy.
First, looking for a hand out implies that POC are seeking something undeserved. I think a revolutionary from days past speaks to this better than I can.
Secondly, when I or someone else speaks about a current event that involves racial injustice, how is that “living in the past”?
Racism IS ancient. It is also a present day reality, and if talking about racism is living in the past, then so is celebrating the greatness of America for it’s past victories over tyranny. It’s unfair to celebrate America’s victories while attempting to mute the voices of those lamenting her sins. Both are part of our history and our present, and both inform who we are and how we behave toward each other today. I’ve heard it said that people who forget their past failures are doomed to repeat them. If we refuse to take glances into the past and see the patterns that developed, we will never break the cycle of division that has plagued us for far too long. When something happens today that is eerily similar to something we’ve seen in our history it’s irresponsible to ignore it. Acknowledging the similarities between past and present events is a necessary tool for us as a people to move forward. If the past is painful to the descendants of the oppressors, how much more painful is it for the descendants of the oppressed? We all have to be willing to endure the pain of looking at our history if we desire to write a better story for future Americans to read about.
Only truly evil people want hatred, fear, and war. We should be careful not to label anyone whose words or actions make us uncomfortable as promoting those three. Sometimes we all need to be spurred to wrestle with our beliefs. We need to examine where they come from and why we hold to them still periodically. That’s what growth looks like.
I’ll leave you with this week’s question, but you’ll likely need to wrestle with this one with the help of a friend.
Are there any beliefs you have about race or racism that need to be challenged?