When I post on this blog, it’s a great day when a post reaches, say, 4000 hits. A GREAT day.
“Race Ya” just hit damn near close to 400,000.
I’ve received a lot of comments and a lot of questions and a lot of criticism and a lot of accolades and the entire thing feels very ….
For someone who is theoretically quite good with words, I’m having a hard time formulating them right now.
Partly because, well, there are a few places where I got it wrong. And I think it would be good to set the record straight. If you haven’t read the “Race Ya” post, please feel free to skip this one. It won’t make a ton of sense. Better yet, read the last post, then come on back. I’ll be here.
1) For the record, it felt TERRIBLE to go through the process of trying to categorize and label my facebook friends. In the first draft, there were several paragraphs where I discussed how it felt to undertake that experiment, but I deleted them — because I’m trying to be a better editor, and because the piece is really long, and I needed to keep that shit moving. But yeah, let’s talk about it here: boy, it was squicky and weird and awful. There’s this blogger named Melinda Gonzalez who did the “91% Experiment” and wrote about it here, and I agree with so much of her assessment: Facebook is weird and not an accurate reflection of anything, and it felt super racist to make tally marks next to your friends’ names while also trying to remember if that friend from your sophomore biology studio identified as Latina or black or what.
2) I’m an idiot.
3) Remember when I listed Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Lena Dunham as three funny writers I admired? A lot of you guys called me out on neglecting to include Mindy Kaling, the natural companion to those three women. And also, the only non-white one. Whoops. So I wanna go on record to say that a) Mindy Kaling is the BEST. Despite never having seen an episode of ‘The Office’ until like, last year (……I know. In like, fifteen years, I’ll be that person saying Holy hell did you guys know there’s this show called “The Wire???”) I devoured her memoir. I have quoted her on multiple occasions to multiple boyfriends (usually the section about her sexual awakening re: Pierce Brosnan’s chest hair in Mrs. Doubtfire, and usually as a tactic to get aforementioned boyfriends to stop shaving their damn chest hair already).
But I didn’t mention her. Which could be that I’ve read her book least recently of all four of those memoirs. Or it could be systemic, internalized racism. I honestly have no idea.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is, buy this book.
Also, this picture.
Okay. Got the easy stuff out of the way. Phew!
Let’s move on to some of the harder stuff to talk about.
Here’s the thing. I wrote a piece about being aware that I have white privilege. And a lot of goobers* attacked me for even saying that much. Which, okay. You’re so, so very wrong. You actually sound pretty sad and lonely, most of you. But … deep, deep sigh. Okay. I hope you can read, consider, and change. I’m really glad that for some of you, I was able to help you to do that.
The rest of you seem angry because you just like being angry, and I don’t have time to take that personally anymore. Let me know when you’re ready to have a real conversation, not just use my blog as a place to scream hatefully into the void. Because — yikes. Seriously? Go for a walk or something. Hug a puppy. Life is short.
Moving on! So I figured out that I have some white privilege issues to grapple with! Step one is identifying the problem. Steps two through INFINITY are trying to figure out how to fix it. And I’m really aware that I’m not an expert. I’m struggling. I’m just as lost as many of you are. I have some ideas about how to maybe be better at being an ally, but I can be pretty clueless as to what the practical steps towards implementation actually are.
And I’m incredibly aware that everything that I’m saying … is NOTHING that a person of color hasn’t said already. And probably better. With fewer gifs, at least. And I don’t want to shout louder than voices of color, than anyone who, you know, actually knows what the fuck they’re talking about. I want to use my platform to gently but firmly say, Hey, fellow white people! I see you there! I know this stuff feels scary to talk about! I know you’ve probably never thought much about this stuff before! And I bet know you want to know more about all of this, but aren’t sure where to begin! I’m figuring it out, too! Let’s try to figure it out together.
Here’s something that surprised me. It turns out that a lot of well-meaning white people have the wrong definition of racism. As in, “I’m not a racist! I have never ONCE worn a hood, burned a cross, or thought slavery was a neat idea!”
Well, cool. Me neither. But I’m not talking about overt displays of racism; I’m talking about feeling uneasy when the black dude sits too close on the subway. So let’s clear that one up: Racism is not limited to the KKK. Racism is not “just a thing that the Nazis do.” It would be SO EASY to spot racists if they all just wore t-shirts or nametags or something. But here’s what we’re actually dealing with:
RACISM: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
That includes things that you might not even be aware that you are doing, guys.
Black people don’t need convincing that systemic racism is a thing because black people have to navigate this shit every day of their lives. A lot of white people, as it turns out, need a lot of persuading that racism is totally real. So if you are a white person who does a lot of screamy-shouting into the internet that WE ARE A POST-RACIAL SOCIETY BECAUSE OBAMA/OPRAH/BEYONCE/ERIC HOLDER/EBOLA/WHATEVER — I hereby issue you a personal challenge. Go find a black person. Better yet, find a small-ish group of black people. Try politely saying, “Excuse me, but I was just wondering. Do you believe that we live in a post-racial society?” Now shut the fuck up and listen. Do not say one single word. Just listen, for as long as it takes. And if the idea of doing that makes you uncomfortable … if you think that you would, perhaps, be skittish of expressing your opinions about black people in front of actual black people … then maybe you should think twice before voicing said opinions on the internet.
Because in the weeks since I published “Race Ya,” a grand jury declined to indict the officer who placed Eric Garner in a chokehold, killing him as he said, eleven times, “I can’t breathe.” A twenty-eight year old man named Akai Gurley was shot in the hallway of his girlfriend’s Brooklyn apartment… for walking down the stairs at the wrong time. Tamir Rice, age twelve, was shot by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for the real thing.
Still don’t think this is about race? Sorry. You’re wrong. This IS about race. At a certain point, the data just adds up until it becomes intolerable, before not saying something feels complicit. It is about race. It is about race. It just IS about race. And I know that I’m saying that in a post that includes a “More You Know” joke and a link to Pierce Brosnan’s chest hair. And please know that I’m doing that shit on purpose. I’m doing that because I wish I could scream, in fury and in outrage, that this IS about race. I’m doing that because I wish I could personally shake the shoulders of anyone who willfully fails to understand the complexities of the situation (YES, cops have hard jobs / YES, systemic racism is real / YES, the whole thing is fucking depressing and traumatic / YES YES YES THIS IS SO BIG AND SO VERY BAD ) and I wish I could just yell and scream and cry.
But I can’t. Because when I yell and point fingers, knees jerk up. The outrage cycle continues. Nothing happens.
So I do it with a joke. And a link to Jon Stewart. Who knows what’s up.
Here’s the second thing. A lot of you wrote to say that you would love to make friends with more diverse groups of people, but you live in predominantly white areas, and you have no idea how to go about making diverse friends in a way that isn’t tokenizing.
Yeah! I know! Shit! That one is hard! I am struggling with that one, too!
Here’s where I think we can start. You know what’s great about the internet? A LOT OF STUFF. Like, for instance, the ability to be exposed to other voices via social media. ( …. new slogan idea: ~The Internet: Sometimes, More Than Just Cats!!!~)
Read some books by black people. Follow some black voices on Twitter. Subscribe to some sweet YouTubers who make fun, informative videos about race and racism. That’s a great place to begin.
So let me end this with a reading list. Here are some terrific voices of color that you might enjoy. Because the truth is, a twenty-nine year old white girl from Philadelphia probably shouldn’t be your only exposure to a conversation about race. No, scratch that. DEFINITELY shouldn’t be your only exposure to a conversation about race. As the funny and amazing Franchesca Ramsey puts it, “White allies shouldn’t be the lead singer… or the second lead singer. They’d be Michelle.”
Thanks for listening to me. Now it’s time to listen to them. And so many more that I haven’t posted here. If you would like to add to this list, please do so in the comments.
Dear White People, by Justin Simien (I mean, I would recommend the movie rather than the book, but while I can buy the book right now at Target, the movie didn’t actually make it to Philadelphia theatres. So I haven’t actually seen it. Which sucks, because every review I’ve ever read says it’s an incredibly brave, funny, and impressive debut film. So why isn’t it playing right now in my racially diverse city? YOU TELL ME.)
* I used the word “goobers” because I’m pretty sure most of the people that I’m talking about didn’t actually read the post I wrote, and therefore won’t make it this far down into the page on this one. So. Confidential to everyone who made it this far into the post: ASSHOLES. The word I wanted to use was ASSHOLES.