Commenters, posters, and tweeters have come at our columnist with every unimaginable epithet for writing about race and racism. But nothing will stop her from speaking the truth.
Dear Racist Trolls:
Some of you are so audaciously and shamelessly predictable: Whenever I write about racism, you inevitably call me the racist. Some of you even have the gall to demand that I apologize to all White people, from the Caucus Mountains all the way to the lowlands of Appalachia, for what I write.
[Sucks teeth. The back ones.]
It never fails. Before you even finish reading the headline of my essays, you make it rain in my Twitter feed and email inbox with your Faux news–inspired accusations of reverse racism, manipulated statistics about “black-on-black crime,” and parroted criticisms that you cut and pasted from whitesplaining.com.
While claiming the moral high ground and that you are the sole occupant of fair and balancedtopia, you’ve called me nearly a dozen variations of a “nigger wench” and other vile names so often that I’ve lost count. In between your racial epithets and stereotypes, YOU accuse me of being a race-baiter and tell me that I’m responsible for “dividing the races.” You invoke a bunch of “hypotheticals,” noting that had some White person said what I wrote about Black people, that me, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the #BlackLivesMatter activists, and national media would have taken to the streets.
Some of you find a way to use the fact that I hold a Ph.D. against me, as if being educated is a slur. You call me a “typical liberal academic,” or you send me tweets that say, “you shouldn’t be a ‘doctor’,” [your quotes, not mine]. You treat my hard work and educational chops as nothing more than an affirmative-action handout or a piece of paper I purchased with discount coupons from Walmart.
As a girl child, my elders drilled education into my head. They told me that if I ever wanted to be anything in life I had to be “twice as good as the White man.” Who would have ever thought that almost 20 years of education could be worthy of such scorn? Black women are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we’re high-school dropouts with a litter of kids from different men, we ain’t shit. If we’re childless Harvard graduates or advanced degree holders, we ain’t shit.
But alas, because of purported hypocrisy, you and your troll brethren usually demand that I seek forgiveness from White America for having a thought. [Cue that scene from The Color Purple where Miss Sophia is hunched over and laughing into her Thanksgiving dinner plate.]
Apologize for what, troll?
You don’t really want Black women scribes like me to apologize for what we’ve written. No, you want us to apologize for what we are: intelligent, indignant, uppity, and fearless Blaaacks who will snatch a bigot’s ass over their face and then tell them to self-destruct and go to God when you disrespect us. I know that you are used to Black women being invisible, unheard, and without the power to command media. And so when we subject you to public criticism, your demand for an apology shows that you feel stigmatized, mocked, insulted, victimized. O woe is you. You are the new victim.
You want us to say “sorry” for not living up to your historical understanding of us as servants. For not providing you comfort, affirmation, titillation and pleasure. For not serving as the evidence of your alleged superiority. For refuting your sense of ownership over space, place, our bodies, our voices. By comforting and affirming ourselves and speaking our own truths, in your mind, we have transgressed boundaries. And that means we should be ashamed for disturbing that delicate balance, because as a friend of mine reminded me the other night, White fragility needs a soft place to land. Always.
White America is like the person who kicks you in the shin and then demands an apology for hurting your foot. And then some of you have the nerve to ask people of color to help you learn how to stop kicking us. Asking people of color to help you stop being racist is like a pedophile asking his victim to help him stop touching their private parts.
You want Black women writers to apologize for telling the truth; for pointing out that Black people continue to bury their dead, see their children sent to prison, miss out on jobs because of their names, and find their houses foreclosed because of persistent anti-black racism.
Let me get this clear since the educational system, your religious and political leaders, and the news media has clearly corrupted your source of logic: when we speak our truths, express our views, share the bloody truths of our lived realities, you want us to say apologize while you stay silent about historical legacies of slavery, the systemic sexual violence endured by Black women, Jim Crow, lynchings, police dogs and fire hoses, mass incarceration, segregation, school-to-prison pipeline, police brutality, job and housing discrimination, micro aggressions and daily confrontation with racial violence and terror, and you want me to say “we’re sorry?”
If anyone needs to apologize, it is you: for Fox News, for that anti-Muslim protest in Arizona and for casting white Emma Stone as a Chinese-Hawaiian-Swedish pilot in Aloha. For Elvis, Iggy Azalea, Ronald Reagan, Newt, and so much more. Clearly, you live in fantasyland and by that I mean the land of White supremacy.
Please find the nearest outhouse, pretend it is a confessional, and have a splintered seat while I take you on a tour of the actual world we live in, one where White people continually demand apologies for spotlighting and challenging racism.
We’ve seen it before: Virginia parents, furious that their White child had to take part in a Black History school event, lead an all-White FOX News panel to demand an apology.
Trayvon Martin’s murderer George Zimmerman demanded that African Americans apologize to him.
And there are countless others. We’re seeing this played out repeatedly in the public sphere, where Whites have demanded apologies from athletes and sports franchises for wearing T-shirts showing solidarity with families of victims of police violence.
See, you like to say you’re feeling victimized when we dare to speak up. Claiming victimhood reinforces the belief that the tides have turned, that we are living in the era of Black privilege. Demanding an apology makes you feel superior and vindicated.
As a Black woman navigating predominantly White spaces, whether it is in the academy or Whole Foods on a Sunday morning, or turning on my TV and seeing all-White everything, social media provides a space for me to connect with others and to speak my truth.
Social media has created new contexts for community, and it has helped embolden our voices. Social media allows Black women like me to share our truths, to bypass the filters and gatekeepers.
We can express ourselves in new ways, to talk back, to give the fiber optic middle finger and most importantly, to call out racism and put it on blast when we see it, hear it, intuit it … wherever and whenever we choose because there are no boundaries. We can put racism on blast in immensely visible ways. When this happens, White folks who encounter these truths get their drawers in a wad and lash out.
You think we’re attacking you, want us to stop criticizing you, want us to go back to masking our truths in your presence to maintain your comfortable illusions.
Well, sorry boo boo, the social contract done broke. We used to be polite. Social media creates a new kind of emancipation, and we can’t go back to pretending and coddling you like “Miss Millie.”
Before social media, you didn’t really have access to our unguarded thoughts and feelings about you. We tempered our language to keep from troubling the waters of the status quo, in the face of white supremacist terror. You’ve had no warning and no preparation for the sting of uppity, intelligent, indignant Black voices. This unexpected peek into the unvarnished truth of our feelings is startling and alarming. And so some of you interpret our tone as a step toward tyranny or race war.
But I will not stop spotlighting racism; I will not stop talking about your complicity in and connection to racism. As long as you never feel Ben Afflected, as long as we’re not pointing fingers and implicating you in the crime of White supremacy, you were okay with our suffering, just as long as we didn’t remind you of our pain and push back against what’s causing it.
Some of you have been dreaming and dreading this moment—when your power and privilege were suddenly challenged, resisted, called out for what it is. You’re terrified that we are going to demand payback—and not just the monetary kind; you think we want revenge. You think we’re going to Nat Turner or Django Unchained on that ass. You are scared that we will give you a rhetorical whooping, the kind you thought was so great when delivered by Toya Graham.
Rather than acknowledge that fear and anxiety, you go on the attack. Your racist and sexist name-calling, your brazen willingness to terrorize those that defy The Great White Rules, and the demands that we “sit down and shut up” only after apologizing are White supremacy at work. How about you apologize for not just the history of racism but your behavior here?
Rather than follow this same path, demanding an apology, how about you take a different approach with us.
Take a breath and turn toward whatever hurt feeling is there. Let yourself feel the heartache and burn. This might take a little time because you will need to come down from the anger first. Coming down from the precipice of WDD (“white delusion disorder”) induced anger might involve some deep slow breaths, a latte, putting Taylor Swift music on repeat, and turning off Fox News.
Rather than demand an apology, think about why you want it. What does that reveal about your own sense of entitlement and privilege that you expect an apology for me. This is not place to start a conversation.
Nor would my pretending to be sorry. Apologizing to you would be a validation of your lies: that racism is dead, White privilege is a myth, and that you think that Black women should be serving you pancakes, dancing like Michelle Obama (you like when she dances but not when she gives talks), or giving away cars like Oprah.
Be clear, troll, no apology is forthcoming. We are unbought and unbossed. #Bloop
Photo credit: Flickr user Judibird
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