“That ain’t The Dream.”

I don’t put much stock into the idea of “reverse racism”…at least not the brand that most young white Americans champion these days, and it’s mostly because I just find it very, VERY difficult to see how they can compare the hundreds of  years of physical and psychological abuse leveled against people of color, not only in this country, but across the globe…to the hurt feelings (often lovingly referred to as ‘white tears’) that rise after a person of color or someone else offers them a reality check (see Jane Elliot’s GREAT work here and here.) It’s annoying. It seems like anytime someone gut check’s a racist statement uttered by a white person (even if it is accidental as it often times is) the gut checker is accused of being a reverse racist. It’s a ludicrous notion which I believe is brought about by inadequate education on the term “racism” and all that it encompasses and implies. After one carefully examines the history of racism abroad and in America I believe it’s fairly easy to come to the conclusion that it’s impossible for black people to be racist.

Or at least that’s what I was led to believe up until recent months.

While I’ve always been interested in race relations, as I mentioned in my last post, it wasn’t until recently that I felt the need to publicly add my voice to the larger conversation in an attempt to help progress. Seeing detriment in only clinging to my personal beliefs and ideas, as a part of my efforts I sought, and am very much so presently seeking, communities within the burgoening social mediasphere where I may learn and help others to learn about the debilitating disease that is racism in modern society. I’ve been on Tumblr for quite some time and I quickly fell in love with this method of blogging, but my blog at the time was primarily just a blog of personal tastes. During the time that I began to expand my activism I was able to locate blogs that catered to social justice/awareness and raised critical points and valuable commentary. The ones that I began to follow delivered their truth in a quirky/jazzed manner that was also informative and I found that to be refreshing.

But then my experience went a little sour. I noticed that one (or two?) blog(s) in particular began to post, reblog and respond to submissions/asks in a way that increasingly became counterproductive to social progress, particularly when it came to interacting with some of their white followers. In comparison, while one blog was able to gut check and enlighten simultaneously, this particular blog appeared to ultimately alienate white bloggers from the race conversation, regardless of if they were way off base in their commentary or not. What makes this even more frustrating is there seemed to be a concentrated effort to target these white followers as with Tumblr one has pretty much complete control to moderate whose comments can be displayed on your blog and engaged by your followers through your blog. The blogger’s followers often use the anonymous feature to detach their blog/identity from their comments, which I do admit sometimes are presented sideways; but it doesn’t matter in the case of this blog because if you challenged this particular blogger, or you said something that they deemed “ignorant” or “stupid”, you were either ignored or came under their harsh, sardonic fire. I for one sent in a message (sans anonymity) expressing my concern regarding their treatment of their white followers and whether their approach was ideal in furthering social harmony. My comment was never acknowledged. The blogger chose not to engage me either in public or private. It kind of smells of cowardice to me, but in any case, I decided that I would continue to follow this blog and only unfollow once they really crossed the line because, like I said, some of their material was good…

And then it happened.

dreadlock capture dreadlock capture1

I’d had it. Enough is enough. In case you don’t really follow Tumblr blogging patterns the material closest to the right of the screen is that which was posted by the original poster. In this case, the original blogger decried the treatment of white people who wore dreads. No big deal, right? It’s a free country. This kind of freedom is where America shines.

But then you have bloggers (I’m assuming all black?) who responded in a fashion that I found to be exceedingly rude. The backlash began with a blog that specialized in (apparently black) dreadlocks and the rude, dismissive comments trickled down until it found its way on my dash by way of the aforementioned militant blog. Feeling really annoyed, I decided to respond with my own message attached to the blog.

dreadlock capture3

And I meant every last bit of what I said. So there. I was hoping to get some kind of reaction or feedback from the offenders, but they remained quiet. I don’t know if they just disregarded me or if they recognized the reason in my comment and decided to chill, but either way the response to my post was relatively quiet until I received this email.

Untitled

At first I was pretty taken aback to be approached in this manner. Then I got really excited because someone was engaging me. But then I got bummed because the sheer…lack…in this…comment weighed me down with such a “so much work to be done” feeling.

In any case duty called and I had to answer. I launched into a lengthy explanation, complete with citations of internet sources, as to why the posting trend was, in fact, bullying; how white people wearing dreads isn’t a case of negative cultural appropriation; how dreadlocks have been popular among various ethnic groups for hundreds of years and so on and so forth (see the full response here). While cultural appropriation in its negative incarnation runs rampant in America at the (subconscious?) will of white Americans (see the likes of Miley Cyrus) I could not see how white people, or people of other races other than blacks, donning dreadlocks constituted as a legitimate offense. I’m just a fan of dreadlocks all together, and even though my opinion tends to lean toward the fact that black people “wear them better”, it doesn’t make me feel that black people are entitled some kind of copyright to the hairstyle.

But alas, the more energy I put into trying to demonstrate the true, main offense here (bullying), the more I began to consider how this may be only part of a larger problem. This hostility toward white people who don’t just sit back and take the berating of militant brown activists may very well be a manifestation of racism toward white people, or “reverse racism” after all. To better understand my thinking let’s look at some definitions.

Merriam-Webster (my main go to for definitions) defines “racism” in short, as follows:

  1. “poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race” or
  2. “the belief that some races of people are better than others”

The long definitions are

  1. “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” and
  2. “racial prejudice or discrimination”

Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races”, and further “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”.

Now let’s put these into context. Given these definitions, at first glance, when a white person cries “reverse racism”, it doesn’t necessarily seem palpable that the definitions can be applied to a case of white people being the victims of racism in the same way that it applies to black people being the victims of racism. The main reason for this, most believe, is because white people make up the majority of the population in America, they almost always have and, in addition to that, they overwhelmingly and historically hold a vast majority of power in almost every regard in the country (the president is exempt as his powers are granted to him by the citizens of the country who, again, are overwhelmingly white…so the will of the white people, so to speak). HOWEVER, once the definition is dissected down specifically to the parts mentioning “prejudice”, “discrimination” and “antagonism” or “poor treatment” towards a certain people, it beings to make sense to me. The drastically uneven ratio of white to black versus black to white ill will due to racism doesn’t absolve the black to white portion of the equation. Empassioned with their angst, (young?) black people can, have and do, without a doubt, make white people a target of their aggression, whether it’s “justifiably” fueled by white on black racism, or just for kicks. To try and completely disgregard the notion is just silly. I’m well aware of the fact that historically white people have been THE champions of racism and its infiltration of social systems and institutions, but racism is a human construct. It is not an innate part of our nature. Racism is learned by humans. As a black person, if I deny even the smallest idea of “reverse racism” am I denying, too, that I’m somehow more human or less human than white people? Am I implying that since I am a part from the “white race” that I am incapable of learning racism? Isn’t that…racism?

I get it. In lots of ways black people (and other people of color) are just as downtrodden now as we were 60 and 70 years ago. Things are better, but they’re not at all great. The little successes that we have, we’ve had to fight and scrap tooth and nail for it and that makes us a proud people–but it shouldn’t take us to a height where we see ourselves as being above “reverse racism”, a term that is believed to have been coined in 1966 by Hosea Williams, the Southern program director for MLK’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in the April 25 publication of The Chicago Dailey Defender. I won’t accept it. That simply isn’t The Dream Dr. King laid out for us during his short time here on the Earth. Frustration runs high and well in our black American lives, and understandably so, but the answer is not found in leveling harsh comments and attitudes towards our white brothers (for their obstinance or ignorance) while hiding behind a shield of self-righteous entitlement. That will take us, if anywhere, backwards…certainly not forward.

Don’t get it twisted. I’m not arguing on behalf of white people to claim “reverse racism” any time they get their feelings hurt or they’re being rightfully chastised for deliberately or offhandedly being racist, nor am I advocating the allowance of rampant appropriation of black culture in America for the pocket padding of some otherwise irrelevant public figure. What I am standing up against is abuse at the hands of young black Americans of the legacy of sound activism forged by Dr. King and so many of his contemporaries in the name of modern social justice. Slamming white people isn’t where it’s at.

I believe there’s a better way and we had better find it and exploit it before destroy each other.

p.s. In case you didn’t notice, my Tumblr presence is zeloveinitiative.tumblr.com and you’re welcome to follow me there if you’d like. It’s a place that reflects my random, less serious, quirky side where I sometimes engage in some of the same material here (as you can see). See you there?!

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11 thoughts on ““That ain’t The Dream.”

  1. What I think is interesting is what you didn’t address. I’ve seen it over and over, and granted, it’s the internet, there’s no real way to tell who’s *is* lying sometimes, but “I assume you’re just a white person…” isn’t it also pretty much racist to have your ‘self’ erased by being denied your ethnicity simply because you disagree with a majority opinion on a topic? It seems that’s a very wide-spread trend as well.

    • Ahhh, indeed! To be honest, after I laughed and shook my head at that tidly bit I just went ahead to address the meat of the issue before I lost my train of thought, but you’re right! It’s already bad enough to hate on someone who deviates from traditional social standards just because it’s their lifestyle (i.e. crossdressers? interracial relationships? recycling? lol!), but to enter into a conversation where racism is the foundation, and go so far as to attack, as you said, a stranger’s (ethnic) ‘self’, which you really have no real way of knowing, simply because it doesn’t align with what you think is “black thought” is just as ridiculous as allocating the dreadlock hairstyle only for black people. Wow, thank you so much for pulling that point out…and thank you for reading! I really appreciate your feedback!

  2. This is obviously a very well though out post. I don’t think I could properly break it down and comment correctly over the entirety of the blog. But, I think your points are pretty much spelled out.

    I live in the south which unfortunately is still includes a vast amount of racism toward anything that isn’t “white.” Now as a lot of Hispanics are moving up from Mexico, people are showing their dislikes for a multitude of reasons for Hispanics. I think even though things have changed since King made all of his speeches racism has also changed. It has evolved into a much darker aspect than it was in previous years.

    My biggest questions is why? Why in 2013 is THIS still an issue? I thought we would be long past this. A skin color is a skin color, it isn’t how you define yourself and it shouldn’t be how anyone else defines you either. But, it still is this huge issue. I guess because I have always chosen to see things WAY outside of the box and to come to my own conclusions instead of going with the masses I can’t actually fathom that racism in any form is still a huge problem. It just shouldn’t be. I am not sure what still makes up this divide. Other than hundreds of years of this bad behavior being constantly influenced to the next generations instead of stopped.

    I don’t think there will be any modern social justice until people stop dividing each other. Stop breaking every single person into a group. People are people and we are all apart of the human race so what makes you so different than me? Unfortunately the mass of society doesn’t think this way and people are usually scared of what they don’t know so racism continues to be prevalent in our society.
    Anyway I think this post is pretty great!

    • Hey there! Thank you very much for taking the time to read and comment! I very much appreciate it!

      I totally agree! I’m only 23 years old, but I think I had it figured out even way before now that mistreatment of folks due to them being different (i.e. religion, sexuality, race…I’m trying to be as inclusive as I can, haha) is archaic. I’m not exactly sure why racism is still so prevalent here at the edge of 2013/2014. I believe there are several reasons, one being man’s heart, but the spiritual/humanistic malnutrition that leads to moral/social constipation is a totally different post. Probably the biggest and most obvious reason, I think, is the perceived benefits in maintaining a division between ourselves. It’s easy to place blame on a group of people if you’re set apart from them. It’s easy to (falsely) make yourself feel better about yourself if you pick a part the (perceived) faults or vilify other groups that you do not belong to. This false sense of superiority will drive a man mad until he’s dealing in all manners of hatred as history has shown us.

      But it’ll get better by and by! We just have to lead by example, keep fighting the good fight and spread the good vibrations!

      Also, thank you for the insight on the cultural/racial climate where you live! Help keep me informed!

      • Ooooooooow , THIS IS SO GOOD. Just when I am thinking ,’ there is no need to even try to figure RACISM out, to just ride with the flow ‘, I am met with some young progressive hearts reflecting the new hearts that are void of hatred, inferiority, a lack of a sense of who self is just ready to let God ( the real God , our creator ) into our hearts and minds , and let His works in/through us be manifested, thereby, slowly alleviating all of the negative stuff that defined us as people when outside the various colors of our skins, We were all made the same with free will to accept God’s directions not our own. Who is God ? Me/You when we act like His image , not in dress . In behavior. In how we treat one another, as we inside treat ourselves the same way , remember , ” I want for my brother what I want for myself and God is OUR FATHER “. Personally, I see the issues of RACISM as a deep rooted psychological problem coming from both sides INBRED feeling superior as well as the INBRED feelings of inferiority. I appreciate the phrases introduced by both singlemomtakingover the world and Jerald;sirgreendownlive; ‘ scared of what they don’t know’ and ‘spiritual/humanistic malnutrition ‘ and ‘moral/social constipation ‘. All psychosises never ever acknowledged as such or even delved into as obvious problems. Problems that only individual selves can correct/eliminate. Please keep the dialogues coming. We may all come through this mess at some point. As a young lady in the sixties, I decided not to be a mama until I got all my ill stuff straight. I am still childless ( thanks be to God )

  3. *cues smooth jazz tune or some upbeat Kanye tempo to go along with coffee* First, let me say your thoughts are definitely in order and as this is your blog, why not?! I can appreciate the tone and conversation for this issue.

    While I can understand this side (your side), I can’t say I’m totally convinced that it’s as simple as this narrative would suggest. IMO, a lot of what African Americans struggle with is the plague and side effects of slavery, Jim Crow, racism, and discrimination (if one can easily separate the aforementioned issues). Reverse racism, a lot of times, isn’t what it may specifically imply, well, not intentionally anyway. You make several good points, but I don’t know if the intention is to demean an entire race of people rather than to level the playing field of another. Not excusing said behavior but I think the rhetoric here lacks addressing that it is improper to suggest that white people will ever deal with the history that has plagued so many black in this country. Historically, AfroAmericans have been left out of the equation and definition of wealth, family, progress/forward movement, et cetera. If one makes a statement regarding an idea that one has feels belongs to a specific or their specific race, I’m not so sure it’s an uplifting stance for their own. You touched briefly on who may wear it better, but it’s not so cut and dry.

    Example– white men can’t jump, doesn’t imply that only black men can. It, like the comment regarding dreads/locs, seems a bit less about the item and more about the race who is trying to lay claim to said action, item. Can I make a statement about what black people can do without making it seem or appear as if whites do it worse? Can I be pro-black without meaning I’m anti-white? I don’t think this is me trying to have my cake and eat it too but rather me saying I enjoy the cupcake more than the cookie. Preference doesn’t always imply prejudice but while there may be a fine line, racism isn’t so clear in statements about dreads, jumping, dancing, clapping on beat… I think you see where this is going.

    I think a lot of these statements are made by people who feel like certain things were denied and just want to take back a small piece of the pie and lay claim of it as their (our) own?

    Berating a race isn’t cool– I think we learned that from Apartheid. Note, I’m not supporting the comments but I feel in some ways some may feel justified as their intentions don’t support a stigma or cast down a race. Sure, white people can wear dreads. Why not? I’m not washing them.

    Yes, racism is racism. However, it’s a lot harder to convey that to someone who belongs to a race who has been such a harsh victim of if. Not sure if the person who made the dread comment was simultaneously thinking abt the Civil Rights Act (not that it negated racism in this country by any fashion) but I don’t feel it’s intended to be so hurtful as the acts of racism, bigotry, and discrimination have been towards those with my skin complexion. Just my thoughts but back to my music. 😉

    • Haha, you got me! You’re right, it’s probably not as clear cut as I may have made it seem. I agree with a lot of what you said here, especially what you said earlier on about the disparities between the experiences of blacks and whites. Perhaps I didn’t communicate it enough, but I realize that blacks ain’t had no crystal stair. Whites have always been on top and it certainly feels like they will seemingly never understand what it’s like to go through life otherwise, but what I’m trying to get at with this piece is that we can’t allow bitterness that’s been dutifully nurtured (by blacks and whites) for hundreds of years lead to lashing out any time we think it’s necessary. It’s not okay. True, white people have little to no claim to a history of being oppressed, and they typically don’t (try) to understand what that experience is like, but change will only come, though, once we can have peaceful conversations to build an understanding and trust, not while holding on to animosity. It’s hard, I know, but I think it’s what has to be done.

      I still don’t know if “reverse racism” is truly a real thing, but I know black people with funky attitudes towards white people doing white people things isn’t going to improve the perception of reverse racism being real, haha.

      Thank you so much for reading and I hope to get more feedback from you! I really enjoyed it!

      • I would like to point out that history is older than 500 years. If by “white people” you mean English-descended Americans, then you’re absolutely right. But if by white people you mean in the history of the world every European/white people group, then you are ignoring very vast swathes of history where white people were not dominant, or where specific ethnic groups that are today considered “white” were greatly oppressed.

        Just like every other ethnicity, “white” is not a homogenous group with a single history or one common experience.

      • Well of course history is older than 500 years, but as I tried to intimate in the initial post, I’m concerned more with tending to modern society/historical issues. So you’re (kind of) right. By “white people” I mean Americans of European descent, not just English descent, which in and of itself is a mixture of Germanic, Norman, Greco-Roman cultural/ethnic ingredients. Believe me, I’m not forgetting the vast diversity of the world’s genetic pool, which, by this point is probably sooo muddled it could be difficult to find anyone who is “pure anything” by walking down any given street of an international city.

        And I’m also not forgetting man’s capacity to be cruel to his fellow man, regardless of any commonalities they may or may not share, ethnic or otherwise. What I do feel pretty comfortable in saying, following in the vein of Jarod Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, is beyond the 500 year span that you mention, and outside of the Americas, while no one ethnic group was above oppressing other ethnic groups, the white groups (I’m thinking the Goths and Franks and what have you) seem to have mastered it better and faster than any other, hence you having the King’s English (a Germanic language at its core), not the original Britannic Gaelic or Celtic, eventually being spoken 10,000+ miles away in Sydney; Spanish being used to sooth llamas in the far reaches of the Andes Mountains along side Portuguese in Brazil; mon préféré, Français being spoken in the Asian fringes of Laos and Vietnam and so on and so forth. I could consider the might of those of Middle Eastern descent, but then I remember of how brief a period their reign was in juxtaposition to the span of human history’s timeline…and let us not forget the Crusades leveled against them in the Middle Ages.

        Like I said, you’re kind of right? White people, in the grand scheme of time, have certainly been oppressed, but not as long or to such an extent as to exempt them from being accountable for their present dominant position and recent past offenses. There are white people (non-brown people) in Modern and Contemporary history who have faced or are currently facing some form of oppression (I see you Jews, I see you Slavic people), but their troubles more than likely do not come from the hands of brown people sooo…

        Again! I appreciate your dialogue! Continue to engage me!

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