Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Post-Racial America...HA!

If there's one thing that the past few weeks have proven, it is that a "post-racial America" is a total joke. It's a confirmation of all the things that those of us who study kyriarchy (or people of color) have known for a long, long time. America is still deeply racist.

I'd like to highlight a few things going on right now to illustrate my point.

First, we have the planned new TV show, called Devious Maids which will center on four Latina maids. While I want to get excited about a show which focuses on the experience of a marginalized group, I'm just so tired of depictions of women of color fitting into stereotypes. Like, seriously. When can a TV show be about four Latinas who have various careers? Why are women of color constantly relegated to this status as prostitutes or maids? I mean--there's no shame in either of those lines of work, but there is shame in a media which suggests that those are the only roles for women of color.

Next, we have the horrific backlash against the race depicted in The Hunger Games. Apparently, some of the book's readers decided to air their deep racial bias on Twitter. The worst of the worst have been circulating the blogospehere. Here's a few:
"Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little blonde innocent girl you picture"
"why does rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie"
"why did the producer make all the good characters black smh"
"Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad #ihatemyself"
I--I just...there are no words, ya know?

White privilege is so strong that I'm not surprised that many people who read the book glossed over the part where Rue was described as having "dark brown skin and eyes." But to take that a step further and actually suggest that casting Amandla Stenberg, who is African American, as Rue 1) ruined the movie 2) makes her not innocent 3) made her death less sad epically fucked up.

It just substantiates my claim that Twitter reflects the themes of our society, and often those themes are deeply troubling. Like the theme for young, unarmed black people to be killed in street.

I've already written about Trayvon Martin and the smear campaign against him which is currently raging. Super racist imagery and stereotypes are being used in an attempt to devalue his life and excuse his murder. Take this cartoon from the Daily Texan, as one example, that didn't even bother to spell his first name right. There is also a picture being circulated that posits that "media bias" has been portraying Martin overly positive and depicts Martin shirtless, flipping the camera off, and with sagging pants...except one huge problem: IT'S NOT ACTUALLY TRAYVON MARTIN IN THE PICTURE. (All black people look alike, duh.) Even though it has been redacted, people on Facebook (my feed, at least) are still passing it around and sharing it as if it is true. And when I supplied a fact check to set the record straight, someone told me, "It was just a drug deal gone wrong. Get over it."

I said this on Monday, but I'll say it again...even if Trayvon was all of the things people suggest (a gang banger, drug dealer, Black Panther member) that is still no reason for him to be gunned down in the street simply for passing by. And remember: Zimmerman knew nothing about Travyon Martin other than what he SAW in that moment.

But Martin's death isn't the only one of its kind. Our history as a nation has had thousands of other black and brown people killed for no reason other than being the wrong color at the wrong time. Take Rekia Boyd who was shot and killed by an off duty police officer who "saw" a gun. According to the Black Youth Project:
Around 1 am last Wednesday [3/21/12] an off-duty officer approached a group of people in his car and asked that they quiet down. One of the individuals, 39 year-old Anthony Cross, approached the officer. Thinking he was holding a gun, the officer open-fired, striking Cross in the hand and (inadvertently) Rekia Boyd in the head. Rekia died later that afternoon.
Initially, Chicago police called the incident “justifiable;” however no weapon was ever recovered from the scene. Cross says he was holding a cell phone, not a handgun.
People will make the case that I wasn't there and I don't know what really went down in either of these situations. They are right, but the simple truth is that we have two young black kids killed recently and we're just not hearing about the same things happening to white kids.

When you look at the full gamut of things going on right now, from the seemingly trivial (TV shows and Tweets) to the very serious (deaths) it's hard to deny that racism is alive and well. The only people who seem to be unable to concede that point are individuals who experience racial privileged on a daily basis and who have either never thought about or don't care to unpack their knapsack.

In fact, I would suggest that we operate in a society which views calling someone racist as more problematic than the actual racism present. So many people want to promote the post-racial myth in order to silence the concerns of marginalized people.

I suggest that those of us who experience racial privilege on a daily basis actually listen to them as the experts on their own experience and truly think about what they are saying. I simply cannot see how we're going to make any headway in this area if our default position when we hear a person of color talk about race is to say, "Yes, but..."

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