I write with apologies to Michael Brown’s family, and my heartfelt condolences, because it is his death and your loss that everything that has happened in Ferguson, Missouri stems from.
I have been reluctant to tackle this topic. I have less than 20 posts under my blogging belt, a tiny readership, and besides, what does a middle class suburban white woman know about racism anyway. I know there is enough ugliness spread around that it is not hard to step into the muck, and I was not sure I am ready for that.
Each day I go to social media I have been surprised at the silence on what has happened to your son and the demonstrations in Ferguson. It is as if we are all holding our breath, until today. Today, the more liberal among my friends posted a couple of posts to show that racism does still exit in America. I was pretty sure already, but the post confirmed my suspicions.
Of interest is the lack of racist support I saw on social media. There were no comments in support of the policeman who shot Michael Brown, although I do know it exists. There were no comments supporting police action during the rioting. There were just no comments. This may be because I have been actively “un-friended” by people as I have expressed my liberal inclusive attitudes in the past. I have been “un-friended” by racist friends more than once in real life, face to face, situations also for finding value in cultural diversity.
The racist always takes me by surprise. While we are engaging in the activities of American life we don’t always know what the person standing or sitting next to us is thinking about the person on the other side of us. Usually the slights and snubs are nothing direct, nothing you can point at and say, “That was deliberate.” The subtleness and pervasiveness of rudeness, carelessness, neglect and distain is almost, but not quiet invisible. It is subtle to the point of making you question if you observed what you really saw. You question yourself, and in that questioning, the moment to say something, to take some action is lost.
Or perhaps you might chose not to take action, because you don’t want to make a big fuss, and don’t want to be the one constantly fighting with people. Maybe you feel if you are a white person it is not your fight. Maybe you just don’t know how to fight racism as a white person, so I offer the following:
- you hear a nasty, racist comment from someone and laughed as if it were a funny joke? It takes you be surprise. You need to be prepared. How about saying something like this, “Excuse me. Did I understand you? Were you trying to be funny, because I didn’t think that was very funny. If you were not trying to be funny, maybe you can explain what you meant.”
- you hear a nasty, racist comment in the banter of a newscast, radio or television show and let it go with a wince? What if you wrote the station manager a letter complaining the next time you heard that happen, asking for an on air apology and strong disciplinary action, like a two week suspension.
- you hear someone at work say some nasty, racist comment and you just pretended you don’t hear. What if you instead called attention to the fact that the comment was nasty, racist and has no place in a work environment, or anyplace else in the United States of America.
Perhaps most important is to let others know that you are a witness. That you will not stand by silently.
Dedicated to the memory of my mother, Ardelia Dismukes Schapiro, who died one year ago today.