Stone Mountain, Georgia is where I lived when I first realized I was “black.”
By that I mean, I realized that people would see my skin color, make up all kinds of prejudgements and adjust their behavior accordingly.
It is the place where I first felt the weighty isolation of being the only black kid in a class full of white kids. It’s the place I lived when I was first teased for my hair type, my nose size, my round, protruding butt that’s now considered trendy, and of course my skin color.
It’s where my white teacher told me that in the “old days” some white people thought our skin color would rub off on them. That by touching us they’d become black. The horror! This sounds as ridiculous to me now as it did as as a 10-year old.
It’s where three Confederate leaders are carved into the granite mountain from which the city derived it’s name.
It’s the location of the former headquarters of the KKK, that bastion of white supremacy that’s terrorized black Americans for decades.
Stone Mountain, GA is also where high school principal Nancy Gordeuk singled out black audience members during a recent high school graduation. Gordeuk made the mistake of ending the ceremony before the Valedictorian’s speech. When audience members filed out thinking it was over, Gordeuk – who is white – said, “Look who’s leaving—all the black people.”
After first apologizing for her “racist comment’ in an email to parents, Nancy later backtracked saying: “I didn’t know ‘black people’ was a racist term. I didn’t say the N-word or anything like that ’cause that isn’t in my vocabulary.”
She continued sticking her foot all the way in her mouth with: “People always think the worst, you know. You say the word ‘black,’ you know. Was I supposed to say African-American? Were they all born in Africa? No, they’re Americans.”
Just because “the n-word” is not in your vocabulary, doesn’t mean you’re not racist, hold racist beliefs or that you didn’t make a racist comment.
- Just because you don’t say “nigger” or use other racial epithets doesn’t mean you aren’t racist.
- Just because you’re a “good” person, doesn’t mean you can’t be racist.
- Just because you have a Black friend or friends, doesn’t mean you aren’t racist.
- Just because you “don’t see color” doesn’t mean you aren’t racist.
- Just because you listen to rap or hip-hop, doesn’t mean you aren’t racist.
- Just because you are nice to the Black person at work, the grocery store or in school, doesn’t mean you aren’t racist.
- Just because you say “African-American” instead of “colored,” or “negro” doesn’t mean you aren’t racist.
- Just because you voted for President Obama, doesn’t mean you aren’t racist.
This isn’t the 1950s anymore. Today’s racism isn’t your grandparent’s brand of racism. Today’s racism is cloaked so well we can have a biracial black President, while unarmed black civilians are gunned down by law enforcement with seeming impunity.
Some examples of what racism looks like today:
- Selectively using racially coded language like “thug” to describe black men
- Seeing a group of black protestors and demanding they should be shot, as if their lives matter less than broken windows or blocked traffic
- Posting videos to YouTube making fun of Asian people
- Cracking jokes about your biracial President’s possible affinity for films with large black casts as though the idea of liking such films is funny
- Not bringing someone in for an interview because they have a black or Latino “sounding” name
- Asking if Hollywood has gone “too far” in casting shows with “ethnic actors”
- Over-policing communities with high black and Latino populations
- Blaming “black culture” for any number of social and economic ills as though these problems begin and end with black people
- Using one negative experience with a person of color to justify your negative beliefs about the entire group
- Throwing a party with a theme based in either offensive ethnic stereotypes or cultural appropriation like “Asia Prime“, “Mexican Fiesta“, “Colonial Bros & Nava-Hos” or an “MLK Black Party“
Unfortunately, the list goes on and on and on.
People sometimes refer to the regressive racism of their grandparents and sometimes their parents, while at the same time, dissociating themselves from such inane views. I wonder: what did their grandparents think of their grandparents beliefs?
What makes some people think they’re the magic generation that’s suddenly stopped racism in its’ tracks?
What will your grandkids say about your beliefs?
Can you think of other examples of present day racism? Have you experienced covert or subtle racism?