Let’s role play a scenario that I see, on average, at least twice a week on the webz.
Jan (Person of color): Did you hear/see that? I find that comment directed at my race to be incredibly insensitive and hurtful.
Jim (Person not of color): Stop being so sensitive. Must you throw out the race card?
It’s a weird counter-argument. But it’s also horribly inhumane. Without a trace of irony – and most likely without noticing it – by trying to prove how Jim isn’t really racist, he actually demonstrates just how racist his frame of reference is.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
Jan is hurt by remarks that she is quite aware are directed at her race/family/ethnicity/culture/identity group.
Jan lets others know, that may not know, how hurt she is by the offending statement.
Jim is offended (OFFENDED!) that Jan is offended by such a statement.
Jim does not understand why Jan should be upset as he does not share her cultural or historical background.
Rather than taking Jan seriously as a real, adult human being with actual feelings and emotions and intelligence, he continues to downgrade not just Jan’s feelings as being less than legitimate (which leads Jan to feel like less of a person, at least in Jim’s eyes), but also Jan’s history, culture, family, and humanity.
Jan is not a legitimate person in the eyes of this white person.
Jan is led to believe – and with good reason – that Jim does not trust her accounts of her own experience and reaction simply because Jan is a different race or ethnicity.
This, in effect, is what racism is, what white supremacy is. It is also a sign of sexism. In this regard, Jan is doubly cursed.
A similar scenario can also be played out according to class or sexual identity, for instance). But it’s been ridiculous efforts like Rush Limbaugh’s “uppity” comments – directed at the First Couple and only at them – and the refusal of specific white Christians to acknowledge that that phrase is used disparagingly toward Black people who are perceived to rise above their station. In fact, judging by the responses I’ve seen from several paleo-conservative white male Christians, they don’t give a rip about the hurt that that phrase causes African Americans.
Add to that, Thanksgiving is once again upon us and we still, in 2011 AD, mock and ridicule the very tribes and nations that were in the Americas first. Those very people that we systematically wiped out through assimilation and murder. And – adding insult to those injuries – we continue to mockingly dress our sports mascots as racist caricatures of “savage” Indian chiefs. A continuation of a history of profiting from the humiliation and exploitation of those we’ve been oppressing.
When the First Nation tribes and people inform the alumni and students, universities, and professional sports teams that the mascots and mock-ceremonial actions are offensive to the very people that are being caricatured, the white men invariably answer, “No, they aren’t. You aren’t really offended.”
Excuse me. But I have to ask my fellow white males, “WHAT THE FRAPPIN’ HELL ARE YOU THINKING?“
Who do we think we are to tell others what they should be offended by when we’re offending them, both historically – and because we choose to ignore their histories – currently? Especially after hundreds of years of oppression, genocide, slavery, removal, segregation, and utter marginalization. And now we White people want to act like everything’s cool between us and the people we’ve marginalized and profited from – when it’s obvious that we are only continuing the same acts of aggression?
Yeah, we’re sick like that…