Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before: a fringe group of a majority, espousing views that are controversial and unsettling, stages a march or demonstration against a minority group and it quickly gains national attention. Various politicians, also of that majority group, decry those acts and try to say that that is not the soul of our country. That is not who we really are, under the skin. Then we fight, not about the event itself, but about our response to the event. Did that individual go far enough, talk tough enough? There will be the insensitive tweet or Facebook post from a celebrity that will be taken down hours later amidst a public outcry.
And then we forget. Most likely, some other horrible thing happens in some part of the world, or inside the White House, and the media attention and our short memories erase every other horrible thing that came before. It is as if, nothing every happened.
Well, let me be clear, something did happen this past weekend in Charlottesville, but not the something that most people will say. Oh yes, there was violence and horrible images of white supremacy. But those words and images are things that I see in my America, the America where 6 foot 1 black and Asian hybrids live in every day. People do not say those things to me all the time, but I feel the underlying sting of those words almost every day.
What happened this weekend is what I like to call Turnt Racism: this is racism that is all hot and bothered, ready for a night out on the town. This is racism that has been drinking all day, taken a couple of shots, and has stumbled out into the night ready to party. This is one-off racism, not something I see all the time, but when I do see it, it’s really making a fool of itself on the dance floor. On a daily basis, I see something much more subversive and ugly. It’s called Casual Racism: it’s fast moving and so quick you’ll blink and miss it. You feel kind of stupid bringing it up because it makes you sound over sensitive and weak. While Turnt Racism fires everyone up, Casual Racism wedges inside of just you and it stays there. It doesn’t affect your entire day, it just throws you off, ever so slightly.
I’ll give you an example. This past weekend, I had the honor to be invited to celebrate the wedding of two wonderful friends! It was an incredible weekend and I am still in awe of the love that I got to witness. I was the only black person there, not something I dwelt on, but something I noted. At the reception, amidst the general revelry, another guest tapped me on the shoulder and said that I looked like an ivy-league man. Now, let’s unpack that for a second. While I went to Georgetown University for undergrad and Tulane Law School currently, neither of them are ivy-league. Also, I looked like an ivy-league man as opposed to what? What was on the flip side of that comment? This, my friends, is Casual Racism. Because I was wearing a tailored suit, a fresh haircut, and a nice watch, I immediately looked put together and smart. Whereas I’m sure there are people of color from ivy-league schools that don’t look that way on a regular basis, but that doesn’t make them any less or more icy-league than me.
The point is that the views espoused by the white supremacists in Charlottesville are ugly and hateful, but nothing too different than the story I just raised. The crux of the matter is the same. They are saying that people like me are different and calling out those differences to the entire world. I’m glad now that people see that these things still happen in the USA in 2017 and they should be stopped. So, where do we go from here? Well, for starters, we do not forget or buy a “Stay Woke” t-shirt and wear it while doing our errands. We sit down and we talk about these things, not as white people or black people but as people. We talk about our frustrations and our fears and we rekindle that flame inside us all that makes us more similar than different. I want racism in all its forms to end. I don’t quite know how to do that, but I did see unabashed and pure love for one another at a wedding this weekend and I think that’s a great place to start.