Because what we all need is another howtuhnotberacist article. But let’s give it a twist!
If you want to add some class to your racism, you can dress like a head waiter while espousing black superiority and look more credible than your badly-dressed distant cousins, the Klan. Black supremacist trainees Nation of Islam photo by Nancy Wong on Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0 International License
Call me racist, an ally, a conservative, a libtard, or whatever makes your little ideological heart go pitter-patter-ker-PLOTZ, but don’t call me a Karen. Not if you’re serious about ending racism. More on that in a minute.
There’s no end of articles instructing us ig’nent white people (oh, sorry, ***W***hite people) how to not be so damn racist, some of which are valuable. Only a few will be found in the most popular Medium publication on race, which has become too much a platform for black racism couched in obfuscating race theory and stultifying academic jargonbabble. So every once in awhile I like to remind black people (sorry, I’m too old and un-woke for capitalization nonsense) that yes, racism IS a cancer, and they, too, need to see an oncologist stat!
All snark aside, comparing racism to cancer is pretty apt. When you’re fighting cancer, you’ve got to get all of it, or it comes roaring right back.
If white racism is the cancerous tumor America needs to excise from its suffering soul, black and other non-white racism requires chemotherapy.
The residual danger lies in removing the tumor but not treating the body political.
Otherwise, we’ll be right back where we started in a matter of months. Maybe weeks. It’s time for black folks, and other folks of color, to recognize their own contributions to the problem. Here’s a handy starting guide.
1. Stop referring to color when describing someone
When you’re referring to another person, don’t mention color unless you’re sure it has something to do with what you’re saying. ‘Some woman cut me off in traffic!’ rather than ‘Some white woman cut me off in traffic!’. What does her race have to do with it? Did she flash you the Klan hand signal? Does she have a Confederate flag sticker on a side window? Are you absolutely sure she cut you off because you’re black, or did you just assume it? Unless you’re a mind reader, leave race out of it. It makes you sound ignorant and racist.
2. Stop lumping us in with ‘white supremacists’
If you don’t like being followed around in a store, we don’t like getting thrown into the same cesspool with some of the most execrable people in America. White supremacy is specifically an ideology stipulating whites should dominate over other ‘inferior’ races; races should ‘stick to their own kind’; and God knows they shouldn’t ‘race mix’! Genuine white supremacists think white people are on the verge of extinction despite being more numerous than face masks. Racist blacks have tried to expand the definition to include all white people according to our birth skin color. Careful, folks. Your birth skin color was once designated as reason to enslave you.
Skin color is not ‘original sin’.
3. Knock it off with cutesy ‘Karen’ and ‘Kyle’ labels
I got in trouble for this one myself.
I made a ‘Karen’ joke on Facebook recently. One friend named Karen didn’t take offense. The other did. She said it was racist and misogynist and a bit of a kerfuffle erupted. I deleted it before World War III broke out, mostly between the offended Karen and those who like to tweak ‘snowflakes’. But I thought about it later and decided Offended Karen was right on one level. Sure, there’s a well-established reality of overprivileged often middle-aged white women who ‘want to speak to the manager’ when something doesn’t meet their exacting standards, and white people in general calling the police on people existing while black. We can give them unkind labels, though, rather than tarring all Karens and Kyles. (Or Kellys, Rhiannas, Kanyes, Chappelles or Cosbys.)
What shall we call the following example of a Black Woman Behaving Badly? Latifah? Shanice? Kiara? Or shall we name her and her kind after a famously violent black supermodel?
The victim was a cancer patient, Naomi.
4. Stop overusing the application of ‘cultural appropriation’
Cultural appropriation is not a battle cry for picking up your toys and going home because you don’t like the skin color of the other kids.
The accusation has real value when genuine harm is demonstrated. My sympathies lie more with those arguing white people take black contributions and monetize them in a way black people couldn’t because of systemic oppression. And being ignored by society at large until white people decided their contributions were worthy and thank you, we’ll take it from here. It’s still problematic, though. In the grander scheme of things, adopting others’ good ideas is how humanity evolves. In business and technology, it’s ‘innovation’. It’s finding a better way to do things.
Racist hypocrisy is on full display when blacks make a fuss about corn rows or dreadlocks but ignore their own ‘cultural appropriation’.
How’d *that* happen? Permission-free photo by Tony Duran on Wikimedia Commons
5. Stop it with slavery already
I am so so SO tired of hearing about American slavery. We ended it 150 years ago. Deal with it.
If there was something uniquely American about slavery, I’d care more, but considering it’s a universal crime against humanity, practiced in all times and places, and still going on in 94 countries today, including several African ones, I’m not interested in revisiting one example banned a century and a half ago. Not a single American alive today was ever a slave, nor have any ever owned another human being. Obsessing over the slavery period is just keeping the wound raw and bathing in lemon juice. It does have one useful function, for some: It keeps black eyes distracted with a past no one can change and keeps attention off the future, which they can change.
If you care about slavery that much, I have great news for you! You can do something about it! Because guess which continent has become the ‘epicenter of modern-day slavery’ again? That’s right, AFRICA! It suffered the distinction of hosting the highest rate of modern-day enslavement in the world in 2018.
African-Americans outraged that some of their fellow Africans are still enslaving many more of their fellow Africans (an uninterrupted practice in some parts of Africa for many hundreds of years) can go over there today and set them all straight. And here’s an uncomfortable thought: If their ancestors hadn’t left Africa — voluntarily or not — would they themselves be enslaved today — in Africa?
(P.S. While you’re there, can you please get Africans to stop butchering baby vaginas?)
6. Stop justifying your racism by claiming only white people can be racist
Racism is nothing more than old-fashioned tribalism, identifying with and sticking with your in-group and identifying everyone else as Others.
Arguing one must be in the dominant group to be racist is accepting only the most egregious, worst example of racism, while ignoring the lower racism standards to which you exempt yourself. It’s trying to escape your own ‘original sin’, arguing that white people answer for all white people while non-whites don’t answer for all non-whites. Most racist non-whites fall closer to the lower end of the scale. With the exception of some groups like the racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ Nation of Islam, which preaches a hardcore black supremacist agenda, most non-white racists aren’t part of the ugliest massive tumor, but they’re still part of the problem. Everyone can be racist. Or prejudiced. Or bigoted. You can call it what you want, but it’s bad old-fashioned tribalism.
If it’s ‘original sin’, we all own it.
I may be snarky, but I’m serious. Anti-racism has become Civil Rights 2.0 in the 21st century and will accomplish real equality we’ll all benefit from, even those idiot Trumpers, but only if we expend as much effort in changing things now, rather than ruminating over and wallowing in the past. We shouldn’t ‘ignore it’ or ‘get over it’; but leave it to our historians and philosophers to drill down, dig ever deeper and derive new insights about human history and behavior, regardless of how beautiful or ugly. We need to learn from all truths, however unpalatable they may be to any particular tribe.
Sometimes it’s easier to just slap a label on Another or get outraged by petty nonsense on social media than it is to challenge a brutal, militarized police force or consider running for political office. Or to make a fuss about an institution ended in 1865 rather than do something about the same institution in over 90 countries around the world today. Or in an altered iteration in your own country.
Racism is universal. You can fight the tumor but you still need to confront the racist in the mirror.
This article appeared on Medium in 2020.