Friday, November 1, 2013

Fun with Blackface!

"Just say no" to blackface. 
To those guys who went as dead Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman for Halloween

       Congratulations! You're white people! That means that you benefit from a level of social privilege that allows you to appropriate just about everything that's super cool about being black except actually being black, which you probably don't want anyway. You probably know all the lyrics to all the Kanye West and all the Jay-Z, and maybe you even casually use the n-word in conversations with your friends. You're definitely not racist. You probably have at least one black friend to prove it, and s/he never even calls you out on your use of the n-word which is further proof that it's totes okay for you to say it - to black people, to white people, to Filipino people, whomever! You don't really give a shit about Martin Luther King day except that it might score you a day off of work, and you think America has really come along way since slavery what with the black president and black scholarships and the NBA and stuff. In fact, you probably don't see color at all. Congrats on that.

       Maybe you live and work around black and other non-white people, or maybe you don't. Regardless, you don't really identify with the social ills suffered by many non-whites in America. You know, those ills caused by the persistence of the internalized and institutionalized racist ideologies that have defined this country's history since always? You don't spend to much time thinking about those. Besides, you think we should get over it already; pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. In your willful ignorance innocence, you don't recognize that so much black suffering is rooted in a long-standing, brutal history of inequity and hate over which our foremothers and fathers had no control and from which they and their offspring were never made whole.

       But it's totally cool, guys. After all, it's 2013. The Civil Rights Act was signed 49 whole years ago. That's almost 50! And Trayvon Martin's killer was acquitted almost four months ago. That's, like, almost 120 days ago. His parents are definitely finished mourning by now. We should just put the past behind us. It's time. We should really learn to just take a joke. You're not racist; you were just being clever in a political yet Halloween-y kind of way. Besides, you didn't personally own slaves, or deny black people housing and jobs, and you didn't personally kill Trayvon Martin or acquit Zimmerman either. You are not at all involved in these sad and horrifying legacies.

       Excepts, are. Like it or not, you're involved; we all are. We are the inheritors of a long, complex, and largely shameful history in regards to race and equality. We share it, you see. So while you may think that you are simply being funny by wearing blackface (by the way, wtf is wrong with you?) and pretending to be a slain black teenager and his killer (your smiling faces make me want to vomit), you are conjuring and associating yourself with hundreds of years of shame and guilt wrought by the actions of your legit-racist forebears. It's embarrassing, really. For you, not for me.

       For me, it's hurtful. It's a reminder of the pain and humiliation that so many before me endured, and that the repercussions of hate and fear continue to affect millions of people in this country. It's a reminder that, though that hate and fear has diminished a bit and we've made significant strides toward greater equality, we have not yet reached the promised land - not black people, not brown people, not undocumented people, not women people, not gay people, not old people, and not disabled people. But also? Not white people. 

       You may think you're there, but you're not. Hell, you probably think you invented the promised land, but let me tell you dudes, we are ONE country. Collectively, we are only as strong as our weakest and most disenfranchised citizens. The lack of agency that they are denied detracts from our collective ability to be the economic and cultural powerhouse that this country could be if everyone really did have a fair and equal shake. But by making light of our country's legacy of inequality (and, ahem, murder), you, in your own tiny, stupid way, are delaying our collective progress to a better day - one that would even benefit thoughtless, undeserving, punk-ass, little you.

       There's no way we're making it to the promised land except together, dudes. So cut out the bullshit, get your life, and come on.

P.S. You too, Julianne and you idiot girls on Twitter.

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