off the cuff

Playing the Race Card

I’m just going to cut to the chase. Can everyone PLEASE look up the definition of racism in the dictionary, and then refrain from using the term in reference to stereotypes and generalizations?  They are not synonymous! Racism is defined in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary as :

a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

Racism is often evidenced by the use of racial slurs and derogatory terms in blatant disregard of the historical significance and meaning of that word.

This rant was brought to you after learning that video blogger, Chescaleigh, is being labeled a “racist” for her hilarious video, “Sh** White Girls Say To Black Girls,” which received over 5 million views within the last week.  I’ll be the first to admit, racism is alive and well, but not in this video.

Consequently, Anderson Cooper recently had Franchesca (Chescaleigh’s government name) on his show to address the large response, both positive and negative, she received as a result of the video’s content.

Ironically, just a few days before, I was having a discussion with a friend and expressed that I truly don’t feel Black people can be considered racist against White people.  How can the oppressed be the oppressor in a society where they do not constitute the majority (numerically speaking), and where theirs is not the dominant culture?  How can there be a sense of “inherent superiority” among a group of people who have strived to “fit in” and become a part of a society that tells them everything about them is undesirable?  We are too busy trying to get comfortable in our own skin and cope with our own insecurities.  For the record, declarations that “Black is beautiful,” or “Black girls rock” aren’t statements of supremacy, but rather an attempt to re-build confidence and pride, and undo the adverse effects of years of mental, emotional and physical slavery.

The best way for me to explain my statement that the mere fact that I’m Black defies my ability to be racist against White people is by comparing our struggle to that of a nerd or unpopular kid amongst bullies or jocks in grade school.  We are all familiar with this dynamic.  Often, popular girls or guys pick on defenseless nerds.  They make fun of their clothes, their hair, the way they talk, and anything else that makes them different or sets them apart from the rest.  They sometimes resort to physical violence to really drive their point home.  The poor defenseless nerd returns home from school day after day crying alone on her bed, wishing that she was “beautiful,” or that she was popular too, and hoping one day she’ll be able to walk the halls sans ridicule and with some level of dignity.

Sometimes, the poor defenseless nerd sheds her ratty, ill-fitting clothes and bifocals or takes a stand against one of her “oppressors,” and becomes well-liked by the popular kids in school and even respected.  But, the poor defenseless nerd never becomes the oppressor, even after her transformation. Why? Because she is still not a part of the “in crowd.”  Now, she is tolerated and accepted, but technically she is still an outsider.  If the poor defenseless nerd turned around and teased her oppressor, she would find little solace in the response she receives from the masses because her oppressor, being that she is popular, still sets the standard for what is cool, what is beautiful and what is normal.

The same applies here.  But, unlike the poor defenseless nerd, Blacks cannot simply do away with, or hide our differences.  So, although we are now legally “equal” in a society where we were once considered 3/4 of a person, the Eurocentric standard of beauty still prevails, and renders us outsiders.  Even with the creation and evolution of Hip Hop, we still attempt to “conform,” and although we have a Black president, we still aren’t “running things.”

Ultimately, we have all lost the ability to laugh at ourselves.  While some stereotypes and prejudices can be hurtful, at times, there is truth to some of them.  We should acknowledge that, laugh and move on.

Furthermore, we should stop using the terms “racist” or “reverse racism” (often in reference to affirmative action) all willy nilly.  These terms carry a negative connotation and a revolting social stigma, so it is best to use them ONLY when they truly apply.



2 thoughts on “Playing the Race Card

  1. I totally agree with you TT. I am a teacher and so many kids, all grades, accuse each other of racism for every little thing, “you didn’t pick me to be on your team, you’re racist” or “your laughing at me, you’re racist”. I have even been called racist,”you didn’t choose me to read aloud, you’re racist”. It pisses me off how lightly they throw it around…and they are serious. I don’t let them get away with it though. My parents and so many other black folks had to endure TRUE racism. I can show these kids racism if they really want me to. Where’s the water hose? Parents, explain to your kids what true racism is. If you do not know, then ask an educated black person.

    Posted by Courtney | January 23, 2012, 9:27 PM
    • Lol @ “show these kids racism if they really want me to. Where’s the water hose?” I agree. Why aren’t kids being taught these things in school? I commend you, as a teacher, for attempting to correct this problem when you hear your students crying racism.

      And for the record, I feel some Black people use the term willy nilly too! It’s really annoying.

      Posted by 30thoughts | January 23, 2012, 11:02 PM

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