Why can't we express our thoughts and feelings without someone there to point a finger and tell you why you're wrong?
Why don't those people take a step back to try to understand?
These were a few thoughts I had the other day as I was reading a thread on a photo posted on Facebook - of a student in blackface.
Before I continue, I would like to clarify that both the student in "blackface" (UC's colors are black and red and apparently the sporting event that the young gentleman dressed up for was a blackout game...) as well as the president of campus (whose Instagram account the photo was re-posted on) had no malevolent intentions.
I repeat - It is loud and clear to MOST that both the student and president did not intend to hurt anyone with said post.
With that being said...
The problem here is ignorance.
The fact that the student painted most of his face black (he had a red beard) and didn't think or realize that, hey, this might be offensive to some, is ignorant and needs to be addressed. Which is exactly what one student voice did (I will call him Alpha for this blog's purpose).
Alpha wrote a long post with the picture and addressed the president.
"I attend a university that reinforces racial undertones (Blackface) as 'school spirit'. Ignorant to the fact that Minstrel Shows were very racially charged caricatures of black people post Civil War which have been perpetuated through American History over the past 100 years."
Keep in mind, the president's Instagram account posted the photo. Intentions aside, it wasn't appropriate.
Intentions of the student? There are MANY other ways to paint your face Black/Red:
NOT okay. While we're on the subject, if you think school colors/pride makes it okay to paint your face like this (if you're still lost on why this may be offensive), how about the people/students that paint their faces to actually dress as an African American for Halloween?
Ahhh yes - Trayvon Martin is definitely an acceptable and not at all insensitive topic to use for Halloween.
The thing is, even though the UC student didn't have the same intentions (there's that word again) as the people in the photos above, doesn't mean that the message is any different.
Alpha had a good message - one I 100% agree with:
"Being white means you never have to think about the implications of race but when you actively strive to become more racially aware that means you want to step outside of yourself and understand other identities outside of your own, which promotes inclusivity."
I will go back to my original question now: Why can't we step outside of ourselves and try to understand how someone may take offense to something that has hurt their ancestors repeatedly?
I am writing this blog entry like I am talking to a five-year-old for a reason. A friend of mine reposted Alpha's letter/post, which is how I saw it. I made the mistake of clicking on the photo so I can read the comments and discussion on Alpha's post. I became infuriated (and REALLY glad that I wasn't friends with Alpha, so I couldn't comment on it).
Alpha and some others were so amazingly articulate, patient, and calm with their response to some of the worst comments I have seen in awhile. There were some serious backlashing - people that weren't actually READING the message he was trying to convey. Just attacking. Alpha and others - you are heroes in my eyes for the amount of patience and time you used to try to explain why this photo hurt you. Bravo for 1) standing up for what you know is right and 2) to really try to teach the ignorant.
- behavior that shows a lack of good sense or judgment.
Or my own definition: 2. The result of not choosing to admit your ignorance and learning a valuable life lesson.
Just a few comments on this thread:
"This is completely a non-issue." (stated way more than once)
"He is simply wearing his school colors and showing pride." (This was after the explanation of why the image hurt)
"This isn't the post Civil War era anymore. It's only a racial issue if you make it one." (A lot of these comments were followed up by explaining White Privilege, which I'll get to in a moment)
"We live in an over sensitive society and this is a prime example of such."
"It's because he's white he's being attacked."
"All of this because a white person painted their face black to show school spirit.." (This comment was followed up by someone else's: "All of this because a white person doesn't know why this is extremely triggering, traumatizing, and racist.")
These comments are the reason I'm writing this blog. As a white woman, I don't feel the need to constantly stand up for the Black Community. I feel, and the thread showed, that African Americans are very much capable of doing that themselves. They do not need the White Community's permission to do so - what they need is solidarity and understanding on our end.
"White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by the non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances"
Are you white? Then you are privileged, regardless of how rough your life was growing up. You do not have a history of being judged by the color of your skin, even if that one girl, that one time, called you "White Girl" and that's all you can think about when someone calls you "Privileged".
Someone wrote: "When you say 'I don't see color' what that really says is 'I have the privilege of not seeing color' because you're not constantly reminded that you are white through microaggressions and systematic oppression. You have the privilege to ignore race issues."
I understand. I get it. I don't see color - I'm "colorblind". Everyone is the same. We are beautiful.
But guess what? We don't live in a perfect world. So the sooner we, the White Community, can 1) acknowledge other races and their issues and 2) see that we are different shades of beautiful on the outside, the sooner that we CAN work toward a not-so-racist community/world.
No one is asking anyone to go protest and shout from the rooftops how racist blackface is - What I want, what Alpha seemed to want, is basic understanding. Opening your mind to other fucking possibilities than what you are used to. I am not Black. I will stand in solidarity with the Black Community, but my experiences are shit compared to their history. I will never, YOU will never, understand what it is like to be judged by the color of your skin.
....but we can at the very least, acknowledge that it happens.