Oftentimes we are taken aback by the degree and the amount of stories, regarding racist interactions, airing on the news and dominating social media. We are horrified and many of us yell, “It’s [insert year]! This should not still be happening!” But that horror we feel is part of the problem. The way people talk about the time before Trump — implying a racism free Utopia — is part of the problem. Racism against all minority groups has been on the rise and it didn’t occur overnight.
Eric Garner — choked to death by a cop was in 2014.
Trayvon Martin — stalked and murdered by George Zimmerman occurred in 2012.
These were both during Obama’s presidency. The blame doesn’t belong to Obama. Nor does it fully belong to Trump. Racism has always been bigger than one person. Racism is many things — it’s enormous, it’s a monster, but overall, it is a thought that grows into an idea, which transforms into a belief that then mutates into racism. Trump is a physical representation of this mutation that lives in at least half the population of the U.S.
Disgust — Yes
Every instance of racism and discrimination should horrify us. We should hear about Nathan Phillips, an Indigenous man who fought for this country, being mocked by white teens in MAGA hats and feel disgust. Disgust is good. Horror is good.
These emotions are necessary for change. They shake us out of apathy and motivate us to take action to hold people and, in this case the Covington Catholic School (the same school that Jacob Walter — accused of raping and sodomizing an 18 year old female — came from) accountable.
When we hear of the Missouri congressman yelling, “Go back to Puerto Rico!” we should also feel disgust. Disgust that someone like this is thought to be the best choice to represent the people. Disgust, horror and even shame that someone like this was elected by people. And, if you’re white, those people are your people.
Don’t hide from these emotions. Emotions push us to fight against the world we do live in and strive for the world we want. Emotions is where it starts. Combine it with the will to act and you have a movement.
Surprise — No
The man who holds the top office calls white nationalists “fine people” and countries with primarily black and brown people “shitholes”. So how can we be surprised at what we hear online, in mainstream media and on videos? If there weren’t people in this country who were racist, there would’ve been no chance for Trump. He wouldn’t have even won the Republican nomination.
So is it really surprising when we see rampant racism in a workplace like GM in Toledo? When Black employees that worked there were called the n-word and nooses were hung up to frighten and intimidate them, was that surprising?
When higher ups were informed and these Black men were told to either “deal with it” themselves or not create a problem, was that surprising?
The answer should be no. If you think it is surprising, you are choosing not to pay attention. You are looking at each situation as though it exists in a bubble. When you do that, it hurts minorities on an emotional and societal level.
Emotional because you are basically denying the racism, microagressions and white supremacy that minorities experience almost daily. Societal, because you avoid looking at how these snapshots of racism are part of the systemic whole that normalizes the dehumanization of groups based on skin color.
Every time we are surprised by racism we increase it’s longevity. Because our surprise makes each instance a freak occurrence — an aberration. And, if it’s aberrant, there’s no need to analyze how our thoughts and actions, or the thoughts and actions of our closest friends and loved ones, contribute to this parasitic, mutative system known as racism.
Trump didn’t get elected in a vacuum. Racism in GM didn’t occur in a vacuum. And the murders of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin didn’t happen in a vacuum. These weren’t isolated incidents. They weren’t aberrations. This is America.
Once you accept that, and your complicity in this system, you will motivated to have those conversations you’ve been avoiding. The more apt you’ll be to speak up when you see a minority targeted for harassment. You’ll demand more from your loved ones, your friends and yourself. Is it really so bad to demand that people bring the best versions?
Unfortunately until then; This is America.