This shouldn’t need to be said.

I had brought this video up in class a week or two ago and I thought I would share it now.  It’s definitely worth watching even if you don’t want to read the rest of the post. Some background: The rapper Trinidad James was invited to CNN tonight after video surfaced online of a white SAE frat mom using the n-word multiple times while singing along to James’ music. What happened next was ridiculous, and at times, comical. Conservative Ben Ferguson really digs himself into a hole. My personal favorite part is 1:57 – “Did you just say that the n-word has become racially divisive?!?!”

While this video may cause some of you to laugh, I think it also carries significance. We recently read The Classic Slave Narratives, and I think we would all agree that the origin of this word was horrendous. The greater point that I would like to highlight is the one raised by Marc Lamont Hill in the video. The only white correspondent on the show (Ferguson) is trying to tell the other (black) correspondents what they should/shouldn’t say. In a covert way, he could be seen as trying to maintain a monopoly on a word that white people have used to yield power over blacks for years. Hill confronts him when says, “Listen. Listen for a minute. This is the problem, when we start talking about issues about race and racism, sometimes white people need to just listen.” This is a very powerful statement but one that I agree with.

When it comes to any marginalized group, they are always going to be the experts on what it means to be a part of that marginalized group. When you fail to check your privilege what you’re doing is you’re saying “I don’t feel included” or “I feel left out.” I’m going to insert myself into something that I (probably) know nothing about. I am going to make this about myself, and belittle your pain, and make a joke out of your lived experience. It’s simple really, Black Lives > White Feelings (or replace this with whatever tickles your fancy – Women’s Safety > Men’s Feelings, Muslim’s Lives> American’s Feelings, etc.) While I think a lot of the students in our class can agree that our ultimate goal should be equality for EVERYONE, I feel that first and foremost it needs to be about equality for the marginalized. If you want to support social justice or a particular social movement, you don’t turn it into a contest – you don’t assess it’s value based on what you can get out of it.

I think I misspoke in class so I want my position to be clear: I’m not saying that not belonging to a particular group means that you deserve to be excluded from a movement, or  that you don’t get to be a part of the conversation. I’m saying that there is something very wrong with inserting yourself in and trying to mandate what the goals of a particular movement should be that you previously didn’t belong to. You need to realize that while you have been granted inclusion to the movement, the group to which it seeks to serve has most likely historically been excluded. Realize that making everything about yourself is insulting. Realize that you are not the victim here (or at least not the primary one). Saying that “black lives matter” does not imply that “white lives don’t.” Saying that women deserve to be respected does not entail disrespecting men.

With that I leave you with a quote from Russell Brand (someone I would’ve never expected to hear this from). Brand has garnered a bit of a reputation among women for being sexist/misogynistic, and he was asked if he would admit he only sees women in sexual terms to which he answered: “I don’t think I’m sexist- but like, I don’t know if I have some cultural hangover. I certainly don’t want to be sexist. If women think I’m sexist, then they’re in a better position to judge than I am. So I’d have to go ‘Oh alright. I’m sorry…I’ve work on that.'”

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4 Responses to This shouldn’t need to be said.

  1. kiracanderson says:

    “When it comes to any marginalized group, they are always going to be the experts on what it means to be a part of that marginalized group.”
    YES.
    I recently went to a workshop on White Privilege, led by a white man. Though I’ve been to other workshops with this man, and they were amazing, I was skeptical: was he really going to lecture white people, let alone the many minorities in the room, on racism and White privilege?
    He didn’t, thankfully. He spoke about the jaw-dropping statistics that stem from white privilege. He gave us rules for defeating white privilege. And the first one was: “Minorities are not obligated to be excited and happy that you are ‘working’ to defeat white privilege, especially when you are not listening to them.”
    Many times, we are not listening. When Michael Brown was killed and racial profiling in policing became a heated topic, a hashtag was created on twitter to add to the conversation and bring attention to an issue: #blacklivesmatter. Of course, this brought about complaints, some even changed it to #alllivesmatter. Black History Month is almost always met with the same complaints, especially in the small town where I’m from. “Why do *they* get a special month? That’s reverse racism!”, normally followed by a “We’re all supposed to be the same! Colorblind!”
    The problem with this facade of “inclusion” is that we are NOT the same. Black men are being killed by police at a much higher rate than white men. One in three Black men will be in prison in their lifetime, while only one in 17 white men will. I have encountered people who reply to that fact with “Black people just do more crime.” Sure. Except most of them are in jail for drug crimes, and 14 million whites admit to using drugs, compared to 2.6 million Blacks. “Well, that’s misleading. It’s disproportionate. There are more white people than Black, so of course they’ll do more drugs.” Except it is very disproportional. For drug offenses, Black people are sent to prison at ten times the rate of Whites.
    The use of the n-word, the Ferguson hashtag, and special “honors” the black community gets, these are divisive. But they are for a reason: we NEED to call attention to the divisiveness. We NEED #blacklivesmatter because they are the ones being disproportionately killed and incarcerated. We are not placing more value on their lives, just emphasizing that they matter because they are being threatened. We need to listen to minorities about their oppression, without calling them racist for acknowledging (and celebrating!) racial differences.

  2. kiracanderson says:

    I forgot to add this website: http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_ICCPR%20Race%20and%20Justice%20Shadow%20Report.pdf -Report of The Sentencing Project to the United Nations Human Rights Committee Regarding Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System
    If anyone is interested in racial disparities in the justice system, this is a great read! This is also where I got my statistics in the first post!

  3. anapuri11 says:

    Cindy, you bring up amazing points. I agree with everything you’re saying. I would like to direct you to this site: http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/n-word-vs-cracker.jpg

    It really is problematic that people of privilege are kicking and screaming about not being able to say a word. There are fundamental issues regarding those with privilege when they believe they are not given everything. Entitlement is a huge issue in America, and the fact that people have been acting entitled over others thoughts, feelings, and bodies is an issue that needs to be addressed. If people of color feel as though they want to create ownership over a word that was used against their ancestors when they were enslaved, then I say we support them. Giving minorities power is always a good thing in my book.

  4. cindylyon says:

    It’s funny that you bring up entitlement here, because this is not the context you normally hear it in. When I’ve heard political commentators talk of entitlement in the past, it was always referring to those on various social programs (like Welfare or Social Security) and it carried with it a negative connotation in most cases. It’s so interesting to look at in the different way that you outlined here. There are people in this country who feel entitled to other feelings and ideas and bodies even and yet they spend their time trying to say others are entitled to ‘worse’ things. This, I agree, is problematic. Not to sound too kumbaya, but there really just needs to be more cohesiveness between everyone in this country. There is far too much othering going on. There is always an “us” and a “them.” But instead of shunning that multiplicity, it should be embraced, acknowledged, and celebrated. At least in my opinion.

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