Recently, I was offended by a passively racist comment. The comment was amplified by the fact that I felt that not only had my abilities to produce in the situation that provoked the comment been stifled to protect the ego of a bigot, but that the inaction that created this situation was an act of disloyalty. In other words, if the offender had gone to bat for me against a bigot in the first place, they would have had no reason to make their passively bigoted comments.
The loyalty issue is moot at this point. I understand now that loyalty requires emotional capabilities that, in some, are non-existent, severely underdeveloped, or reserved only for their codependent. It’s futile to pine for something that never existed, but necessary to understand this dynamic as it pertains to racism.
Alas, I was told that the protected bigot would have agreed with the offending comment and gone about their day entirely unaffected (subtext: follow the bigot’s example from now on; be a bigot, not a black woman). It gets worse. Indeed, I was punched in the gut with the most cutting, deeply offensive version of the asshole’s free pass (I’m not responsible for your feelings, you are), I have ever encountered.
‘In all the therapy you do, you need to talk about why you’re so offended by racism and fix it.’
This is not an exact quote, but pretty fucking close. When I went back for clarification and asked if I understood correctly that I was being told that I, a black woman, was offended not because I had a right to be offended when someone makes a racist comment, but because I have emotional issues that I need to work out with my therapist, the claim was vehemently affirmed.
It lingers so much that even now, a few days later, I’m hit by waves of nausea just thinking about it. It’s worse than the insinuation that I should follow a bigot’s example. It felt worse, emotionally, than being called a primate by a drunk stranger. I knew going in to the conversation that it would somehow be my fault because in this particular relationship, I’ve gotten used to being the bad guy.
The thing is that now, at a time when racists like Donald Trump are making blatant, hateful expressions of racism acceptable, I refuse to take the blame for someone else’s passive racism. Or, as one of my favorite drag queens says: Not today, Satan. Not today.
When I’m told that I’m the one who needs therapy to ‘get over it,’ I can’t be sympathetic because one was ‘raised that way’ and ‘it’s hard to get out of that mentality.’ Nor do I accept “I am who I am and I’m not changing for anybody” as anything other than what it really articulates: everyone else can go to hell whilst I enjoy the privilege of saying, doing, and behaving however I want. Or, as Donald Trump recently said via FOX News to the supporters who didn’t like him pretending to care about ‘his blacks,’ “Get over it.”
But, Donald Trump and my offender are narcissists. They represent an extreme. They can’t help who they are and lack, for whatever reason, the capability to contemplate the how their actions affect others beyond how they can get what they want for themselves from these ‘others’ and ‘those people’ and then, and most importantly, to internalize those lessons, modify their behavior and mature as human being. Sadly, their growth game is shallow.
But what about the rest of the world? What about the rest of these Trump followers? How can they claim that they are not racist? How can they claim that Black History Month, the Black Lives Matters movement and BET are racist when they represent a tiny fraction of a much larger hegemony? How can so many people in one of the top nations on the planet be so emotionally and intellectually stunted?
Again we come back to ‘being raised that way.’ But it’s more intrinsic than that, it’s the about the that thing that narcissists and racists and hypocrites only recognize in themselves: subjectivity.
Racism, like narcissism, is never objective. It isn’t objective to those who experience it because the hatred resonates and reverberates in even the most intimate aspects of individuality. It isn’t objective to those who perpetrate it because they’re reinforcing and feeding off of deeply ingrained power dynamics. And it isn’t objective to anyone on the middle of that spectrum because the media, liberal and FAUX, is woven out of stereotypes, cultural fallacies, and cultural fantasies. Racism is a human phenomenon, an unnatural order of things that has permeated our existence and dyed itself into our societal DNA. And, unfortunately, as a species, many of us choose to adopt the safe, comfortable, painless way of life of that is “I am what I am.” The rest of us wave a dismissive hand and continue to fight the fight from all the wrong directions.
To that mentality, I chose to say: