It seems some folks have figured out a new way to respond to claims of racism, or even discussions of race. They just call the person bringing up the issue a racist.
That's right, even talking about racism or mentioning race, is now a racist act.
This had kind of been swirling around for a while, but I've had several recent experiences that have confirmed for me that this must be in the new best-selling handbook: "How to divert discussions of racism and piss people off." Clearly, a popular title.
First example happened at my church the other day. A young man approached me and wanted to talk to me about racism. It was a young black cat, and he said his family, also black people, often call him a racist. When I asked why they would say that, he said they complain that he's always talking about what white people do, and how they do it, so that makes him a racist.
Second example happened while I was arguing with someone online. I hadn't mentioned race, instead making my argument based on a less toxic but still strong point. A cat who I had previously identified as a racist through his actions, decides to take a shot at me because he doesn't like my attitude. Despite the fact that I hadn't mentioned race, he tells me that I'm always thinking about race and that makes me a racist.
Third example came in this article in the New Yorker. A fight breaks out over a review, and one of the folks accused of racism says it's racist that an accusation was even leveled. Here is a snippet:
Als appears to be the only major critic who reacted to the play's racial themes so viscerally. Few other reviews paid its use of racist language much attention, instead focusing on Walken's performance, which has been widely praised amid early whispers of Tony awards. But Als's remarks certainly hit home with the play's British producer, Robert Fox. "It was absolutely vindictive. Although Hilton Als's comments are meaningless in the scheme of things, because the show is doing very well, I think his remarks were entirely inappropriate and irresponsible," Fox told the Observer.
Fox said he thought Als's criticism was in itself an injection of racism where none was merited. "It was racist in that it was racially intolerant to write those things. He doesn't identify himself [in the review] as a black writer. I think it is extraordinary. I know people who have written to the New Yorker about it already. It is completely out of order," Fox said.
You know what's funny about that quote? The producer wants the reviewer identified as a black man (I guess so people can know to ignore his argument or something), but didn't suggest that everybody be identified by their race when they make an accusation of racism. I mean, does Mr. Fox think he should be identified as a white man in his public comments? Does that make his opinions less valid?
It's quite interesting how folks are flipping the word "racism." It's not new for people to create their own definitions for common words, but this feels wrong. What does it mean when you're a racist if you just discuss race? Or make an accusation that you back up with facts?
It means that any discussion that deviates from the accepted narrative on race is squelched. And the status quo always benefits from that course of action.
What's even more disturbing is that so many black people are jumping on this new trend. In their rush to embrace the Utopian, post-racial America, certain black folks are setting themselves up for a rude awakening. Because when you make any discussions of race taboo, you have nothing to stand on when you have a serious grievance related to race. I couldn't believe that the young man at church was hearing this kind of talk from parents. Now, my father has chastised me at times for being too caught up in racial matters, but he's never thrown the word "racist" around all willy-nilly. That's problematic.
I'm sure this comes from a belief among some black folks that talking about race doesn't solve anything, and only gets you labeled as a troublemaker. But, what I've learned over the years is that any brownie points you get for being the black person who downplays racial incidents disappear the minute you actually level a complaint about racism yourself. I saw it with Colin Powell, with Condi Rice and with any other black person who stepped outside of the narrative white folks wanted to hear. There was a definite sense of betrayal that these trusted black folks would even discuss race, and that betrayal made it impossible for said black folks to get their message out.
So, this new attempt to re-define racism is devious. It's limiting, and it only supports the existing power structure. What's really scary is that it's quite popular among younger people.
That's flipping me out.