I’ve been witness to or part of many conversations over the last couple of weeks and I’ve noticed an ongoing trend that has driven me to write this entry for this week. As you all know I am open to just about any type of conversation anyone wants to have but unfortunately that doesn’t always seem to be as productive as it could be. I understand that there are tons of intersectionalities between identities, institutions and systems of our current world. I believe that we are able to talk about them in their own entities without overshadowing the importance of one topic with another one. I've started calling this Blocking.
I’ve mostly noticed blocking when I enter conversations pertaining to racism. As with any topic, I would assume a dynamic dialogue would follow, be debated, and end with racism. It holds its own power without adding in other topics to give a clear depiction of how it works, when it started, who it benefited and what is gained. There are always intertwining pieces regarding racism, but it’s possible to bring those in while still staying on the topic and having a fruitful conversation about racism, and not switching it to another identity altogether.
This is similar to the concept of PLEs - Perfectly Logical Explanations. People use PLEs to explain away racism. They justify why microagressions happen and rationalize away the hurt and trauma of the prejudice in the situation. However blocking is different in the sense that it doesn’t explain away racism and usually comes from people who “get it”. They seem to care about anti-racism and talk about the problems with white privilege and white culture, but miss the fact that they are preventing a solution oriented conversation specifically addressing racism from happening. From their perspective they understand racism, and are an ally - but in the process they are dominating the conversation in a way that is dismissive of the trauma of racism.
I recently had a conversation during a class I was in. In the class there are two POC students that identify as Black (myself and another student). The rest of the class is mostly white. As we dove into this conversation we started to interrogate the institution that is racism, discussing the chapter “Defining Racism” from Why are All of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Dr. Beverly Tatum. The purpose of our class discussion was to specifically discuss racism regarding what was addressed in the chapter. There were some misunderstandings and limited understanding of what racism is and who racism is against and who actually benefits from it. Quickly privilege, politics and excuses all sneaked their way into the conversation. We started to get off topic and myself and the other Black identified student kept trying to gear the conversation back to where we started. Colorism was brought up, we ended up explaining it, excuses came up we ended up apologizing for our community that we don’t speak for. We were derailed by the white students in class to then facilitate not only why it’s important to be on the topic of racism but how it deserved to have its own conversation.
Blocking racism is something that happens quite frequent not only in classrooms but in politics, books and media. Every time the conversation is brought into question I watch white family members, peers and colleagues get off topic, have no words to contribute, or give excuses. They interject with sexism, homophobia, classism, fat shaming, and many other topics relating to identity. If you are not willing to talk, discuss and acknowledge the power explicitly, you are contributing to it. Wanting to be against the system means partaking, dismantling and allowing seats to be rearranged or even evacuated. By not acknowledging the system directly, you are supporting it. I wish that the scales were tipped in favor of POC and Black humans. I wish the suffering that happened made sense, would teach us lessons, and that we had an equal playing field because of it but we don’t. And as long as the conversation cannot be held accountable on its own...if we are not against it, then we are profiting, gaining momentum and power to sustain more racism in this society.
I don’t get the luxury of not being vigilant, safe, or away from this conversation. Neither do many POC and marginalized communities. The topic of racism comes up and everyone looks at the People of Color in the room to educate everyone. I don’t typically get a choice in whether I want to sit out either. I do involve myself in this conversation because this work has to be done by someone and I’d rather enlighten people than hear it be whitesplained.
Racism was born in america, it grew up in america and it is still a well oiled system that benefits america in a way that continues to give power to owning class, middle class and lower class cisgendered white males; still provides safety, security and privilege to cisgendered white women; still keeps those safe that assimilate and make white people comfortable.
Racism only has one definition: Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by their inborn biological characteristics.
Keep talking about racism. Stop blocking the conversation. Don’t justify racism with other topics. Educate yourself. Check your privilege. Stay on topic. America, as we know it, was built on racism and continues to thrive because we all support the system in one way or another. We can’t end the homicidal and controlling institution of racism if we can’t even finish the conversation.