Calm down and be rational.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around … when yellow will be mellow … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

This little song that I’m singin’ about,
People you know it’s true
If you’re black and gotta work for a living,
This is what they will say to you,
They says, “if you was white, should be all right,
If you was brown, stick around,
But as you’s black, hmm brother, get back, get back, get back”

Lowery’s benediction was almost completely awesome.  It was lovely and heartfelt and poetic.  And then he had to go and say something that, even assuming he had the best of intentions, was a stupid thing to say.  Whoever approved his speech should have ex’d that.  It might not have been racist; I’m going to guess he was trying to say that the days when that old rhyme was written are coming to an end, or maybe he was mocking those stereotypes.

It was offensive.  It’s generally not a good idea to abbreviate a person to their skin color.  And Lowery of all people knows this.  But something that another person will mock you for can be something that you take pride in.  Gay Pride, Black Pride, Girl Power. 

So even while it was offensive, I didn’t take offense.  Lowery doesn’t know me, so he can’t insult me.  He doesn’t know who I am and he wasn’t talking to me.  What’s the saying; nobody can insult you without your permission?  That’s not right…  But you get the idea.

The fact is that there is still discrimination.  There is still racism.  There are still whites who think they are better than their neighbor with darker skin (my parents-in-law are among this group of whites); there are still places where all the events in his poem are still a problem (except I admit I don’t know what the mellow yellow thing was all about). 

But speaking as a white person, I do not feel guilt or shame by association simply because another white person might be racist.  Their issues are their own.  I do my best to do what is right every day, and if someone wants to put me into a group and check off a box labeled “non-Hispanic White”, I don’t really care.  It’s nothing to do with my identity.

So to anyone who wants to express their indignation and outrage at how offensive Lowery was, I say, shut up and grow up.  Stop being so thin-skinned.  You’re only showing your fear of being considered racist; you’ve never been racist and how dare he when you never owned a slave and he hurt your feelings.  Get over it.  You might be right about Lowery being offensive and even racist, but that doesn’t mean you should take it personally.  He doesn’t know you and you don’t know him.  So calm down and be rational.

To anyone who wants to say that this is an example of Black entitlement playing the victim, demanding reparations, taking handouts and living on the public dollar; to those who assume that a poor black man is lazy while a successful one only has it because of affirmative action and doesn’t deserve it; to people who complain about how hard they have to work and how many jobs they’ve been qualified for but were given to a minority candidate… well, that last one is interesting.  But these people are racist.  They may have good points about the unfairness of affirmative action, and I’m sure some people on welfare are lazy.  But they all aren’t; and all black people certainly aren’t on welfare simply because they’re lazy.  And then these people turn around and say Lowery’s over-generalization about White people is racist.  They would know, wouldn’t they?  At any rate, these people can’t be reasoned with.  They don’t care if the unfair treatment they face is no less or greater than other people’s.  They just know it is their unfair treatment and therefore it is inexcusable.  And to start showing your racism with this kind of talk just because an old Black man dared to suggest that White people are ever wrong… Calm down.  Be rational.

To those who would say Lowery should be held accountable, you are right.  Obviously.  An apology would be nice– not simply because he hurt people’s feelings, but because he should show that he understands he said something wrong and divisive, and because he caused the only real bad note at an otherwise wonderful inaugural celebration.

To say that Obama should be held accountable because he dared to laugh at an old Civil Rights War veteran’s joke… Calm down.  Be rational.  Haven’t you ever laughed at race humor?  We laugh to take the sting off; we laugh because they are sometimes true.  On the other hand, I can’t laugh at sexist jokes although I understand that they are witty.  So I get that some white people aren’t amused by Lowery.  But it’s okay.  Just say you aren’t amused.  Calm down and be rational.

So let’s say an old black man is racist.  So were all my grandparents.  They didn’t have it right.  And the day when everyone– white or not– does embrace what is right has not yet come, and Lowery’s prayer is valid.

Even if Lowery’s words were divisive, you can choose unity. Don’t let him tell you what to do.  Just roll your eyes at another racist old man and get over it.

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3 Responses to “Calm down and be rational.”

  1. Sisyphus Fragment Says:

    All great points. My girlfriend is black and up until recently I would get really upset when someone said something racist, usually on Xbox Live, because it’s full of racist kids. She would just laugh at me being so flustered and say “get over it, I don’t care, they don’t know me”. I think her way of handling it is much better than me yelling at 14 year olds over the internet.

  2. teambaby Says:

    I think my generation (30somethings) are very concerned with getting racial sensitivity just right, though even we would give more wiggle room to a black guy who fought for civil rights as opposed to an ignorant, entitled white person.

    I think maybe the now-teenage generation is onto something pretty crazy, where past stereotypes and inequities of race and sexuality are–getting kind of irrelevant. And humorous.

    Exhibit A concerns my 18-year-old niece. She is biracial, of Caucasian and Japanese descent. She and her new roommate apparently hit it off right away, because soon after school started, they were posting pics on Facebook and writing silly, snarky comments to each other. Several of the (white) roommate’s comments were outrageous to me: On a photo of their whiteboard, plastered with the words “panda live here,” her roommate commented “That’s you, [X]!” On another where [X] wrote “if only she would clean” about the roommate, the roommate responded “if only you were not a horrible little asian bitch.” Another: “when you picked up this package you looked like a “fresh-off-the-boat” asian. oh wait, you are. my b. PANDA CARRY BOX TO ROOM. jow jing puta.” Another: “there are those fucking rice cakes again.. just calm your asian addiction down, please. it’s annoying enough to LIVE with and now you’re posting it on facebook for the word to see. dumb bitch.” This was within a few weeks of getting to know one another!

    What can I say? X continued to post merrily, roommate and other friends too, and the comments still haven’t been taken off her Facebook account, so I’m guessing all is cool. I can only imagine the shitstorm this would have caused at my school, where someone was allegedly expelled for shouting “fag!” across the campus at a gay student.

    It’s not like I’m not still offended by it, but at the same time, some part of me is like, Wow. Are racial differences so insignificant that this kind of joking can go on, quite publicly? That’s kind of awesome. I mean, my black girlfriend and I joke back and forth (reference has been made to her “little chocolate face,” a quote we overheard from a well-meaning little old lady), but that was after dating quite awhile.

    Sorry for rambling; I don’t think I made any sense. I just think it’s fascinating how different generations view race. I mean, the guy who said that about white people, he had to fight white authority for his basic rights, so I give him a little leeway. I’m in a hypersensitive generation, so I don’t give people my age much leeway at all. The new kids? I guess if they just see race as a joke that doesn’t really have anything to do with their personalities or friendships, that could be pretty fucking sweet. (A lot to extrapolate from one Facebook friendship, I know. :P).

  3. notreallyalice Says:

    Thank you for your thoughts teambaby! I remember telling my [Filipino] friend that he was “so Asian” when he was telling me about how he wanted to get those undercarriage lights for his car, or around his licence plate. We were both laughing but I think I laughed harder. =/ I don’t want to be one of those people who tell “I’m not racist, but…” stories, but damn if it wasn’t a stereotypically Asian thing to say! LOL… Anyways I always say “Life is too short to be ashamed of the things you love.” I hope he got those lights 🙂

    And Sisyphus… WoW is probably not as bad as X-box live games, but I’ve had my fill of idiots on teamspeak…

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