So I did something stupid about 6:30 today. Watching the Titans-Jets game I referred to young Jets QB Geno Smith as “boy.” I did so in the heat of the game, and thinking of his age. I was not thinking of his race at all. That, of course, is the problem. Because race does come into the equation when words like that are being bandied about. It is a terrible epithet that has been hung around the necks of Men of Color, both young and old, for centuries by white folk to infantalize them. I was wrong and deserve no cookies for acknowledging that.
Who does deserve some credit, though, is my nephew, for having the courage to call me out for it. I was at once ashamed of myself and proud of him. It can’t be easy, even for a particularly contrary young man, to call out an adult he loves and (I assume) respects. He did it just the same. He recognized my thoughtlessness for what it was, racism, and spoke up. We need more of that, and we see more of that with every passing generation. Hopefully he has the guts to call out his peers as well.
I am increasingly confident that he will, and that it will catch on. It is vital that it does because as much as we older folk would like to think racism is behind us, or at least we older white folk did. That is why we latched on to the false hope of “post racial” America, but the kids did not buy it. They knew, and still know what time it is, and it is time to wake up.
It is time for all allies, obviously myself included, do stop riding our “good intentions” and recognize we have work to do. We have to work within our communities and within ourselves. We have to show the same gumption the kids do and call each other out and more importantly, be open to being called out. We have to do that because it is way too easy to fall into the same old routine. It is way too easy to say we are doing good enough when indeed we are not. The only time we will be able to say we are is when we finally get our heads, all of our heads right. Fortunately we have the kids to help us do just that.
- Duke Professor: White People Are As Racist As Ever (thecollegefix.com)
- “The Color of Color-Blindness: Whites’ Race Talk in ‘Post-Racial’ America” (latinosatdartmouth.wordpress.com)
- When will White people learn not to tell People of Color about Racism?! (hatterya.wordpress.com)