2016 has arrived and with it the promise of new opportunities to change and improve ourselves individually and collectively. Something that we could all work on is combating racism in all its nefarious forms. There are way too many examples of how racism functions currently and how it changes depending on who is on the receiving end of the racism (for example, I don’t have any concerns about being sexually assaulted by an overzealous, power mad and racially biased cop like Daniel Holtzclaw – but Black women do have that concern), but since this is our annual rebirth of the new year, why not imagine what life could be like if white people in America acted like a Romanian man did when a friend of mine visited Romania for the first time. She’s a Black woman in pharmacy school, but she was extremely surprised when there was heightened attention seemingly across the country because a Black person was there. They hadn’t seen many if any Blacks, and she was even interviewed on the news (presumably to help the city she was in see what a real life Black person looks and sounds like). While enjoying this newfound position as Black ambassador to Romania and having a couple of drinks with some locals, a semi-drunk guy ambled over to her and made a joke in poor taste (at best), saying that my friend is a descendant of Kunta Kinte and laughing drunkenly.
At this moment, she’s only got a handful of options – laugh it off awkwardly to avoid an international incident; tell the drunk man how he’s being offensive with his poor joke (especially if he wasn’t trying to be offensive); or set it off in the tavern and hope to slide out safely amidst the chaos. Turns out there was another option that she couldn’t choose but was chosen for her: a friend of the drunk man SLAPPED the drunk man and told him it was rude to say that to my friend. Flat out slapped him like Charlie Murphy and Rick James. The drunk man got slapped and corrected and then APOLOGIZED to my friend for his error. Had she slapped him, it could’ve set off a dangerous course of events for all involved. Because it was one of his own that challenged him to do better, his response was temperate and appropriate, though it’s still doubtful that he learned not to say that joke in general, just not in front of Black people.
Imagine a world where white people slap the shit out of each other when they see or hear one of their own making anti-Black racist statements or espousing false, damaging, racist beliefs about Black people and Black culture. Wouldn’t that be a grand place where socially damaging behaviors are corrected within the society as opposed to legal means? We can see it now….
At the family picnic:
Bob: Those fucking nigg…
Joe: Bob! Do better!
Bob (holding his face): You’re right, Joe. Sorry about that.
At the dinner table:
Sue: Daddy, a Black person was our substitute teacher.
Bob: Those fucking nigg…
Jill: Damnit Bob, can’t we go through one dinner without this?!
Bob (holding his face): Sorry, Jill. Didn’t mean it?
Sue: Daddy, you have work to do.
At the office:
Dale: Bob, have you seen Johnson? I thought he went on break over an hour ago but I can’t find him and have a project I need his help with.
Bob: You don’t need the help of a fucking nigg…
Johnson: Who the fuck you calling a nigger?
Dale: Wasn’t me, but I slapped him for his rudeness.
Bob (holding his face): Alright, I said it. I SAID IT! You happy now?
Johnson: I’d be happier if you didn’t need to keep getting slapped, the rest of the office has been slapfree for months now.
Dale: Gonna have to report you – you know the rules, if I had to slap you the boss finds out.
Bob: Dale, you don’t have to…seriously. You know the boss will fire me! I’ve learned my lesson! After 6 slaps over the past 2 months, I can’t take another hit to my record!
Johnson: You mean you can’t take another hit to your face. You know if the boss keeps you, you get vengeance slaps right?
Bob (still holding his face):……….
Dale: I’m going to ask the boss not to fire you but let him know I slapped you for your racism.
Bob: Dale, just have him fire me. The vengeance slaps that Justin got give me nightmares.
Johnson: Nah, nah patna! You’re not getting away that easily. Tell the boss that Johnson, the guy Bob got slapped over, has no problems with him staying on provided he’s qualified for vengeance slaps.
2 weeks later at the office:
Johnson: Bob, how’s it going?
Johnson: No response? You don’t feel like talking much today?
Johnson: Those vengeance slaps were a motherfucker, weren’t they?
Johnson: Ah, the sweet sound of silent racism.
(Bob gets up and walks out the room).
I know this isn’t the reality of 2016, 2017, 2040, or 2100 (but wouldn’t this be an incredible Black Mirror episode?). But the idea of self-correction is what many people of color are calling for when they tell people to go do their research. Go self-correct rather than living obtusely thinking that because it’s not illegal to be racist you haven’t done something wrong or that Black people are whining when they claim racism manifests in a host of different ways. If Black people had to slap white people every time they overstepped the racist line (and white folks have been habitual linesteppers) our collective arms would have fallen off by now. To be sure, Blacks and many white people have been offering verbal slaps (and some physical ones) for a long time now in the face of this problem, but Black folks’ arms are tired (and like Killer Mike recently said, white folks seem to be rather hard-headed regarding these issues) so now it’s time to make the call for all white allies and supporters of ending anti-Black racism to do something brave that’ll help everyone out:
Slap your buddies, family members and colleagues when they cross that line. If you don’t know what it takes to cross that line, stop and make sure you’re not the habitual linestepper referenced earlier. If you do, then get that equality pimp hand strong and put it to good use. The world can’t wait on you not to slap someone.
Happy New Year, folks.