Speaking Impeccably – The Words You Use, Their Meaning, and How You Use Them

With the (not so) recent events in the news reaching global levels through social media and headlines, I thought it was time I discuss word usage and semantics on all sides; the media, law enforcement, protesters, social media activists, etc. There has been an irreverent use of terminology that has made all who are covering these situations look like heroes to some and complete asses to others. Before I begin I feel the need to make mention that this piece is solely my opinion. This is based on no factual evidence other than my own knowledge and experience, to whatever extent that may reach. With that said, class is now in session.

Racism

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines this word as:

  1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.

Cultures all over the world experience racism for one reason or another but in America we typically pin it on two specific ones; white versus black. This is, impart, due to the very long history of oppression imposed on blacks by whites in this country. Another reason the word racism is relegated to the black and white culture is because these two have placed themselves on the extreme ends of the spectrum, naturally. We, whether its from ignorance or refusal or what have you, don’t initially see injustices toward other cultures or beliefs in this country as racism. We only see it as social injustice. When we hear racism in the news, we automatically ask how blacks were oppressed by whites. Furthermore, when we hear racism, we ask who did whites oppress this time. That’ll come later. Racism is a powerful word that holds a heavy history with it, as far as this country is concerned, so we’ve taken ownership of this word as far as how we describe injustice done to us as a whole. 


Reverse Racism 

Get the fuck out of here if you think this phrase is in anyway an argument for how an oppressed culture responds to a culture who feels superior. When you use this phrase, you are implying that one culture is stepping out of their oppression to disrespect Massa, the culture who seemingly thinks they are superior. By comparison, believing in reverse racism in today’s culture is like blatantly disregarding the jewish population for being pissed at the actions of nazi Germany. It’s moot to say that an already oppressed culture is being racist toward a majority. Individually and as a group, racism is racism. There is no reversal. You have to understand that history is not forgotten. You do understand that history is not forgotten. We remember 9/11, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Fourth of July, The Alamo. Why can’t we remember slavery? Why must we get over it so that every time a black person expresses distrust in the system, its reverse racism? They’re not being racist. They’re not oppressing you or trying to overthrow you. You are not in fear of your future in this country. Your feelings are hurt. If all that was hurt in the black culture and its history were its feelings, we wouldn’t be having these discussions today.


#BlackLivesMatter

Early on and in the wake of this uprising to end police brutality, institutional racism, and overall inequality towards black people the #BlackLivesMatter battle cry was born. While it was quiet at first and, eventually, sort of died out, it was reborn quickly after the obvious disregard of black lives by local and state law enforcement in the country. We all remember the race for equality and the black power movement of the 60’s and 70’s and the battle cry “Black Power”. While it was clear that, as a minority, blacks of the time would not take over the country and topple what reigned supreme, it was an exclamation of their importance to society and the American culture. We were here, we weren’t going anywhere, get the hell over it. #BlackLivesMatter stems from the same idea. This hashtag is not exclusive. Our exclamations and reaffirmations have never excluded another culture or put them below our own. Let’s backtrack. There will always be radicals in every social reform that take the movement to damn far. No one’s here for them. With the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, blacks and other people who got it around the country were simply stating that these lives matter as well as and as much as anyone else’s. We are not denying the importance of anyone’s life or placing one life over another. It’s a simple reminder. Why is #AllLivesMatter not the battle cry? Because all lives are not threatened. All lives are not at risk of being cut short because their threatening skin color. It is already implied that white lives matter. No other race or culture is fighting the battle of who they are versus who they think we are at such a level that they are being executed in the streets. Here’s why retorting with #WhiteLivesMatter; anytime shit like this is said it is said in exclusivity. It means what it says. There are no other inclusions to that statement. Don’t say it in response to #BlackLivesMatter. Just say it in your day to day life. If you’re going to be racist, go full racist. Don’t mask or half ass it.


Race Baiting 

This is a phrase that has become so ambiguous over the years that it doesn’t even have a real meaning anymore. From what I’ve gathered “race baiting” is creating discourse against a person or entity by insinuating that an action or actions performed by said person(s) are racially charged, be it blatant or inconspicuous. Listen, while in this time of revolt we need to call a spade a spade and weed out the bullshit. You cannot hide behind this phrase and accuse anyone of race baiting. I look at this phrase as a defense mechanism and a crutch. It’s definition, depending on the person using it, is either meaningless or muddled. Quit this phrase all together.


Cultural Appropriation

Let’s not deny that this is alive and well. You see and hear it all day. A lot of you are even willful participants. From wearing durags and cornrows to rapping and twerking. It is not to say that these are by black people, for black people, We do all of these things with reason. They serve purpose in our culture. It is those outside of our culture that have turned these staples into stereotypes and a joke in some instances. Our girl Amanda Stenberg, at the tender age of 16, has nailed the concept and description of cultural appropriation in a recent YouTube post. There’s nothing more to be said after you’ve watched her video.


Stop Acting Like a Criminal and You Won’t Get Treated Like One

This phrase… this ridiculously patronizing phrase… Listen, I understand the intent behind this piece of shit string of words but here’s why this’ll get you clocked; you are generalizing that we are all walking up and down the streets like banshees. You’re implying that we are deserving of this maltreatment by law enforcement officials. When you say this you are simply down playing a real struggle for a group of people throughout this country as a petty annoyance of your time. For those fortunate enough to not “fit the description” every time you walk out of your house I don’t expect you to fully understand the brevity of this current oppression. Please open your mind though and think about the last time a black person stepped onto the elevator with you or walked past or behind you on the street. What ran through your mind? Hopefully, most of you didn’t assume the worst and breath a sigh of relief when what you thought was the inevitable didn’t happen. For some, the sight of a black man is an instant threat to safety. When that “some” are enforcers of the law, shit gets hairy. In my adult life I have had questionable run ins with police officers. I am not one to cause trouble, commit intentional crimes, sell drugs, what have you. I’m an educated, hard working, career oriented individual who is apparently saddled with a skin color that screams threatening. While I don’t wear baggy clothes or specific colors, I don’t consider choices in style a crime or death sentence. When you tell someone to stop acting like a criminal and you won’t get treated like one, you are ignoring the idea of racial profiling. Stop and frisk, anyone?


I Don’t See Color

As well intentioned as the notion of not seeing color when you interact with people, it is absolutely a misguided idea. You need to see color. You need to see and understand the differences in treatment of people based on their color. This phrase, with all of its well intended measure, is very elementary. This idea is for children, those unmediated by the world at large. Though we can learn a lot of lessons from them, this isn’t one. For those with children you know, or have dreaded, the day that they ask why that man is brown. At some point color is obvious, and that’s okay. Instead of diagnosing yourself as colorblind, acknowledge the differences in melanin. Now, before I get anymore hate mail, I will say that I sort of understand that this phrase means exactly what it isn’t saying. When people say that they don’t see color, they’re saying that the color of someone’s skin doesn’t influence how they interact with that person. The fault in that, though, is that in our current state of duress you have to interact differently. Blacks, darker hued people, still aren’t welcomed in some areas of the country. We are still pushed out of our own communities through gentrification and pushed further out from epicenters of America. Understand this and know why your darker colored friends are uneasy in certain situations. We, as black or darker skinned people, have a different understanding of how the world works and when you exclaim that you don’t see color it feels as though you don’t see us.

Through the past few years there have been plenty of questionable and viable things alike said both in the public eye and amongst friends. I’m confident that we all want to see change. We all want to walk right up to the sun, hand in hand. When in our emotions, though, we must be careful of what we say. In these difficult times of race relations, sensitivities to what is said on the news, in the work place, amongst friends is high. Instead of getting so comfortable that you forget to consider what another is going through, strike up conversation and educate yourselves. Don’t rely so much on the media that’s paid to sway you. Instead, do some research of your own. While I was inclined to post links to different media outlets which are unbiased and therefore freelanced, I’d rather you make the leap and do your own discoveries.

This is a special thanks to all that are understanding of these times in black America. Thank you for acknowledging the problem and pledging to educate yourself and become an addition to the solution.