“It’s a Political F**king Strategy”: Covert Racism
By: Queen Travers
Meet Christin Montgomery. Christin is a 29 year old wife and mother, studying history at the University of Colorado, Denver. After receiving her degree, Christin is looking to further her education and receive an advanced degree in library and information sciences so that she can be an archivist and one day work for the national archives or the library of congress. Christin is also a very good friend of mine; we even affectionately refer to one another as Twin because at a surface level we have quite a bit in common.
Usually Christin and I go back and forth about our shared love of Hip Hop music and tie dye tee-shirts. In the past we’ve had a talk or two about race relations, but we’ve never delved very deep into the Black diaspora or even scratched the surface until recent. It caught me by complete surprise when I received a Facebook message from my friend in the midst of posting and sharing articles centered on the recent tragedy of Freddie Gray, a black man killed while in police custody in Baltimore City. After reviewing our conversation, I think it may be beneficial to share.
Christin: As a white woman in 2015, what are some of the things that you could tell me that I should be doing for the black community? Be brutally honest. Tell me white people are f*cked up… whatever it is that you think. I want to hear your perspective. I respect you. Not only as a person, but as the strong black woman that you are. I feel this immense guilt for what my privileged white society is doing. What can I do? And I am trying to say that you being black and a person are not separate, but I wanted to tell you that I recognize that as your identity, and love you for all the parts of you.
Me: Christin upon first reading this I was seriously at a loss for words and almost cried. But here is what I would like to say, White people aren’t f*cked up; white people who deny the existence of their privilege and pretend that we live in a post racial society because we have a black president, one who they continuously disrespect publicly, are f*cked up. In 2015, passive racism is more dangerous than blatant racism because even a lot of black people will either not see or more likely ignore that Jim Crow is still alive and well.
What can be done for the Black community in 2015 is acknowledging the damages of systematic racism (mass incarceration, the war on drugs/families, school-to-prison pipeline, a lopsided housing and job market, etc.), for white people to stop victim blaming and for the root issues to be addressed and not overshadowed by the media.
What can be done by you specifically is what you’re already doing. Educating yourself on your history and accepting and acknowledging it so that it’s not repeated (at least not by you). I know white guilt is just as real as white privilege, but as long as you are fighting to be a part of the solution you shouldn’t feel any guilt.
Christin: Well, history doesn’t lie about what we have done to the black community. I’ve written a paper on covert racism this semester and [to say it was] eye opening… [is an] understatement. It’s a political f*cking strategy.
Me: It’s THEE political f*cking strategy that allowed a black man to be on the presidential ballot and elected twice. Passive racism is all the rage these days, instead of calling someone the N-word or gripping on to your purse tighter when one of those N-words are too close for comfort, now what you do is make statements like “you sure speak well…”, “Oh! You graduated from college, are you first generation?”, “This sure is a diverse office/ organization/ classroom”, or by dragging a black man through the mud and calling him a monster when he does what was taught/done to him and disciplines his child by beating him and then turn around [and] praise a mother who is caught on camera by CNN beating her son for participating in a not so peaceful protest. [It’s] Praising a “negro” when he is docile and meek, complimenting him on his intelligence, articulation, dress, yet calling him a thug (which we all know is code for n*gger) when he is angry or shows aggression or discomfort. Covert racism is so dangerous. And I don’t mean “You” personally.
Christin: I know what you mean. After spending nearly 4 weeks researching that paper and then writing it hit me, man you can’t run from it and I’m white…
I have the luxury of walking away from it. Which was what appalled me so much, the fact that a luxury of walking away from discrimination EXISTS AT ALL. I appreciate your candor and opinions and criticism. I really do.
I’m not here to just complain about the state of affairs. I want to do something.
I’m trying my hardest to finish my degree and go all the way so that when I speak, I can speak from authority. It will be Dr. Christin, and my people damn well better listen.
Me: But what’s worse than white people not acknowledging their privilege and the harms of systemic racism, is the black people that pretend as if it doesn’t exist or that we’re past it or that WE, the Black community, should be the ones to solve a problem that we didn’t create for ourselves. It’s horrible.
Christin: It’s a cycle of denial, I’ve noticed. Sometimes, I wonder why some of the black people I encounter deny that it exists, but I feel… I’m not in that community. I don’t live that life, so I can’t speak on what they know. That’s sort of why I approached you. Open dialogue, man. It’s the only way.
ME: You know how when you were younger, like elementary/middle school aged and there was a new girl in school or in your class and you didn’t necessarily like her but all of your friends did so you never said anything and you pretend to be her friend too so that everyone else will continue to like you and be your friend? You deny your own intuition, feelings, and morals to be accepted by the larger “superior” group…that’s it, that’s why.
Christin: That explanation makes a lot of sense. The conversation was cut short by Christin’s need to finish studying for her finals.
I know not every White person will be as open minded or feel as guilty as Christin, and this conversation is not an easy one to have, but I’m so glad it happened. That it’s happening.