Racism Drives Niggas Crazy, But Leaves White Folks Unscathed?!

And if you don’t know that its wrong to be racist? Cheryl?

I think its fascinating that folks believe that white people have “control” of racism and “choose” it, when they are swaddled in it from birth. Somehow they maintain their grip and can choose to be racist or not, like choosing silverware.

Who are these white folks? The ones I see seem incredibly compromised by their racist upbringing, even my ‘friends.’ Hangin’ by a thread, barely seeing the contours of the racism in them.

Again, when a baby sleeps in its mother’s womb and absorbs what its mother is taking in – nutrients, medicine, crack, alcohol – that child is subject to what is forcibly pumped into their system. How is that fetus to counter ALL of the myriad messages coming at them – from the womb to the tomb?!

I like the concept of the nine areas of people activity that’s put out by Neely Fuller – education, labor, law, entertainment, etc. Racism permeates every area of people activity. If that is so, its impossible for white people to sidestep their inculcation; even those of you who think that you have somehow ‘opted’ to not be racist’ or ‘escaped,’ are deeply compromised – and evidently don’t know it.

Tim Wise the anti-racist activist, tells the story of his grandmother and role model, who taught him to be a person who supports justice with action. When she was dying of Alzheimers, she began to abuse the black caregivers in her hospice. She called them twenty four different kinds of nigger. This was behaviour that she would have found unconscionable. Wise’s point was that racism is far deeper and insidious than most (white) people like to think. That white folk might think they’ve ‘overcome’ is understandable, as ‘feeling bulletproof is the white man’s perogative; however, the disease itself has more to say about it than the intellectually tap dancing white person. Racism has mad staying power.

Question: How does one come to know that they need to exercise agency to counter racism, when they are convinced that racism was something that took place during slavery? Studies show that when a person holds certain thoughts for too long, that ‘turd in the toilet bowl’ will funk up the works – mental and spiritual.

The few whites that I’ve made become friends with and who’ve made a beginning on the road to racial sanity, usually are outcasts: gay, lesbian, freaks of one variety or another; people who have been rejected by, and in response, tend to reject the larger community. This schism allows an opening; it opens their eyes to other outcasts in their midst. It can open their eyes to the processes that “other” some and make bedfellows with others. But this rejection/distance, does not mean the racism in them is cured or even arrested. That can occur – one day and one racist thought at a time. Racism may in fact be driven further underground; it may become more sophisticated, more convoluted and powerfully deceptive. I’ve seen enough leftwing racists to last a lifetime. They thought they’d found the cure, too. Their progressivism did not allay their racism at all.
How is it NOT ‘beyond the control of the individual’ who is white, to sniff this shit out? When they are ‘brainwashed’ to think, feel, believe and do racist things, how do they counter what has become their nature? And what is the legacy of that brainwashing in their craniums?

I’m sure we can agree that many of the behaviors of black people – who are the victims of racism, people living in ghettos, people victimizing each other and destroying themselves; people confronting with the bleakest educational and financial circumstances, people taught to hate themselves – have become pathological. If racism can drive people of color crazy – and if you all try to debate me on that one Heaven help us – then how is it not possible for white people to suffer a pathology based on their immersion in racism?

It almost sounds like a white supremacist argument, like somehow whites could survive their brainwashing with their ability to “choose” intact. I smell a racist rat. I say again, I’ve seen black folks driven literally insane by this culture; you mean to tell me its impossible for white people to be driven insane by an their own insane culture?

Take a good, hard look around you.

One last thing about folks’ problem with equating mental illness with racism: I’m not so attached to any term – for ANY reason – that I would fail to consider the humanity of a person, IN SPITE of their behavior. The tenor of these arguments is that somehow white racists are subhuman scumbags who don’t deserve compassion. I ain’t got no love for racism or racists, but they are human beings and deserve to be understood as such. When folks like John Walsh describe criminals as “scum” and “monsters,” how is that any different from calling other people “niggas,” “gooks” and “japs” to dehumanize them?

I can’t go along with that, despite having done so in previous incarnations.

I wanna know what my black friends especially think on this cuz honestly this debate is between me and white folks has me downright furrrrrious.

PSPeople: That said, I do believe that people can overcome their affliction.

20 Responses to “Racism Drives Niggas Crazy, But Leaves White Folks Unscathed?!”

  1. well, I’ve read this about three times now, just to make sure I wasn’t reacting improperly. I don’t believe that I am. I do believe that you have at best misread and at worst misrepresented my previous comments. I’ll try to be as clear as possible; of course you are free to disagree. Right?

    I believe that white supremacy is the default position in society, in general. I also believe that discourses of racism are enmeshed in our subconsciouses (is that a word) at a root-deep level. I believe it is possible to overcome these discourses once we are aware of them. I believe that doing so take a lot of work, and that it is an active choice. I’m not sure that white supremacy can ever be completely shed by a white person. I believe we can try, and must try, in order to be truly committed to a better world.

    However, I also believe that those who continue to practice racism once they are aware of racist discourses also make an active choice to do so. By this I mean that once white people are exposed to the falsity of racist discourses, and they continue to believe them, THAT is a choice. A choice to maintain the status quo and defend the default is still a choice. It is a choice not to do the work, not to learn more, not to challenge one’s inbred assumptions about white supremacy. On this view, the choice negates your analogy to mental illness, which is not a choice. (maybe my model of mental illness is too limited, too biologically-based, too medicalized. But there is, I am certain, a very real lack of choice involved in mental illness, a lack of reversibility.)

    That said, when people who practice racism are not exposed to anti-racist pro-equality discourses, then they continue to practice the default without it being an active choice to do so. This still isn’t mental illness – it’s ignorance, it’s brainwashing.

    people come out of brainwashing sometimes. people unlearn their ignorance. people do not get to stop being mentally ill. it’s out of their control in a different kind of way than being BORN white=being racist is out of the control of white people.

    Maybe this will help: we are all conditioned by society to be certain things. As we get older and learn about the conditioning we have undergone, sometimes we reject parts of that conditioning, and actively try to undo its effects on our lives.

    I’m certainly not arguing that there is something special about white people that makes it possible for them to overcome deep social conditioning. That is deeply miscontruing my argument. I argue that it is possible to overcome social conditioning, no matter who you are.

    so tell me if I’ve misunderstood: you don’t think people are taught racism? I take a pretty complete social constructionist stance on identity, I’m kind of “nurture” all the way, so I believe people are taught everything to do with their identities and belief systems. I don’t believe that racism becomes anyone’s “nature” – I don’t much believe in that kind of “nature”. I believe that racism is always someone’s “nurture” – and as such, it is possible to (at least partially) undo it. Difficult, but possible.

    I see what you’re saying about mental illness being caused by social conditions, and I don’t disagree. But, when you’re white in a white supremacist society, everything is set up for you to be racist. It’s simply good logical sense to be racist when you’re white (hell no, I didn’t just say that… hopefully you’ll get what I mean), because it’s how your world is constructed. Mental illness is not logical. Racism is normative – a social condition. I just don’t see mental illness in that same way. Racism may cause mental illness – but it isn’t a mental illness itself.

    so, sorry I’ve made you “furious” by disagreeing with you. I don’t however think that my disagreeing with you is a racist action, makes me racist, or shows how deeply I have been conditioned to be white supremacist. I’m not saying that I have successfully shed all the clothes of the oppressor, either. But I object to a disagreement being evidence of me practicing racism.

  2. Max,

    And if you don’t know that its wrong to be racist? Cheryl?

    I think a lot of racist white people (not necessarily your white supremicist nutcase types but your ordinarly South Philly white folks…you must have the type on the west coast), on some level do know racism is wrong. It can vary from a nagging sensation in your gut to a church-bell-loud shriek in your brain but it’s there. Whether it’s some God or other higher power or some biochemical reaction between humans that we’ve yet to understand, there is some inner voice which speaks to you when you’re being unkind, hurtful, unjust. There is an inner scale that measures the justice of everything that happens around us and alerts us when the scales are unbalanced.

    The problem is we (people of white, particularly European backgrounds) have, over centuries of dominance, developed the handy-dandy defense mechanism of being able to muffle that inner voice. We’ve become so adept at it that the voice is often now louder than the breath of a moth’s wing.

    I believe there is an inherent goodness at the heart of most people that is capable of appreciating and feeling the things that are morally wrong in life. But, as we as white children become aware of the world around us, the subtle messages come in…parents, television, school, friends. With every exposure to an unjust situation in which one tries more to go along with the Master, the moral compass inside becomes a little more rusty. Eventually, it might not work at all.

    It’s incumbent upon us to remember that knowledge of fairness, of justice, of right and wrong and to dig our way through the rubble of a lifetime’s conditioning to reach back to that moral core and lead the lives we were meant to live, in all their actuality, not through the dark curtain of the world. I don’t think, in most people, the inner voice is ever fully muzzled and it’s up to us to pull back the curtain. Some people choose not to.

    Damn, now I’ve waxed rhapsodic on you. Sorry.

    I think the majority of mental illnesses will eventually be found to have some sort of biochemical cause. And I’m not saying some stupid-ass white racists aren’t crazy. I just think that most racist behavior is more nurtured or learned and, as such, can be unlearned. People with mental illnesses don’t have the same opportunity for deprogramming.

    It almost sounds like a white supremacist argument, like somehow whites could survive their brainwashing with their ability to “choose” intact. I smell a racist rat. I say again, I’ve seen black folks driven literally insane by this culture; you mean to tell me its impossible for white people to be driven insane by an their own insane culture?

    And you’ve also seen black kids who were raised in the same environment as all those young people driven crazy who, despite it all, became whole, sane, loving, motivated, involved individuals who stayed clean, stayed safe, did the college dream. Yes, it’s possible to come through the racist sewer that is our American culture affected at varying levels by the muck you’ve trod through. Some folks are more affected, some escape much less gravely wounded and that happens all across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum.

    Sorry you’re upset, Max.

  3. “But I object to a disagreement being evidence of me practicing racism.”

    TG, if the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t don’t. I’ve engaged with 3 or 4 white people the last couple of days – all of whom disagree vehemently with me. My responses were targeted at the collective; not at any one particular person.

    BTW: I’ve not been convinced by these arguments, varied all.

    You can call the process social conditioning; what I’ve seen indicates that it has morphed into something else. It started as nurture, but appears like nature to me. The resistance, the stupor, the inability to match principle to behavior, blah, blah, blah, all looks like pathology to me.

    The unanimity of the white people in this discussion feels like a hot lead; I feel like I need to look at this concept even closer.
    Because our definitions/terms re. racism are so different, they even collide. “I don’t however think that my disagreeing with you is a racist action, makes me racist, or shows how deeply I have been conditioned to be white supremacist.” I don’t know about Canada, but if you were a white American I’d say: ‘how have you re-brainwashed yourself so thoroughly and expertly that you KNOW that racism is not in play in this or any response?

    I didn’t grow up white in a racist society so I don’t have the same impediments to seeing, conceiving all manner of things that white people do. I’m not trusting, on a gut level, how all the white folks in this discussion are running from the idea that racism is a mental illness. Today. But I’m gonna stay open and keep inquiring into it.

  4. Well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree, Max, but I don’t see the majority of racist behavior in America as being rooted in mental illness. The out is too easy. I think many people choose to maintain a constant that they know and understand (and maybe, in some ways, agree with and certainly benefit from) because it’s hard and frightening to do the self-examination needed to change.

    Which isn’t to say that black people can’t change as well. Weren’t you just writing about replacing your negativity with a more positive attitude? Don’t you think many (most?) other black folks could do the same and benefit from it?

    I think the mental illness analogy is too limiting because it basically says there’s no impetus to make positive changes, it says, “Oh well, I’m nuts and I’ll always be racist because of it.” Nope, we’ve all got a responsibility to change the world for the better if it’s within our power. I believe that not being a racist or a perpetual victim is within our power.

  5. Okay…let me qualify that…it’s possible to choose not to be racist or voctimized to a point. Certainly, the cultural indoctrination is ubiquitous and deeply ingrained. But that can change over time The more the drape is drawn back and enlightenment is shown on the racist (or defeatist) attitudes, the more it can be eliminated.

  6. you didn’t answer my question: do you think that racism is not a socially learned behaviour/attitude? that it is instead something that is encoded in white DNA, a genetic predisposition?

    If so, that is a biologically essentializing argument and I reject it outright. I do not believe in biological essentialism. It has caused way too much harm in this society – including harm to POC.

    you know, Max, you’re arguing here with white people who generally agree with you, who genuinely believe in a non-racist society, who are doing the work to eliminate white supremacist attitudes and behaviours from their lives – allies. We’re pretty open to listening to POC, and we’re pretty open to criticism of whites. We’re prime targets for what you’re trying to argue. If we don’t agree with your characterization of racism as mental illness, perhaps it isn’t because we’re still deeply entrenched in racist ideology (I’m not saying we aren’t, either). Maybe it’s because it’s a shitty analogy, and you’re wrong – or that we just plain don’t agree. We dont have to all agree on every point to get the work done. Perhaps you should be open to that possibility! I mean, if this message board was filled with black people saying the same things as the white people who have participated so far, would you take the criticism more seriously? If so, then fine. I understand that trusting white people is an issue.

    If you’re going to simply dismiss our criticisms of your analogy as embedded racism, I’m done with this discussion. Is the only way to not be racist to agree with everything you, or other black folks, have to say on the subject? cuz it seems like you’re pretty quick to dismiss criticisms of your ideas as evidence of racism. I’m not into dismissing anyone’s experiences, don’t misunderstand me. And I’m not even asking you to agree with me. But I am done with the egoism involved with your dogged determination to hold onto an analogy that is unhelpful and harmful. You’re dismissing the experiences of the mentally ill by continuing to hold onto this. I mean, look around – Sly’s not here anymore.

    And neither am I.

  7. You aren’t the only one who’s furious.

    I *never* said that white people overcome racism! White people either choose to fight racism in themselves and in society, or they don’t. Absolutely it’s a lifelong battle.

    People who are racist, sexist, ableist, etc. and who go on being superior and supporting the system, benefit from those actions. Yes, they are hurt in terms of losing their humanity, and losing possible connections to entire groups of people, but they don’t seem to care about that. Yes, they have to spout stupid things, and dance to make it work, but *they* benefit.

    I am really offended by the way you’ve discussed mental illness. It seems like you’ve compared it to something that’s learned-racism. Like Cheryl said, the biochemical element is important. With lithium, I avoid being incredibly sick. I can’t pop a pill to overcome whiteness.

    How come there’s not a difference between an illness that strikes, and something you’re taught? How come I’m not responsible for either (if I’ve read you correctly)? (Though you do say whites are responsible for racism.)

  8. Sorry, hit submit to soon.

    I’m not trying to separate racism from mental illness to dehumanize racists. For me, it’s all about responsibility. Racists are human. But they need to step up and deal with their racism. Not doing so, imo is evil behavior. People with mental illness deserve compassion and support. I’m not going to yell at them to take responsibility any more than I’d yell at any other sick person.

  9. I don’t think “choice” is being used to mean that there’s no impulse to worry about. I think it’s being used as in, say, the choice to seek treatment for substance abuse. An alcoholic will always be an alcoholic, and will never be able to opt into a casual and safe kind of drinking, but it’s possible to recover and work towards recovery. You can get into all kinds of arguments about the will to change/the circumstances that allow change, but I don’t think that “choice” automatically dismisses them.

    I understand the danger of trivializing the problem–I hang out on feminist blogs that observe Strong Patriarchy theory, fer chrissakes–but it’s possible to talk options and not ignore the myriad pressures towards racism.

    You can call the process social conditioning; what I’ve seen indicates that it has morphed into something else. It started as nurture, but appears like nature to me. The resistance, the stupor, the inability to match principle to behavior, blah, blah, blah, all looks like pathology to me.

    …But you’ve written several comments–like “swaddled in it from birth” from this post–that describe it as nurture rather than nature. Are you saying that racism is congenital, then?

    The unanimity of the white people in this discussion feels like a hot lead; I feel like I need to look at this concept even closer.
    Because our definitions/terms re. racism are so different, they even collide.

    Whose? I don’t think we disagree about the things you’ve said here.

  10. People with mental illness deserve compassion and support. I’m not going to yell at them to take responsibility any more than I’d yell at any other sick person.

    Or, alternately, dismiss them as wastes of humanity.

  11. I am new to your blog, and I must admit you have intrigued me enough to ad you as a link. That being said, I agree with you whole heartedly. I was raised in a Middle Middle class white neighborhood ironically in the middle of a very black city in Ohio. As a little girl the acceptance around my “hood” was wonderful. Tons of kiddies to play with. Invites for dinner..the whole 9. Then around 10 I was exploring with some “friends” of mine when one of the smaller children said let’s play “find the nigger”. Everyone looked at me and I had no one to look at. A girl who was a few years older than me scolded him saying you can only say that when “she’s” not here. Its not a nice word to say IN FRONT OF BLACKS….Hmmmmm.

    Some years later I worked as a Nurses Aide and we had several women like the one in your blog who would call us every shade of nigger, pickaninny, and darkie imaginable. When we would approach the family and try to explain that they would fight, and cuss the black staff (who was in the majority). They would simply say they’re parent didn’t have a racist bone in their body and we should excuse the illness. Well I beg to differ. Many times when you don’t have control of your body (or mind) things slip out that you would rather were left hidden. Don’t believe me ask a woman in labor.

    So, no matter the intent racism is like a quiet cancer that lives in all of us, affecting each of us differently. Many times whites feel because they are not on the receiving end and they are not ACTIVELY dishing it out…it doesn’t exist. To eradicate it would mean we would have to redo hundreds of years of American culture. At best it would take an equal amount of time to neutralize it, then another few hundred to begin to reverse it. I guess we should all try to start now.

  12. Later TG.

    One person’s egoism is another’s denial. Or rigidity.

    You can call it toe jam or butternut squash if you want to.

    I know what I see.

  13. Do you really still think that the problem is the description of racism as ingrained or inculcated, pervasive, defining, damaging to oneself and others? An “affliction?”

  14. Hey Lubangakene! I have been away for a few days, just hit your spot and read your discourses on racism as mental illness. As a male of African descent, I agree with you wholeheartedly, that it is a form of mental illness. This whole notion (primarily from so-called white progressives/liberals etc. – and you know my general feelings about this group), that racist behaviour is a “choice”, misses the real “live” truth of the issue. The real “live” truth that we, as Black peoples’ live and breath. For white people it “may” be seen as a “choice”, as an intellectual/rational exercise, however for most white people I come in contact with (in the “oh so tolerant Canada”) it is so ingrained within them that they “act out” their racist behaviour with even without realizing it, some even while they attempt to “control” it. AND what do we say to ourselves and each other: “dem white peoples dey crazy!” We see the craziness! We see the disfunction! AND WE ARE THE PRIMARY VICTIMS OF THEIR MENTAL ILLNESS! And as my granny used to say:” those who feels it, knows it”. Lubangakene they are incapable of seeing and/or accepting their disfunction, especially those who consider themselves “good white peoples”.

    Your point is right on when you state how Africans slaves were seen as no better than “beasts”. YET the female species of these so-called beasts, our women, were constantly raped by the superior white humans. What kind of mentality could justify this type of behaviour? What kind of mind would create a document which stated that “all men were created equal”, yet consider men of a different colour, 3/4 human? What type of mind could lynch another human being, remove their genitals and force it down their throats, while having a picnic? What type of mind would create and continue a society based on these principles and atrocities, and is yet able to sleep at night without tossing and turning, because their illusion of reality is normal in their own minds. I’ll say it loud: “THEY ARE CRAZY! THEY ARE MENTALLY ILL!”

    Racism, although for me the more appropriate term is “White Supremacy Thinking”, has made many of our people crazy, mentally ill… literally! You ask a very pertinent question: If it makes us crazy, causes mental illness in and among us, why do white people think that they are immune from the disease themselves? Is it because they consciously (or unconsciously) consider themselves mentally superior? Is it because as the primary carries of the disease, as the ones who infected “us”, they cannot see that over generations, they have infected themselves!? Do they hide behind and/or reassure themselves through their “clinical definitions” that although they suffer may suffer from depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, anorexia, etc…. racism is not something they “suffer” from, it is a “choice”, within their control… and we know how white people hate NOT being in control!

    The bottom line is this mah Bruh, if racism is a mental illness, something which is NOT within their control: THEN THEY ALL HAVE IT…. EVEN OUR SO-CALLED WHITE PROGRESSIVE/LIBERAL FRIENDS…. AND HEAVEN FORBID THAT! All the self-actualizing work they have done, all the anti-racist workshops they have engaged in and led, all the time and effort they have spent proving that they are “different” from the rest of their “kind”, especially the most vile racist of the past and present, all the choices made in an effort to be a more understanding and tolerant human being, ALL OF THAT WAS AND IS FOR NOUGHT! ZERO! WHICH ALSO LEADS ONE TO CONCLUDE THAT THERE IS A LITTLE MICHAEL RICHARDS IN ALL WHITE PEOPLE JUST WAITING TO SPRING OUT! That is why they are so surprised when their illness comes to the surface in it’s most clearest and obvious forms! They sincerely state “I don’t know where that came from ’cause really…. I’m not a racist”. They know for sure that they didn’t go through a process to “choose” to say those words and/or make that racist statement. It just came out! They had no control over it. BUT there is no way that it stemmed from being mentally ill. They will NEVER accept that.

    Walk good my brother. Once again you speak power to truth.

    Asabagna.

  15. Again: I do not disagree with the qualities you are ascribing to racism, and really am not sure where you get that impression. I don’t think that Sly does either. I don’t get the sense that most of the commenters in this and related threads who have complained about this analogy have any problem with the way you describe racism.

    The problem is the other half of this analogy: the qualities you’re tying to mental illness. People with mental illnesses do not have a moral obligation to fight their difference for our comfort; we have a moral obligation to treat them with generosity and respect. Mentally ill people are not characterized by oppressive behavior; they are themselves victims of deep prejudice. They typically are not harmful to other people; they are usually subjected to harmful treatment–in part because of the pernicious stereotype about mentally ill people being dangerous and inhuman.

    I object not because I consider this comparison an insult to the sane white people. I object because “those fuckers are crazy!” does not untangle itself from all the baggage “crazy” has always carried around. It doesn’t reverse any of it. It’s an insult to my crazy uncle, who almost died a few months ago as a result of bureaucratic malice and neglect. To my crazy friends, who stand to lose their jobs–or homes, or freedom, or lives–every time their medication stops working. To a group of crazy people who frequently have a far better perspective on the real character of the world than the “sane” people who try to destroy them.

    That’s why this analogy does not work. Yes, I’m racist. No, that’s not what “mentally ill” means.

  16. Hi. I’ve lurked around your blog for a little while, but this is my first time commenting.

    I’m sure we can agree that many of the behaviors of black people – who are the victims of racism, people living in ghettos, people victimizing each other and destroying themselves; people confronting with the bleakest educational and financial circumstances, people taught to hate themselves – have become pathological. If racism can drive people of color crazy – and if you all try to debate me on that one Heaven help us – then how is it not possible for white people to suffer a pathology based on their immersion in racism?

    I find this the poignant question you’re raising here, and it’s amusing how few commenters here have decided to wrangle with it. Instead, they’re dissecting semantics: “crazy,” “mental illness,” “biological essentialism.” Sometimes I think we spend so much time dealing in vocabulary and context clues that it’s difficult to dive into the pit of the problem. (And semantics are important in a verbal language-driven society, but I think sometimes semantic discussions can evade the larger issue at hand in most arguments.)

    As a black woman with a mother who suffers from a mental illness, I understand what you mean and how you’ve characterized things here. Anecdotally, there are times my mother participates in behaviors she has learned to be effective, and there are times when her mental illness exacerbates them to a larger and more harmful degree. The influence of the two components rarely happen in isolation, although they can do so. However, the presence of one doesn’t eradicate the presence of the other. I’m still learning to cope after years of heart-to-heart conversations. (I’ve known about her mental illness since I was 9, and I’m 21 now.)

    In light of this observation throughout my life and its relevance to this conversation:
    Whenever the privileged and the oppressed befriend each other without any discussions of privilege and power, often society’s protection of privilege, coupled with no understanding that this protection is a privilege, leads to dysfunctional behaviors that benefit the oppressor at the expense of the oppressed.

    You see it emerge in discussions of racism, like in the friendship of Michael Richards and Paul Mooney after Richards’ tirade. Society protected Richards from his remarks on lynching (the audience laughed and applauded). Society ignored Richards’ invocation of racial profiling and white supremacy (“arrest this man; he’s a nigger;” “don’t interrupt the white man”). Instead, society focused on Richards’ using nigger — a word that privileged society has decided is the be-all end-all insult for all black Americans in any context. (I say in any context because I’m all too familiar with the “why can’t I say nigga” conversations and the attempt to censor mainstream rap at the privileged’s convenience.) If you listen to the tape, the other elements met with laughter and applause, but nigger stopped the show. When people spoke to Paul Mooney, a self-described longtime friend of Richards, you noticed that Mooney placed the onus of the racist changes in Richards on himself when he decided to stop using the word. His familiarity with Richards didn’t lean into discussions of unlearning racism; he wanted Richards to get medical attention because his behaviors surpassed the level of individual choice. Richards took a typical comedic reaction to being heckled — reactive humiliation — and he evoked a painful racist history that amused others like him until he activated a key word to let them know it was wrong. Many reports catered to the idea that if the privileged would have stayed and kept laughing, nothing would have gone wrong. I think that frightened Mooney when the media asked him about it, and the buck passed from Richards to black people, as if we had to fix racism so that white people (the privileged in this case) could freely laugh again.

    I’m sorry for the length, but I’m trying to unpack this idea of a pathology in my head, and I keep thinking of examples.

  17. Sylvia, welcome! Yeah, its fascinating what folks didn’t touch in this conversation, and as you note the fact that people of color are being driven insane by racism/white supremacy merited no comment. The semantics were front and center as was the shift from the victims and perpetrators of R/WS, to the mentally ill. It was an interesting shell game.

    What you said about Mooney (and the other black folks who took it upon themselves to focus on OUR use of the N-word) is extremely important. Richards became a willing pawn in the machinations of Jesse, Rev. Al and a host of other folks. But the point that the issue went from what this white dude actually said (I have to see the video again) is co-opted by everyone, used to promote this or obscure that.

    Its clear to me that few people are willing to look carefully, deeply or continually at these and other kinds of issues – or themselves. Thanks

  18. I love this discussion,and thanks for inspiring us to think with this post FS. Hey,IMHO,racism is learned behavior based on ignorance, negative socialization, and upbringing. So is it a mental decease? I suppose one could argue that it is, because it is definitely a pathology of the mind.

    The problem with racism, is that many of “us” who suffer from it, don’t even realize we have it. As a result, when we see it or act it out in our day to day behavior, we don’t realize what’s taking place.

    And with all due respect to those who have commented on this; I understand that there are degrees to being mentally ill,and I certainly would not want to trivialize the real suffering that people with mental afflictions (black & white) go through. But to say that an individual who has problems with another human being solely because of his or her race is not sick would be wrong.

    The more we become aware of it and try to confront racism-with posts and discussions like this for instance-the far better off we will be as a country. It’s nice to see individuals from the majority race participating and posting here, and I for one, think that we all become better human beings as a result of opening up to each other.

    Peace.

  19. Good post and very interesting comment by Sylvia.

    (I am still trying to get to the bottom of all of this … keep finding more posts!!!)

  20. Ok, here’s an example: Bix Beiderbecke. Segregation made it hard for him to play with the musicians he should have. And he drank and declined, I’m sure for other reasons as well, but less racism would probably have improved the life of this white boy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: