racism Archives - The Jose Vilson



Animal Farm

When Scott McLeod sent me this tweet, I said, “What?”

No way. I know this was written back in 2008, but it’s worth re-reading because of the recent conversations about race, and specifically, the Trayvon Martin proceedings. The way the conversations have gone, it’s almost as if many people (many of them conservative Whites) have a “race fatigue,” meaning they think we’ve achieved post-racism as we know it. People who argue this want to tell President Barack Obama to shut up about race already. No longer do we have to work within the confines of race dialogue, and, in their arguments, believe everyone falls in one of three categories:

  1. They hate everybody else, not just people from a specific race / class / gender.
  2. They don’t see color, just people a.k.a. color-blindness.
  3. They perpetuate race discussion by continually talking about it.

I’ll address these backwards because the arguments only deserve a few lines.

#3: Talking about class doesn’t actually perpetuate the stratification of the poor and the rich. Our institutions do. Having conversations about class actually help others become well informed, organized around the issue, and feel empowered enough to talk to their representatives to work on that thing. Oh, and occupy Wall Street, but that’s another point altogether.

In the same way, race isn’t just in our minds. It’s at the heart of our Constitution, and our amendments, while helpful, don’t go far enough to create true equity for all. Our institutions are racially flawed, and that’s a huge issue.

#2: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism without Racists kills this argument rather deftly. It’s a good read. More importantly, the research shows that, when you dig deeper into people whose attitudes sound like #2, you start to dig into behaviors that have been codified towards racism. This works in the form of privileges and perks that society affords Whites. Simple.

#1: By now, you should see that racism isn’t just discrimination, bigotry, or prejudice, three things that any race, class, or gender can be. None of these are racism. Racism works as a power element, a dynamic that exists in any country where the social construct determines that country’s favorite de juris or de facto.

Trayvon Martin’s “innocence” is irrelevant in this. Even if people can make the argument didn’t have anything to do with race – a stretch -, the implications for what happens shortly thereafter does. Racism isn’t going away until we can work towards true equity across all lines. We have to call the institutions that stand in the way of that, and dissuade the ignorance with nuanced dialogue.

Until then, Buchanan’s “silent majority” doesn’t need a voice. Buchanan is to Squealer as Silent Majority is to Napoleon, and for too many of us, these discussions turn us into an animal farm. Let’s Snowball this.


p.s. – I like how Pat thought Blacks were brought here, rather than enslaved.


Quvenzhané Wallis on the cover of Entertainment Magazine

Quvenzhané Wallis on the cover of Entertainment Magazine

I have a confession: I’ve never seen Beasts of the Southern Wild. As a relatively new parent, I don’t always have the time or the funds to make it out to the movies very often.

But that’s not the purpose for my essay because, when it comes out on Netflix, I know I have to watch. I, along with thousands of others, took issue with the Onion’s satirical tweet calling Quvenzhané a cunt. I “got” it. She’s such a sweet, little, innocent girl that the joke was made as a reflection of the speaker and not of Quvenzhané herself. In the context of the lukewarm Seth Farlene jokes at the Oscars and Django Unchained, this might have seemed innocuous to some.

It wasn’t. I found it disgusting.

In fact, I found it both sexist and racist, but for the purposes of this essay, I’ll speak to the race piece, especially for my fellow educators still in the sanitized bubbles of ed-tech and, now, anti-testing.

For a minute, it reminded me of A Time To Kill, where Matthew McConaughey’s character has to explain to a jury of his peers why Samuel Jackson’s character had to kill the man mainly responsible for raping his daughter. He does so by recreating the situation for the panel and ending with re-imagning the abused girl as white.

After that, the jury had no choice but to acquit. It was a perfect ending, and honestly, I smiled after having watched it for the fifth time in as many months.

Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if this also works to perpetuate the idea that the girl as “Black” is only three-fifths worth her humanity than the girl as “White.” The notion that a Black girl might deserve to get raped while a White girl should never get touched speaks volumes about where we were and where we are.

Fast forward to this conversation, with people still wondering why jokes like these still have people of color in an uproar. It’s not that people of color are humorless. If anything, we aren’t a monolith just like any other group of people, however you decide to group us.

It’s that we expect the same treatment as the next person when it comes to our humanity. We need to see the Qvenzhane Wallises, Leonard Coopers, Amandla Stenbergs, and Gabrielle Douglases of the world as well as other kids of color as fully human, fully worth your admiration, without prejudgment. Until we can embrace each others’ humanity because of our minimal differences, we will continue to have this deep-seated angst and frustration.

As the apology from The Onion came out, people wondered aloud whether this was racial at all, whether the joke had any merit in the race-o-meter. The people who did attempt at shutting down these conversations often forget that privilege is also the ability to call something not racist just because they said so. In the midst of all this, the joke doesn’t get made about child actors Dakota Fanning or Anna Paquin in their days. Maybe people don’t find jokes that aren’t actually about them very funny whereas jokes about Quenzhané are.

No amount of explaining away the race issue can take that away from people whose life experience has worked in similar fashion. Blessings to Ms. Wallis who looks strong on her own two feet. If we can all look at our children as needing our support, care, and love on their own paths to success, then humanity will come one step closer to seeing as others as equal.

Until then, I propose we delve deeply into our own understandings of the way we look at our kids, and see them for their entirety, and not the caricatures we’ve created for them.

Jose, who has had enough whitesplaining for the day …


Truth Said In Jest

by Jose Vilson on February 19, 2008

Avenue Q

Things to Keep In Mind When Attending a Movie / Play:
1. Please turn off your cell phone when you come in the theater. I mean, as soon as. Especially if you know you have one of those annoying ringtones of some random celebrity telling you to pick up the phone. Morons who violate will tempt this young man to dropkick your piece of technological annoyance.

2. Shut up. I mean, really, shut up. It’d be one thing if you’re supposed to interact with the film, but this is not Blue’s Clues; it’s Definitely, Maybe, and I don’t need you to tell the whole movie theatre how corny a romantic comedy is! The absolute gall! The audacity! Go home now, ladies! The Knicks are only a couple of blocks away; you can make all the noise you want over there.

3. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. If you can’t, then you skipped 1st grade. Please take a refresher course. When I’m watching a musical like Avenue Q, I don’t need you spreading your disgusting viruses all over the back of my head and neck, you leprous sore. I never had to take a shower so badly after that.

Speaking of which, my girl and I saw Avenue Q, a great musical using Jim Henson-type puppets. I hear it’s popular, and even won a Tony. The premise of the whole musical is that … well, people may not necessarily have a purpose, even with all the college degrees and jobs we accumulate. We all have some redeeming qualities that will somehow lead us to a happy ending. Overall, I found it fun and well put-together. At some point, we all forgot that there were humans actually controlling the puppets and doing their voices.

One part of the musical that bothered the both of us to some extent was the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” I knew they were going to be raunchy, and offensive, so I didn’t mind the humor much. But my girl kinda stayed silent while the rest of the predominantly White crowd (and I) laughed, especially when one of the actors quipped “Mexican busboys should learn to speak English!”

She wondered, “Are all these people laughing because they’re uncomfortable, or because they really hold these views about us? Some of the people in the audience, you can tell, really believe what they were saying.”

I laughed a little, because the leper behind me, with his venomous racket in back of me, definitely believed it, laughing so hard, he might have come all over himself. I suspect that others at the show, though, might not necessarily be racists, but products of racial prejudice, and thus act out in ways they might not even be conscious of. For instance, you ever notice how many people take everything Dave Chappelle says seriously and ignore everything Cornell West says? Yes, it’s two different ways of delivering the same message, but they’re both critical of the establishment in their own ways. Many people don’t know how to handle issues except if there’s that giveback of entertainment. “Yes, I’ll talk about how prejudice I am, but only if you promise to make me laugh or at least attempt to.”

Maybe that’s the point of the song, anyways. They wanted to show people just how racist they could be, and prove it by making them laugh at racist ideas. And what’s worse is that, during the jokes, I laughed at the apparent racism, from the Gary Coleman shtick to Christmas Eve (your average Asian-American lady stereotype). Not because I believed them, but because when people make such egregiously ignorant comments like the one above, I can’t help but laugh. Kinda like watching the Faux News Network.

what do you think?

jose, who will definitely write tomorrow to make up for my missing Monday …