The Dreamer, The Believer [The Race Man Cometh]

Jose VilsonJose, Race

This is what I get for reading comments on CNN blogs. Or anywhere else but my blog anyways.

The trolls spew racism all over a post that’s simply meant to help progress the conversation about race, not get us stuck in the same epitaphs of indifference and conservatism. For once, I’d like to see people who normally settle upon their asses when it comes to their racism look a kid in the eye and say, “We know you see differences between you and him, but really, we got a lot more in common than you can see.” Instead, I’m asked to answer questions about things like presentation, speech, and general colorism.

Thus, here are some of my personal beliefs, because I don’t think responding to all those comments on Twitter / Facebook / CNN will do me any good.

1. I don’t believe in reverse racism, just like I don’t believe in reverse sexism and classism. As I’ve said far too many times, racism is a function of dominance and power. Thus, racism assumes that the person in the dominant position would be racist / sexist / classist. This doesn’t bode well for those of you in the dominant position in all three categories, but with great privilege comes great accountability.

2. Using the term “reverse racism” almost guarantees that any substantive conversation is over because it’s usually used by people who don’t want to talk about it … and used against people who don’t have the language to discuss racism’s deleterious effects.

3. Don’t mistake racism for prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. Each have different nuances that, if not used correctly, can make it seem like they all work the same way, especially in institutions.

4. This was by way of my colleagues Michael Doyle and John T. Spencer on Twitter, but it’s worth repeating: I could have chosen any picture for my CNN article, but I chose that one because I rarely use that image. New picture for new writing space. Mike and John both wondered aloud what the reaction would be to my CNN article if I used my hoodie picture from my Facebook versus the one I chose for the article. I agree to a certain extent that image is everything. That’s why I’ve opted for ties this school year 99% of the time. On the opposite side of the coin, people will see what they see. It’s why I can’t catch a cab whether I have a collared shirt or a jersey on.

In other words, people will feel what they feel regardless of what I’m wearing; the difference might be in whether they speak it aloud or not.

5. In case they did see the picture, a common reaction would be “You’re nothing like the other Blacks I see. You seem educated and well-spoken.” The issue with that is, being the exception in their minds proves the rule for everyone else in that group. If I’m considered exceptional for dressing well rather than the norm, then it assumes everyone else has no desire to dress civilly according to their standards. Right? Right.

6. We can’t not talk about race. Those that opt not to talk about race end up suppressing these inhibited thoughts about different peoples rather than confronting their own biases head-on. If we just hold hands and tweet at each other, the problems get solved in their eyes. People like it and we continue on in this cultural farce. Progress can’t be made without struggle, and we have a long way to go.

Having said all that, I tend to be hopeful. I have to be an idealist in order to accomplish anything. People call the goals unrealistic, but I’m not in the business of working within the dimensions of current realities. I prefer to think we can create new ones where we can simultaneously love one another and recognize that we’re the same and different at once.


Jose, who still can’t believe I made the front page …