I want y'all to do me a favor. Imagine you're walking down the street, minding your own business. Perhaps you're alone or with a group of acquaintance. You might be on your way to a date, running errands, or just out enjoying the day. Suddenly...WHAM. Somebody slaps you in the face. Your eyes are watering. The whole side of your face is throbbing. Is that blood? Oh yeah, your lip is busted. Needless to say, you're going to be a bit tender for the next couple of days. You turn to the person who was swinging.
"Hey! You just hit me."
"Oh did I? I was just kidding around, I didn't mean to hurt you. Let's just forget about it."
"Wait, what?! You just hit me."
"Look buddy, I already said that I didn't mean to hurt you. What do you want me to do? Prostrate myself on the altar of your bruised sentiments?!"
"No asshole, I want you to take personal responsibility for my bruised cheek."
And now there's a back and forth. People begin to notice and factions are made. There's a passionate, open debate right there in the middle of the street.
"Look, I was here the entire time. You can't go around thrashing like an beached whale and refuse to take responsibility for assaulting people."
"Oh its not as serious as all that. We shouldn't call it assault, they didn't mean to hurt the person. Besides, if you go around calling it assault then all you do is create a negative environment where we can have a discussion about what just took place."
So on and so forth, ad infinitum.
Now I'm going to shock you Hivemind, the above scenario was an analogy for racism and the discussion that takes place around it. GASP. SHOCK. Ze Peanutter, she is le magnifique no? Yes, yes I am brilliant but that's another post for another day.
The lovely Moniquilliloquies can sum up my thoughts much quicker than I could.
Your intent is immaterial in how racist your actions are.
This isn’t about you BEING a racist. It’s about you DOING A THING that is racist.
Your intent doesn’t change it. Your ignorance of its meaning doesn’t change it. It’s got nothing to do with you as a person and everything to do with the meaning of your action in the context of sociocultural history.
I think that human beings tend to reduce things down to symbols. I think that the same thing happens in the complicated instance of racism. If you call an individual out and tell them that an action they made or a sentiment they expressed, then an inner dialogue takes place.
"If what I did was racist, then I must harbor some kind of prejudice. If I harbor some of prejudice then that means that I'm prejudiced."
Cue inner montage of all the stereotypical images of racism.
"I'm not like that. So I can't be prejudiced. So my actions weren't racist."
I believe that intent factors into the reaction against the person, obviously someone who knows the sociocultural implications of their offensive actions should be dealt with differently than someone who doesn't. That doesn't mean that the person who was blind due to privilege shouldn't have to check that privilege and educate themselves. When dealing with a person who is ignorant, I notice the tendency to infantilize that person and their actions. Call it ignorance, privilege, or naivety. Call it anything but racism. This angers and hurts me because unwittingly the offending party's hurt sensibilities are placed above the hurt feelings of the marginalized person.