The BET Awards the last few years have been filled with nonsense. In fact, the further I distance myself from my old life,the more I wonder why I watched BET. That being said, it is no surprise that I skipped this year’s awards. I had absolutely no intention on watching them, and I’m still glad I missed them. Of all the riff raff and musical performances, there was one segment that stood out like a diamond in the rough.
Jesse Williams gave one of the most poignant speeches I’ve ever heard. Here’s a snippet.
Williams, an actor on Grey’s Anatomy since 2009, eloquently expressed his feelings on the plight of black people in 2016 America. I listened to his speech, and I was taken back at the truth in it. I thought of specific Facebook friends that just don’t get it!! Even if they heard the speech, they still wouldn’t get it. What can I say? That’s life as a black person in America.
Williams talked about Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and Eric Garner. He spoke of the many justifications for their deaths. He challenged the mindset of police always being correct. He questioned a system that was built for the advancement of a specific group. A reminder: That group involves race and class. He told the racists (even the ones who don’t know they’re racist) to sit down. You know who I’m talking about. The ones who mention black on black crime as if that negates the totality of systemic racism. The people who bring up Chicago as a talking point from the comfort of their cushy homes. The ones who say Affirmative Action is racist but have no clue why it was set up in the first place. The people who refuse to understand.
The people like Tomi Lahren.
Lahren, an anchor on The Blaze, is an advocate for the “silent white voice.” As such, she took issue with Williams’s speech. In her segment, Final Thoughts, Lahren proceeded to angrily denounce Williams and speak “her truth.” I’m not making any of this up. I encourage you to take a look for yourself.
After this diatribe, Black Twitter came out in full force ready for the fight. In classic internet fashion, things got ugly quick. Volatile emotions, vocabulary, and the internet are never a good mix. Lahren responded to the backlash with another Final thoughts segment. This is her platform. That’s what she does.
I can handle not agreeing or opening up another view of the conversation, but there are several flaws in Lahren’s argument. She fails to realize having equal rights does not mean equal treatment. In fact, a lot of people fail to realize this. Thus, when the subject of system racism is addressed the same old, tired, distracting arguments are made to justify a severely broken system.
- What about black on black crime?
- Just because I’m white, doesn’t mean I’m racist.
- Black people need to take care of their own community first.
- This rhetoric perpetuates the war on cops.
- Stop being a victim.
- Slavery didn’t affect you so don’t talk about it.
- Look at the number of black athletes that get away with crimes.
- Why isn’t there a White Entertainment Television (WET)?
- Black people only care when they are shot by the cops.
- Maybe black people should get off welfare and get a job.
I have personally read every one of these statements almost verbatim.
These are the type of people Lahren attracts whether she means to or not. These people are all around us. Their smug disposition. Their “I understand but” attitudes. Their pretentious pretend to care demeanors. This is why Americans can’t have the honest conversation Lahren calls for regarding race.
People aren’t ready to have it.
The stance Lahren takes is one of “It’s not my fault. It’s your problem” instead of “I understand. This is where I’m coming from.” She doesn’t extend her hand to search for common ground. We don’t ask for common ground.
We just blame the other.
Instead of acting like systemic racism doesn’t exist, why can’t we acknowledge it? The more people like Lahren turn a blind eye, the more the problem will manifest itself.
While Black people may be the loudest at the table, there are more people of color that deal with systemic oppression every day. Donald Trump has put such a focus on Mexican illegal immigration that people are looking sideways at all Mexican-Americans. He has perpetuated a stereotype. Ever since 9/11 Americans have side-eyed anyone who looks remotely close to Afghani. That’s a problem in itself because most Americans can’t tell the difference between the multiple nationalities in the Middle East. In fact, I just learned Pakistani is considered Asian and not Middle Eastern.
We have a long way to go, and we need to learn about each other.
Black people aren’t asking for a gold star for our existence. We are asking for a chance. Not a fictitious chance. Not dangling the carrot and yanking it when we reach. A true chance to be seen as your brothers and sisters. It’s a simple question.
Maybe that’s too much to ask for.
Copyrights belong to ET and The Blaze TV for the videos used in this blog.
[Image Credit Flickr via Anthony Albright]
3 Comments Add yours
You bring up some great points here Jarrod. When I have some quiet time I usually think about race relations in America and why there is such a divide between different ethnic groups. I often ponder these things because even though I am black, I come from a country that is 98% black and 2% white so most of our social issues stem from blacks pulling each other down. Despite the obvious issues that plague my society, white oppression has pretty much been eradicated (only after we supposedly obtained independence from Great Britain in 1973) but anyways I digress. Living in North Dakota and realizing that I am now a minority, I find myself doing a lot of people watching because the personalities, attitudes and reactions to my hair/accent/presence are quite amusing at times. I recently had a couple of conversations with a young lady who is a class associate and I was taken aback by her responses. The first conversation happened while we were outside due to a fire alarm going off in our apartment building. She thought it was just a drill and didn’t want to go outside but while in the hallway she saw a lady wearing a hijab and she decided that she didn’t want to take that chance and made her way into the parking lot until the alarm stopped. In the second conversation I was talking to another black classmate (in the presence of this same lady) about eligibility for diversity waivers and she stopped and asked what diversity meant. I explained to her that the diversity waiver is meant for minorities or under-represented groups like Blacks, Native Americans, immigrants, etc. and she replied oh that’s clearly not me because I am your typical college student. The look I gave her was one of shock and disdain and she chuckled and asked what was wrong. For a second I thought wow she is totally oblivious to the fact that her statements could be offensive, but it truly made me wonder. Is she really that naïve, or is she fully aware but she chooses not take responsibility for what comes out of her mouth. Either way how do people get to a place where skin color justifies ignorance? And why do we accept it?
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Here is my question: Why aren’t more African-Americans taken it on themselves to get more involved on a grass roots level.
You don’t know me but a little bit of backstory, I grew up poor, without a father and a mother that was messed up. I am half black. I have been working since I was 10. Graduated High School, did some college, joined the Navy, finished off my degree and became an educator. I teach Special Ed in Juvy, that is mostly people of color. I am always telling them that they need “to pound the rock.”
When I am with some people I know who are African-American, they mostly work for the county, city, state government, they treat me with distain. Like I am disease or something and tell me that I should be doing more with my education and talents. I tell them that I am on the front lines of trying to make things better. They pretty much laugh at me. Then they start talking about and making fun of the what they call ghetto “N” ‘s. They forget that they were once that when they were growing up also.
Life as a Black person in America is not great but it could be better if we had community. The middle-class African-American has completely forgot about the African-American that is struggling. I always say that the KKK doesn’t like any of us, so we all are in the same boat and need to paddle together.
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Hey Patrick – Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I appreciate it! I don’t know if I can answer your question, but I will try.
I think your comment goes more towards classicism than racism. When people come from adverse circumstances, they may forget where they came from. Conversely, those African-Americans that have not experience poverty can’t relate to being poor. However, we can all relate to feeling racial discrimination.
The people you work with have higher ranking positions for careers. Sometimes, that pumps up the ego. Like you said the KKK doesn’t like any of us regardless of our class. The fact is when people move up in status, some may think they are better than the other. The African-American community is unique in that we have a certain perception even if we have money. The perception alters for better or worse depending on wealth.
I don’t think middle class African-Americans have forgotten about those that are poor. I think there has to be a good mix of working towards our goals and having help along the way. The thing is those who in poverty may not want to get out of it. As I’m sure you know, poverty is a mindset, and that can be hard to break. In short, those that are poor have to want to change their situation just as much as the middle class needs to help them change the situation. Effort needs to be made by both groups.