Disclaimer: There were no cocktails. For cheap cocktails (albeit watered down) go to Font Bar off of Oxford Rd. Hopefully this gets published on http://www.liberateyourself.co.uk (seriously, check it out)
To me the sin of colour-blindness is just a horrific as the sin of racism, the former is simply an avoidance of the latter. Colour blindness is rejection of racial difference, so to a liberal anti-racist, that’s the goal and to the oppressed its not something that we can ignore, a Panther can’t hide its elegant black hide. There’s no objectve thing as race, there’s no reason why we have to deal with race, unless someone brings it up or someone makes an ‘awkward’ racist comment. Bullshit. Racism is a complex social system but it becomes clearer from day to day events, or events such as what happened to me last Saturday.
Discrimination can come from both white and non-white people (e.g. I disrepect you apart from everyone else because you’re white), but discrimination has never involved the kind of horrors or current stagnant trends of disenfranchisement and disrespect that a non-white person may face on a daily basis: this is racism. This systematic disrespect is well documented, and it’is not merely a personal injury. Racism is the systematic devaluation of an individual within society. Yes, society exists; and it doesn’t really like us that much.
One thing that victims of racism have encounter is people seeing them as a lesser figure, as a novelty, or as a cartoon character that is apart of the show. I was the target of this form of disrespect from a gyrating moron attempting to sing Michael Jackson songs. “Hey your black! Michael Jackson, you know what I’m talking about right?”, whereas I could only say (and one should, maybe in smarter & varied ways), “fuck you”. The person who defined my musical tastes, ability to dance, individual character by my race in order to enjoy himself by making me a ‘hip’ disney character was a bit disorientated.”Haha, yeah but c’mon”, he said, and I hastily and replied “heheh, fuck you, no seriously. Fuck you”. My white anti-capitalist friends thought my response was epic (not to toot my own horn) and later on, in the conversation as I came back the gyrating moron (as he will be hereafter known)’s friend said, “hey, say what’s up”. His friend hastily said, “mate, I just wanted to hear your accent. I thought you were American, I love the American accent”. This indentification was rather benign and in Manchester, it starts many a conversation because, despite the government’s distaste for foreigners, the people seem to live visitors and new residents in Manchester alot. However, the gyrating moron thereafter said: “I’m sorry to make you angry but, you really shouldn’t be so angry, in fact I find racism to be funny”.
I protested and said, “you think racism is funny?”, then he indicated he was South African and his apologetic friend indicated that he was Iraqi British, “then tell me do you think the children and people of Soweto (a South African ghetto terrorised during the Apartheid era) think it’s funny? Or mate (pointing to his friend), do you think its funny when people do ‘Achmed the Dead Terrorist’ jokes or ‘Arabs Are Terrorists’ sterotypes reinforce racism and racist wars of aggression”? His friend was solemly silent and reflecting, but the Gyrating Moron continued to assert that he was just having fun, the bar isn’t a place to be indignant about things, and that I should just shake his hand as he demanded and continue to drink.
Now, freeze the scene, let’s focus on three things: a) racism isn’t fun; b) one should always be indignant when confronted with injustice or insult; c) I didn’t shake his hand because that- to me, was the ultimate racist insult. Racism isn’t fun, as I told them then and as we can see all around us from Oakland, to Gaza, to Tokyo, racism is a form of class oppression that creates haves and have nots and allows the governent to do things to you by virtue of the colour of your skin. It excludes people and it can range from violent lynching, rape, murder and poverty. In short, racism has never been fun or funny, it’s deadly.
One should know that liberals may try to pacify the stiuation & tensions, even in the face of a backhanded apology. Though, how dare that liberal sitting next to me, and the Gyrating Moron himself suggest that it was just a misunderstanding and that I shouldn’t be angry! Racism is ingornace; a misunderstanding but, not on the victim’s part. If the victim of racism doesn’t get angry, then the racist and the racist society won’t understand. Therefore, it is your duty if your a victim of racism to be angry. Anger is a fiery, intense form of resistance, and it can be educational.
Thereafter, I didn’t shake his hand for a good reason. As colourblindness is characterized by people shaking hands and being nice, it is more an act of pacification and closure. Before he finished his apology backhanded apoligy and interrogated him, “do you know what your apologizing for?” and he couldn’t really tell me: “I just want to apologize”. This isn’t rocket science, as I explained, one apologizes when one wrongs another so it is possible to apologize but he wasn’t apologetic about insulting me. But, more importantly he wasn’t apologetic about any possibility of racist communication and he didn’t want to feel any guilt for his racism. After all, if the black guy shakes the white guys hand, the black one excuses and accepts the white one and everyone is okay. Right, Apart of one big happy,human post-racial family?Wrong.
Many of us are familiar with white guilt, it is characterized but apologetic stories and messages to address racism, while maintaining their own lot or position. Guilt free, at no cost to the guilty. In the dynamic of white guilt, an apology, any apology, even if it does nothing for the victim or the oppressed is okay. No, I wasn’t going to play into his white guilt. We were going to discuss and work on this problem.
Therefore, I didn’t shake his hand as he didn’t come to a resolution where I was satisfied that he saw his actions as wrong (he never admitted he did); moreover, he didn’t apologize while he was beckoning me to shake his hand. Shaking a hand, getting resolution, creating peace is okay. One should create peace wherever they go but not if the peace is one in which they are at a hurtful disadvantage, and unjust conditions continue.
Lastly, I was in a bar with almost all white people around me who stared, including an additional couple who beckoned me to stop my indignance. None of them could see what I was saying, just that I was angry; this phenomenon represents the tragic effects of racism that affect all of us: 1) certain permissable expressions of emotion pursuant to race; 2) an systematic seperation of white people or privileged classes on this important topic. As many Black men and women find, when they get really angry they startle friends in a heavier way than public anger usually startles people. They are seen as dangerous, disruptive and unreasonable, almost as ingnorant hicks- no matter how educated they are (i.e. the “angry black person” figure). It’s not a good feeling that I felt, it’s demaning and it mutes any dialogue; one feels mute, subordinated, and surrounded. A more surreptitious tragedy is that many of these people meant well but, were facing a conceptual challenge that not many have the opportunity (but, it’s getting better as we educate people & speak out!) to overcome in their lives: they just didn’t understand.
Though through the course of this my socialist friend, John and a number of previously quiet white onlookers came to my side and supported my assertions. My friend came to my defence and said, “he has a point, that guy made a genuinely racist comment” and the adjacent shaggy onlooker said, “yeah, he isn’t being that unreasonable” and shook my hand. The latter gesture was small but in an emotional moment it was good to have friends: this is called being an ally.
Being an ally applies to struggles against sexism, homophobia, xenophobia (hating those who are different) or any day to day struggle. Being an ally means: a) just understanding; b) taking action to help the vicitm; c) improving social conditions at large. This can be personal, or one can join a group (which everyone should- just sayin’) but it is political no matter on what level because it is ultimately about empowering each other.
That night concluded with drinks and a further dialogue but the revolutionary moral of this story is, one shouldn’t accept racism (or insert form of oppression) and one should genuinely attack it head on. One shouldn’t do this just to make themselves better, but one should do it as a deep political act to improve society. Be loud, be indignant, talk to the person who offends you and interrogate their reasoning and the situation! What you’ll find is that the devaluation of individuals and the distribution of power isn’t right and its artificial. Though, know your oppressor. If you are confronted by a group of dangerous people (e.g. Skinheads) then the first rule is to survive and evade. The people who have been lynched or physically abused were trapped, whereas experienced and committed oppressors are cowards, so sometimes they rove in packs so be cunning. Although, on the other hand, there’s multiple collective and individual ways to fight (even against a bigoted hoarde) turn your friends into allies, engage the public, or join an organization and you’ll find that strength in numbers is quite litterally: strength in numbers.
The entire system is built on insanity, and it isn’t right, and it will remain so unless people inside it challenge it. It isn’t easy being radical or making a challenge but it is worth it. Without going into much detail as a young Black activist, socialite (partying is alright on a friday), and thinker (aren’t we all, really?) marginalization isn’t a new challenge and the response to it should be the same: it’s crap!
That night I saw a transformative moment as people talked to me and tried to understand what my grievance was and the politics of racism and cocktails as the Gyrating Moron fumed in the corner (and his dancing didn’t get better). You are never alone in resisting injustice; if anything, when you expose colour-blindess for a farce and show the world in technocolour you’ll become the most colourful & “epic” person in the room.