January 4, 2014

Hamburger Toe and Racism, or How to Make Connections Between Completely Unrelated Topics

Hamburger Toe

For the New Year I took care of something that should have been removed from my life a long time ago: My toenail. Not the whole thing, mind you, just a wee little slice along the side that had grown down into the flesh my entire life. It now looks like part of my toenail has been splayed open and replaced with raw hamburger. To spare you the sleepless night I had after looking at it yesterday, I've forgone an actual photo and instead made this lovely hamburger toe, shown above. Microsoft Paint for the win.

Though I've been okay'ed to run, I decided it was best to stay off of my feet yesterday, but my hamburger toe came in sync with a downshift in mood, and by today I knew I needed to get out and shake it out.

You see, I kinda got into a Facebook fight and I ended up temporarily losing faith in humanity.

I'm not generally one to go out picking fights with strangers on Facebook, and things started out casually enough. HipHopDx had posted an interview with Lord Jamar, who had said that many white people gravitate toward white rap artists, a historical pattern in the United States (ex: Elvis, Janis Joplin), and that the most successful white rap artists have gotten approval from someone within the black Hip Hop community. Never in the interview did he say that white people could not like, listen to, appreciate, or perform Hip Hop and rap. What he did say is that it's important to acknowledge where the music originates, since it has its roots in the marginalization and oppression of African Americans, a condition which persists to this day.

Many of the comments from white contributors quickly became hostile. "You people are racists!" claimed one in an ironic statement. "Why the fuck is skin color still a discussion to this day you ignorant bastards?" screamed another in what I can only assume was also unintended irony. But the worst was a man named Adam. *sigh* "For the above 'woman', you get no response because you're blatantly racist."

There was so much misogyny, racism, and ignorance wrapped up in this one (excerpt of a much worse) comment that I had to jump in to this woman's defense. He questioned a (black) woman's sexual identity simply because he disagreed with her opinion (he didn't do this either with black men or white women with whom he was arguing), then called her racist (a word which implies not just bias, but socially-sanctioned, structural power differentials, and structural power is definitely not something that African American and minority women have in the U.S.), and refused to address her (again, power structure. He could simply refuse to engage with her and therein deny her a voice.)

That kinda thing gets me mad. Like, real worked up. And one of my 2014 goals was to be more compassionate in the way that I talk and have dialogues about social justice issues.

But damn is race a Hot Topic. And it's really, really hard to talk about when so many have never had to give it much thought. I mean, I know. I've been there. I'm white.

I watched this guy's comments get "like" after "like" and was left seething, and finally deflated. If this is what it's like for me to try and have conversations about race, what must it be like for Women of Color who face this silencing and anger and discrimination every day? A friend wrote on my timeline during the discussion:
"(Discussions about race) can get pretty scary. Especially when it comes to hip hop music. The article mentioned nothing about whites not being welcomed into hip hop (WE LOVE YOU GUYS!), but mention the fact that we're not going to let you just take shit like Elvis did, and then all of a sudden white kids see racism. Its so frustrating."
I can pull out of those conversations, or ignore them, or just go shake it out. They don't play out every day of my life. And that thought simply overwhelms me.

So for two days I sunk into despondency. I finally ran and wrote it out earlier this evening, and can finally think about my so-called Internet Fight without grinding my teeth. But it reminds me how much, how very much, I need to keep trying to talk to people about Race and Structural Oppression in the United States, and how very painful those conversations are going to remain, and privileged, how very privileged, I am to be able to escape to the trail and shut it all out.

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