Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Reality of Everyday Racism

From The Daily Show, Sept. 29th.

So watch the video first, then read below:

The clip is no doubt hilarious--one of the funniest sketches I've seen in a while, and I was finally able to *laugh* at something done by Wyatt Cenac. What's most interesting however is the *very end,* or at least how it's been perceived. I saw this clip posted on numerous liberal blogs, where everyone talked about how funny it was, focusing on the elderly voters arguing over the election. What was hardly mentioned however was the ending--where two of the audience members speaking to each other first refer to Michelle Obama as a "big horse," and then go on to whisper about the "big thighs" of black women, and how it can denote their alleged "tribe." Maybe the lack of discussion on that facet had to do with the fact that these liberal blogs were majority "white."

Change that demographic make up, and the reactions become quite different.

To the many black forums I sent this to, it was those last comments that stood out. The response was often a mixture of laughter, shock, disgust, anger and other varied emotions. Black women especially commented frequently, on how degrading and humiliating those closing comments were--as Michelle Obama (a stand in for all black women) was reduced to a type of exotic specimen, sexualized, compared to an animal and subjected to several seconds of modern scientific racism.

As one black woman pointed out, what was most telling was that the closing comments were not even said with malice or cruel intent. There was no vile hurling of racial slurs, no conscious attempt to degrade Michelle Obama or black women in general. In fact, for all we know, these could have been supporters of Obama. Rather, the words and crude observations were made almost in passing--as casual conversation.

And so, once more, we have to wonder is this some aberration? Or is it simply a glimpse into everyday white America, hidden away from public discourse, kept off-camera, taken off-mic, swept away in an era where it's just not "politically correct" to state such things in "mixed" company. How many of those that may not voice it aloud, whisper it among themselves? How many more who dare not utter it, think it anyway? Exactly what goes through the heads of the white co-workers, authority figures, neighbors, colleagues, friends and others we interact with daily in our everyday lives. And, more important, how does it impact us?

And they wonder sometimes, why we seem paranoid...

*A previous related blog- The Pervasive Nature of Scientific Racism

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