I was in an antique store yesterday looking for something that I can put a TV on, Marley my boyfriend says I need to upgrade my broken tube TV and step into the future. As I was wandering around the store I saw three booths that contained multiple handmade Mammy dolls, and immediately I felt dirty. I wondered who owned these dolls before they sat here, and why would they own these dolls in the first place? Did they belong to little girls in need of dolls? (I tried to find the least offensive picture of of these dolls). I think I actually remember my mother had one of these dolls in the 1980’s, so maybe that’s why I feel dirty. Right before I left the store, with the Mammy dolls in the far corners of my mind, I ran into a fourth booth that contained three advertisement posters depicting racist images. Two of them had little African American girls and one had an African American man on it, and all of them depicted frightening big eyed looking faces that would scare you into believing the lies that were spread about African Americans through out history. The one that depicted a man was selling toothpaste to “darkies,” and it said “It gets Their Teeth the Whitest!” I was horrified, as I stood there transfixed not being able to pull away, as the pain started welling inside my soul. I slowly walked away, just a little more damaged than I was before, and as I was leaving I vowed never to return to that store again.
Today I ran into a blogger’s post who was questioning whether or not we should destroy all racist memorabilia. She had read an article by Henry Louis Gates Jr in which he was talking about the two different schools of thought on the topic, as many African American collect this memorabilia, but also that many African Americans are rightfully hurt by the.images depicted from this memorabilia.
At first instinct I would want this racist memorabilia destroyed, but we cannot destroy it! We cannot forget our past! We cannot forgot about slavery, reconstruction, the Black codes, or segregation. We cannot forget about how African Americans were treated after the abolition of slavery. We cannot forget about the forced imprisonment of innocent men, we cannot forget about the lies and false accusations, and the subsequent lynchings. We cannot forget about how it was really the Whites who created our ghettos through refusing to give African Americans FHA loans, so that they can buy a home, and for redlining certain neighborhoods forcing African Americans into certain neighborhoods that we now call Ghettos. The list goes on and on, and these are part of all of our histories. We have to learn about it, and not hide it. Our education has been hiding the truth from us all since the beginning of time, because we live in a White Supremacist world.
My fellow blogger has experience racism when she lived in Hawaii, as Native Hawaiians are still hurt by the theft of their Island by the Whites. I told my fellow blogger that am Irish too, but the Irish or the Whites in Hawaii have never experienced the racism that people of color, but especially the African diaspora have experienced ever since Whites set foot on their lands. The Irish, or any White person can move to a safe place, they can leave Hawaii, and they can assimilate into White culture. They have assimilated into White culture. African Americans cannot not do this, for the exact reason why they were enslaved in the first place, because of the color of their skin.
Last year I read the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Dr. Beverly Tatum, and she says that her definition of racism states that African Americans cannot be racist, there is no such thing as reverse racism, because racism implies receiving benefits or gaining rights through the detriment of others. I am still exploring what this means to me, but I can understand her point of view and I can agree with her on many levels. I loved this book, and I learned so much about race relations and understanding racism because of her brilliant book.
*Update: I am not sure that this definition completely covers all of the issues of racism, but I do understand how she can define it this way.
So does this mean that Native Hawaiians cannot be racist towards Whites, because it was the Whites who benefited by stealing the Island? The Native Hawaiians were robbed, starved, and then kept in poverty. What did African Americans or Native Hawaiians ever do to European Americans to deserve this treatment? Nothing! That’s why I feel that most European Americans are the racist ones, and then they turn around and claim reverse racism when they don’t get their way or when they are afraid of a take over.
*Update: Does reverse racism exist? I believe in many situations when some European Americans claim reverse racism they are missing so much history and truth that their claim gets lost in the fear and hate that they don’t even know the origins of where this hate came from. White people for generations have been afraid of a take over, so is this fear where some of these origins lie?
My fellow blogger as a teen was beaten at the hands of some other teens who happen to be Native Hawaiian. Hawaiians are still very angry at the theft of their Island. Is this a situation where reverse racism could be real? Does this exempt their behavior, absolutely not. No one should experience a hate crime ever.
I don’t mean to out my fellow blogger in any hurtful way, I actually appreciate that she gave me the opportunity to reflect on what she had to say, and I needed to talk about her post because she brings up many important conversations on race that I feel need to be addressed. Disclaimer: I am not an expert on racism, and I will never understand what it feels like to be a person of color, but I am trying to learn and we all need to have these conversations.
We cannot interrupt racism without education, without learning the truth, and we have to have these conversations about race and racism.