By Greg Allen
Earlier this week, I saw something that terrified me, and it had nothing to do with Halloween. I was shocked at the ignorance that still exists in our society.
A friend of mine from my hometown attends a college in South Carolina. She is a member of a sorority, and attended a sorority talent show. One of the groups performing in the show did a slam poetry act revolved around issues of race. The performers discussed the hardships that people of color experience on a day-to-day basis due to systematic racism.
During the performance, members of my friend’s sorority were texting their group chat about what they were watching. My friend was appalled at what was being said and forwarded me the messages. I was equally disturbed.
Here are a few of the things that were said:
“It’s a talent show, not a protest for Black Lives Matter.”
“Shaking because I’m so nervous.”
“I’m offended, and I’m not racist in the slightest bit. I have plenty of black friends.”
“All of the things they’re talking about don’t happen anymore. That was before our generation. I don’t actually know one racist person so I’m very uncomfy.”
“I’m disgusted that this was allowed.”
“I’m really scared.”
Take a moment to take all of that in. Wow. Where do I begin? My friend said that the performance was powerful, transforming, culturally enlightening, and educational. Unfortunately others were unable to see that. The people making these comments are as much a part of the problem as anyone else. To me it is pathetic that when people try to express their feelings and experiences, they’re viewed as scary or disgusting. It is nothing but pure ignorance and a sheer lack of cultural knowledge.
Let’s break down each of the quotes.
“It’s a talent show, not a protest for Black Lives Matter.” — Well, you see, the talent was the slam poetry, a form of art that allows people to express themselves no matter what their feelings may be. Can you rhyme your feelings and perform them in a powerful way? Probably not.
“Shaking because I’m so nervous.” — Oh, you’re nervous? I’m so sorry. Think about how many black people have been forced to feel nervous in their everyday lives. Many people of color feel nervous when they get pulled over because they may be shot dead. But you’re nervous watching people express themselves. Nice.
“I’m offended, and I’m not racist in the slightest bit. I have plenty of black friends.” — Ugh. Typically if you have to say, “I’m not racist in the slightest bit,” you’re a racist. And the whole “I have black friends so I can’t be racist” claim may be the worst excuse for racist comments I’ve ever heard.
“All of the things they’re talking about don’t happen anymore. That was before our generation. I don’t actually know one racist person, so I’m very uncomfy.” — Right, these things don’t happen anymore. Black people are not being killed by police. Black people make just as much money as white people. Black people are treated the same as white people in the court of law. Black people feel comfortable going for a jog in a predominately white neighborhood. Wrong. Sorry to break it to you, but abolishing slavery didn’t end racism. Also, you may want to correct yourself because you do know racist people. You were sitting right next to them at the talent show!
“I’m disgusted that was allowed.” — Well I’m disgusted that the murders of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Keith Scott, Philando Castille, and so many more were allowed. The killings were allowed by the justice system that let the murderers free from jail time.
“I’m really scared.” — Well I’m terrified. Terrified at your ignorance. Terrified at your comments. Terrified that you were scared during what was probably an absolutely beautiful performance.
After those comments were posted, there were a couple of messages supporting the performance. One member of the group said, “If you’re offended, you’re probably part of the problem.” Another member said, “Everyone has their own opinions, and we should be able to respect that.”
To believe that racism is dead is the most mind-blowing idea to me. How could one possibly believe that white people and black people are completely equal in today’s society? I’m so grateful to have been raised and educated the way I was. From a young age, I have been told that I am as privileged as it gets–a white and well-off male. I have been told that there are many people who go through hardships, even in the 21st century, just because they are black. Professors of Springfield College have taught me so much about systematic racism and societal issues alike. I’m so grateful to be socially aware, and I wish I was there to experience and appreciate the performance that was so overlooked.