So, I’m reading the NY Times article on Dylann Roof, perpetrator of the massacre at a historically Black church in Charleston, finally pleading guilty to nine counts of murder after almost two years…and of course this makes me happy…Justice is being served. But then I scroll down and read the grandfather’s (Joseph Roof) comment… “I will go to my grave not understanding what happened.”
How is it that he doesn’t understand what happened? How could he not understand where his grandson’s hate stems from? How can he not easily point out the millions of messages Dylann received from mass media, from Joseph himself, from his teachers, and other figures in his life that he internalized? Is Joseph just saying what he thinks we want to hear? I mean how the hell does he really not know? Or maybe he just doesn’t understand why Dylann expressed it in this way rather than participating in the usual, more “respectable”, racially micro or macro aggressing against persons of color and in the continued perpetuation of systems of oppression...
Whatever the case, despite the reality of racial groupings and all of the BS that comes with those groupings, many of our white counterparts still don’t get it and some of us don’t quite get it either. I know that the majority of my melanated (btw why is this word not in the Webster dictionary yet, I’m tired of autocorrect changing my ish) family is tired of explaining this…I’m tired myself. But, if it takes talking about this over and over again so that just a few more people understand every day…then so be it.
So, how about I do a short series addressing this loaded statement Joseph Roof made? … Not really asking, I’mma do it anyway… First we need to figure out why the hell some people don’t seem to understand or acknowledge individual and/or systemic racism. There are a couple of reasons, but let’s start with the culture of silence first. Auntie Janet and Auntie Bev (otherwise known as Janet Helms and Beverly Tatum) have been talking about the culture of silence since the time that most of you reading this were probably conceived… So if you want it really laid out then check out the resources listed at the end (FYI: this blog series will give an abbreviated version of many of the things they address).
In short, the culture of silence regarding race is the unspoken rule that it’s inappropriate to mention, discuss, or acknowledge race in most settings (well unless of course you’re with members of your own racial group). This may be old news to some, but surprisingly it is new to many (I’m hoping that this blog post makes it to ya’ll)…So before reading the next blog post in the series I want ya’ll to choose a day and remember to keep the following questions in mind. Maybe even jot your responses down in the note section of your iPhone (for those who don’t have an iPhone…you don’t exist…just kidding…that’s racist…kidding again…if you didn’t laugh I hate you…still kidding).
Did race come up at all (i.e., directly or indirectly) today?
Did I feel uncomfortable when it did? Why or why not?
What did I do when it came up? Did I point it out? If so, what were other people’s reactions when I did? If not, how did I feel when I ignored it?
How do I think the race of each person involved played a part in this interaction/encounter? How might this have looked different if the people involved were of a different race?
Until next time!
*Note: For all of you that think “hell” is a cuss word…According to my late great grandfather, lovingly referred to as “Papa”, hell is not a cuss word it is a place…So please expect to see this word all up and through my blog posts.
A few more resources, other than the links, for those who like to stay woke (b/c I’m a grad student bih):
Helms, J. (1990). Black and white racial identity: Theory, research, and practice (Contributions in Afro-American and African studies; no. 129).
Sue, D. W. (2015). Race talk and the conspiracy of silence: Understanding and facilitating difficult dialogues on race. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.
Tatum, B. D. (2003). Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? Revised Edition. New York, NY: Basic Books.