By Tanya Steele | Shadow and Act April 29, 2014 at 12:26PM
Certainly, I believe in free speech. Publications have the right to choose what they want to publish. We have a right to respond.
The recent piece that ran on Gawker - "Black People Are Cowards" by Homeboy Sandman (a Black man) - missed the target. Most of these pieces that call on Black America to somehow rip the calcified racist monolith that is America always miss the target. Black people are solely responsible for challenging racism and obliterating it to smithereens. Us? Us?! As White people, liberal, progressive and otherwise, sit back and enjoy the show.
As stated in my piece, “Black Folks, It’s Time To Stop Taking Care of White People”, I refer to the endless parade of successful Black people who suddenly find themselves “race experts” in the media, talking about how they have twisted, turned and otherwise shrunk themselves to accommodate White neuroses. We don’t, on the other hand, see White people taking ownership of racism. Explaining how racism is birthed, enacted or quaking in their bones when they ride alone in elevators with Black men. Or, in any way speak to their inherent fears of Black people. Trust me, they have them. If you grew up in America, White, Black, Asian, etc. you will harbor some ill conceived perception of Black people. How can you not? The dehumanization of Black Americans is in the water we drink. It’s everywhere. So, unless you’ve done the hard work of exorcising those demons, they haunt you. But, why don’t we get to hear that side of it? Why are White people not a part of the conversation? We can not heal the great race divide if one side is saddled with the burden of explaining racism in America.
And, I see this constantly. White folks just sitting back and benefitting from our suffering. Yes, benefiting. Who do you think benefits from stories like Donald Sterling? Whose coffers are filled? It becomes a freak show in the media. An endless sideshow of replayed tape recordings, images of a broken and clearly insane man (Donald Sterling) and his equally disturbed mistress get paraded before us. And, we click on the stories, watch the shows and the commercials that sponsor the freak show. And, the media outlets benefit. Nothing in the culture changes. Not the complexion of the board rooms, not the complexion of Hollywood studio Executives. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. But, Black folks are asked to “do something”.
Now, let’s take a look at ownership of the media outlets. Someone, I’m sure, will cry ‘BET’ in the comment section. Let me get that out of the way. Johnson publications and well, whatever else they can rustle up. We done? Now, CNN, FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, HLN, MSNBC let’s take a look at the level of diversity at these outlets. Who is in charge? Who is making the decisions? Who makes the most money at these outlets? Who has the most power?
Let’s continue. Go down the roster. Gawker? What does your Editorial staff look like? Who owns the site? Who benefits from the click on Sandman’s article? How many Black folks do you employ? How many Black writers are given an audience on your site? Yes, I am thankful that you had the good sense to feature Kiese Laymon. That was a great move. Who else? Who gets the most money from the number of clicks that the “Black People Are Cowards” article receives? Without listing them, I would offer the same questions to other magazines and online publications.
Going further. There is an endless flow of blood in Chicago. Yearly. Who gives this ink? Who gives this the same amount of time and coverage that is given to, say, the Boston Marathon Bombing. Or, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Or, the Aurora Colorado mass shooting? Who?! Why not? Because the previously mentioned concern all of us? Does Black life not concern all of us? Children are dying. DYING! Bleeding out. Families mourning. Grieving. Children’s lives are being obliterated by witnessing this blight. And, who gives a fuck?
I will end here with the roster and then I will sum this up. On the most immediate level, I will use my social networking threads as a small sample. Whenever there is the horror, the death of a Black child. A Black child like Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis or Renisha McBride, my Black friends replace their profile photo with a photo of the deceased. We bear witness to the pain, we feel the loss. Every time, only ONE, ONE, I will see ONE of my White friends change her profile photo to acknowledge the death and the grief. I will see my other friends post about mindless events of the day. Baking a pie, what happened at the grocery store, etc. These same White friends will have posted their grief surrounding Sandy Hook, Aurora, whatever involves White life. Renisha, Trayvon, Jordan, somehow don't not impact their day- AT ALL! My Black friends change their profile photos for whatever horrid incident occurs- White, Black, Asian, doesn’t matter. How is this possible? It’s possible because Black people are supposed to care about Black life. Everyone else is supposed to care about White life.
By default, White is grief. White is power. White is worthy of our time and attention. White is saintly. Doesn’t matter what White does. For christ’s sake, they recently canonized a Pope who reigned over an institution that was saturated in child molestation. Canonized him! Really?! White matters.
Gawker, until you regale us with a piece about White cowardice, or, White disregard for Black life, think about your decision to run a piece about Black people being cowards. One of your writers, Kiese Laymon, is one of the boldest and least cowardly voices in the current cultural landscape. Jamilah Lemieux ain’t no coward. Brittney Cooper, Roxane Gay, deceased Karyn Washington, Tambay Obenson- these folks ain’t cowards. In Academia, Scott Poulson Bryant, Craig Steven Wilder, do you know bell hooks. In the visual realm, Kara Walker, Carrie Weems, etc. Look, I can’t even begin to name names. It would be insulting to the vast number of individuals I would have to leave out- in ALL disciplines. There are countless numbers of us, actively, engaged in protest and resistance. Give me a break! Black folks are getting it done, getting it said in every way possible. There are brave and courageous Black people whose voices are loud and clear. But, it is not OUR choice that they are not on our televisions around the clock. WE don’t make the choices.
Whoever sits in front of the camera or gets to pen a piece is chosen by the same cowardly muthafuckas who could give two shits about Blackness unless it brings ratings. Or, unless some racesplainin’ needs to happen to help White people understand why people are acting so crazy when it comes to race.
Black people are not cowards. You got that damn wrong! We are patient, we are hurting, we are grieving we are tired of fighting, we are marginalized, we are creators, lovers, musicians, activists, writers, raising families in the midst of a culture that is hostile to us. We are holding up a light, trying to keep the flame burning that our ancestors, gracefully, held up for us so that we could see the way forward. So, Sandman, maybe you need to get to know my friends. But, more importantly, maybe you need to understand that our cowardice is not what is keeping America in the dark ages. It is the cowardice of a culture that deifies Whiteness and forsakes all others.
Sandman, I understand your frustration. And, I wrestled with what I would write about Clown Sterling. I was very careful to keep the attention on his vileness. Because, this is an opportunity to examine White racism. But, I did not publish it because the story is way too greasy and the benefit to humanity would be next to nil.
But, I, too, want the Clippers players to know how powerful they are in this moment. I, too, want Magic Johnson to stop jockeying so hard to be the owner of the Clippers and let those men protest how they want to. From what I understand, the Clippers team wanted to boycott the game and were persuaded in another direction. So, they did the next best thing. Can you imagine how those men must feel?! I, too, want the “old guard” to get out of the fu**ing way and let the new blood find our voice in protest. I, too, want the NBA players to all take a gotdamned stand. And, the fans who fill the stadium. The fans, mostly White, who can afford the overpriced tickets. One good move would be to find every inner city kid in LA, who wants to go to their game, and fill the Staples Center with them for the playoffs! As a matter of fact, for the rest of the damn season, all tickets should be handed over to inner city youth! Or, I want the broadcasters to make a decision to not broadcast, at least, one Clippers game. We ALL have to make decisions, here. It is not, solely, the responsibility of Black people. Because things are different, right? Because we elected a Black President. Because America is post-racial. Because Black people are human and everyone treats us as such.
When it comes to racism dude, don’t get it twisted, the cowardice is on the White end of the spectrum.