“Why are Black People always whining and complaining?” seems to be the question du jour.

I recently read through the comment section of an article about the #OscarsSoWhite and Oscar boycott and giggled. A lot.

I don’t find racism particularly funny, but the literal sameness of the comments made me laugh. It’s like everyone read the “how to comment on an article about race” blog post and decided to implement the 5-step plan to “comment like a boss”.

You always know the race of the commentators since every person tends to start off with this in their introductory sentence.

I’m a middle-age white guy and I’m don’t have a racist bone in my body. But why are black people always complaining and whining about everything??? If it’s not the confederate flag or trying to change the names of famous buildings and rewrite history then it’s the Oscars. Uh…this is America and a meritocracy. You people aren’t entitled to Oscars or anything else just because you’re black. (Insert MLK quote about having a dream or content of character here). Stop making everything about race you racists Also, the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES is BLACK so get over yourselves and stop talking about slavery and work harder. (Insert closing statement about ghettoes, rap music, single mothers and ugly black women).

This would have more exclamation marks if the key wasn’t broken on my computer and more curse words if I were trying to be completely realistic.

The Non-black People of Color commentary goes something like this:

“I’m (insert ethnicity here) and I know what racism is like too but you don’t see me whining and complaining about it all the time. My parents immigrated here and worked really hard and were able to become successful. I don’t get why blacks can’t do the same. They aren’t the ONLY ones who deal with racism. Why can’t they just get over it? You know…no (insert specific non-black ethnicity here) actors or actresses were nominated for awards either. And you don’t hear us complaining about it.  The (insert specific non-black ethnicity again) community NEVER complains about what happens to us. Black people really get on my nerves with all of their whining and complaining.”

The whining and complaining comments always make me laugh the hardest.

Black people pointing out the myriad of ways that they experience racism is neither whining nor complaining. It’s telling the truth of our lives as we experience them. And the reason why that makes people so angry – angry enough to write these comments — is that it contradicts the “official story.”

The official story is that America is basically the Promise Land here on Earth. It’s the land flowing with milk and honey. The home of the free and the brave where all men are created equal. It’s the greatest democracy that the world has ever known — built on Christian precepts at that — and is basically the prototype for every other country. It’s the land where everyone can make it — even immigrants. It’s the home of the American Dream for goodness sake.

Except facts and history don’t really support this story, do they? All men weren’t created equal in America. And for about 80% of her history, America was a Herrenvolk Democracy, a democracy for the majority, but very much a terror state for the rest of us. Americans have collective amnesia regarding this history so much so that the Governor of South Carolina could say this with a straight face:

When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally, we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion. Let’s not start that now.  Nikki Haley

Don’t forget the textbooks that have to be pulled for calling slaves “migrant workers” as if they got compensation for their work and the constant portrayal of happy slaves even in children’s book.  Or the fact that people will argue you down that the cause of the Civil War was “state’s rights” and not slavery despite slavery being the reason mentioned in every declaration of secession.

The problem isn’t Black People “whining and complaining” – it’s that we won’t let you continue with the Official Story – we won’t let you blissfully pretend that America is an equal and just society. We won’t let you whitewash and rewrite history so that you can feel better about it. Our very presence in America is an everyday reminder that the American Dream doesn’t exist – that it is a figment of your collective imagination.

Which reminds me of an awesome Nigerian proverb: Don’t let the Lion tell the giraffe’s story. The official story is the Lion’s story. And everyone want’s us to believe in this story — that’s slaves were really very happy, that black people were better off in slavery, that the reason why no black actors were nominated — or why there are so few black CEOs or so few Black faces in places of power –is because none deserved it, that all of the problems in our community stem from some innate inferiority in our “culture” in our black skin and not from a racist structure that has always been part of the American landscape.

Except we don’t believe it. We know better. We’ve been on the receiving end of American democracy since the first of the enslaved were brought to Jamestown. The giraffes aren’t letting the Lion control the narrative anymore. The giraffes are calling out the structural racism that they experience and calling for boycotts and using hashtags and daily protesting the very structure that threatens their lives. And it’s not going to stop.

So the next time you’d like to comment about the “whining and complaining” that Black people are doing, I’d like to propose a small change to help you – regardless of your race — when commenting about issues that pertain to the black community.

Step 1. Replace “why are black people always whining and complaining” with the following: “black people are really good at noting and bringing attention to the systemic and continuous racism that they face economically, socially, politically, and even culturally (winks at Hollywood). It’s probably because they’ve been dealing with the racism in America for 300+ years. I think I’ll listen to what they’re saying.”

Step 2. Think long and hard about what black people are saying about the racism that they face.

Step 3. Delete your comment.

Step 4. Get to work dismantling the structural racism that disadvantages the black community in every aspect of life (and that you personally benefit from) without giving your unwanted and unnecessary opinions on what the black community needs to do.

 

 

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