November 24, 2014

Will We Ever Heal?

     The other day, nearing the end of my chemistry class, a friend of mine pulled out his phone and then laughed.  Being the naturally inquisitive person I am, I asked what was funny.  My friend began by explaining that on Twitter there is an anonymous feed called "yik yak."  Then he asked "You know how all the Black people sit on the bench at the top of the stairs? Right next to the entrance?"  Without waiting for a response he read what someone had said over yik yak.

     A nameless user of yik yak had written, "Did you see that slave auction at the top of the stairs?"

     I'm not sure how to describe my distress.  Not only was I chagrined (to put it lightly) that someone would say such a thing, however I also felt anguish over the fact that this friend of mine could find such an offensive thing funny.  I felt truly miserable because when he read it out loud I was one of only a handful that seemed to think it inappropriate.  At least 7 others (in a class of 20) laughed out loud, and no one but me and one other, said we thought it a disgusting thing to say.

     This experience was something that really affected me.  I think that it isn't so much just because I was disappointed with my friends (in this instance), but more so because it made me think on a bigger scale.

     In the 1870's our country, America, passed the 15th amendment.  This amendment gave African American's the right to vote.  Sadly, at that point, though the law allowed for them to vote, many states set up events, laws, or scare tactics to keep them from the voting booths.  Now I think it is safe to say that those obstacles and issues have been removed.  However, how well do we maintain equality?

     I don't think anyone in my chemistry class would say African American's shouldn't vote.  I think that the person who posted anonymously on yik yak wouldn't say such a thing to their fellow students face.  This being said, on some level, equality was not shown in this instance.

     Our country is a healing one.  America began as the land of the "free."  All better off white males were free.  Our young nation has improved and exemplified this statement more fully over the last few centuries. By giving African Americans, women, and average citizens legal rights, and many social rights as well. However, it clearly has more room to grow.  Though the laws reflect equality I think we have yet to gain an equal and free minded nation overall.

     I hope that someday such rude and cruel things will not be said at all, much less received in such a disgusting bout of mirth.


  1. I know that it is counter productive to feel bigoted against bigotry but that is how I lean. This kind of thing confounds me and pisses me off. How are we still struggling with these kinds of hurts? The human race needs to grow up and be gentle and kind. I'm hopeful that with lovely and good in the world such as yourself, we will indeed one day heal.

  2. Naomi, I'm sorry you had to witness such horrid behavior. Unfortunately, conversations like this are all around us. I have been reading excerpts of slave memoirs recently. ( Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglas). Those texts on top of the daily racism, sexism, classism, etc. have left me feeling hopeless. I have a lot of trouble seeing good in the world around us. It's a disgusting world we live in.

    I've decided my new motto is never to be a bystander. I've become adamant about speaking up whenever I hear or see something that isn't right. I hope by calling out such disgusting comments and behaviors we will be able to do our part to eradicate the social issues all around us.

    Good luck!

    1. I realized that I never seem to comment on things. I read this the day you posted it, but I never commented. It's a shame that I have done that.

      The world we live in often is one that I just feel disheartened by. But there are also beautiful things. I hope that by standing up we can make that beauty spread, and crush the troubling darkness around us.

  3. I guess I can't say much because I'm a white male, but eh, I'll say what's on my mind.

    Remember, the guy who wrote that tweet very well could be a black man himself--people will make fun of their own races all the time. Irish will joke about being drunk, Scots will refer to themselves as stubborn (as being Scottish myself, I can tell you this is sorta true), Asians will make jokes about being super-smart geeks, etc. But I'd agree with you that's there's a line to be crossed. A holocaust joke told by a Jew is still a holocaust joke. There's things that shouldn't be joked about no matter how old they are.

    Also, be wary there's lot of oppression on white males for being racist or sexist for any number of reasons. Male or female, black or white, poor or rich--hatred goes both ways, because anyone can hate someone simply because they're different, less (or more) fortunate, etc.

    Just my two cents.


    1. If you haven't seen Julia Taylors comment, I think you should! It address a lot of what you say here.
      Also, my comment on hers is addressed to you as well as her.

    2. Hatred absolutely goes both ways. But I would definitely point out that American white males are not being oppressed. They may very well be targeted, but they will never be oppressed.

    3. Well stated. I very much am in accordance with you on this.

  4. I think that David* is throwing out a red herring with his "it could have been a black man who made the comment," and his assertion that white males are under oppression for acting badly.

    Stick with your gut, which in this case did a good job of telling you what was wrong, and that you needed to stand up for yourself in this instance. As a white woman, born into a middle class family, I recognized that by birth I have advantages that many other Americans don't have. The best way I can show my gratitude for them, is to understand the privileges I have, to reach out to those who are not as fortunate, and to look for opportunities to be friends and allies with people from a huge variety of backgrounds.

    I think you should be proud of recognizing when others were being degraded, and for standing up for those being mocked. There are always going to be people who try to pretend that a little racism, sexism or degradation that leads to "othering" is okay.

    It isn't always easy to stand up for what is right, but I have never lost sleep over times when I knew I was standing up for others. The times that keep me up or invade my dreams, are the times I know I should have said or done something, and instead I took the easy way out. The eyes of one particular boy, who I didn't protect as quickly as I could have, still haunt me. I have learned that I am always happier when I am willing to pay the price for doing what is right. It is so much less than the price paid for knowing I didn't do something that I could have.

    1. Julia,

      I agree with you on the red herring comment. I think that though slightly applicable, they definitely don't address the main focus of my post.

      David address the idea fact that Caucasian or in other terms "white" males are often blamed for the racism in our country. To that I would like to point out that I never said who I think the anonymous person was. He or should could be of whatever race, background, physical ability, or mental capacity. It was still a wrong thing to have been said. Much less accepted. In my opinion.

      I love what you said about recognizing the advantages you have, Julia. I think that is a beautiful thing. God has inserted us all into certain positions. It is our job to recognize that and to try and make the world better for it. I am so happy to hear this voiced in part by yourself!