I have a new response for when people ask me how I know a person is a racist or an action was racism. I am going to ask them how they know pizza is pizza.
I have been a black woman living in the United States for more than 45 years. In other words, I have been black all my life. I had my first encounter with racism when I was 8 years old. I was walking home from the store and a school bus of white kids drove by yelling the N-word at me out the window while they threw trash out of the window. When I was seventeen I lived in a neighborhood where the white people threw rocks out the windows, put dead mice in our mailbox and threw change at my sister and I while we walked to the store and called us black whores. I have been shopping at a store when a sales clerk asked me if my “babies daddies” helped with the children. I gave her the business card for my law firm and told her that if she talked to all the black customers the way she talked to me, she was going to need an attorney like me to help defend her and the company she worked for in a civil lawsuit. I also told her that my husband to whom I had been married to for six years longer than I had been a mother to my oldest child was an excellent father and that it was a shame she did not have a decent father who taught her better behavior. I share all that to say that I know racism when I see it. I have experienced it. I have lived with it. I know it when I see it.
I am always amazed when racially charged incidents happen and some people ask -“How do you know it was racism?’ “How do you know that white person doesn’t call all people the N-word.” On occasion the mental gymnastics that people go through to try to convince me a clearly racist act wasn’t racism truly boggles the mind. I mean in order to go from the racist action to state that something is not racism requires more gymnastics than Simone Biles showed in Brazil at the recent Olympic games. In other words, some actions that I call racist are so blatantly racist that I have no choice but to think you are a liar, an idiot and a fool not to see the racism.
A few months ago I was watching television and saw a comedy routine by comedian W. Kamau Bell. Part of the routine talked about how people would always ask him how he knew something was racism. He responded by asking the person what they had for lunch. When the person responded pizza, he asked how the person knew it was pizza. He asked if it could be pita bread with cheese. The person tried to explain their history and all the ways they were able to recognize pizza when they saw it. The point of the joke was that if one person can recognize pizza based on life experience eating pizza, there is no reason a person experienced in dealing with racists and racism would not recognize racism when he saw it.
Here is a clip showing the routine.
The same sort of disbelief and shock you would feel if I asked you how you know something is pizza is what I feel when you ask me how I know something is racism.
Don’t Pee in My Ear and Tell Me It’s Raining.
When I am treated negatively and differently from people of other races in a situation and my behavior is exactly the same, it is racism. When you assume that the white woman next to me has a husband and that I have a “baby daddy,” it is racism. When you wonder if I belong in the nice neighborhood I live in but don’t wonder if my poorly dressed neighbor belongs, it is racism. When you are surprised that I have a Juris Doctorate degree, a husband of 26 years and own my home because people like me don’t have things like that, it is racism. Don’t try to tell me it is something different. Don’t try to convince me that you are well-meaning. You are a racist and your views are examples of racism and I don’t want to hear your excuses. Do not pee in my ear and then tell me it is raining. I am not having it. Miss me with that as the young people say.
Just like you know pizza because you have eaten all your life, your parents ate pizza and your grandparents ate pizza, I know racism and racists. I have experienced it, my parents experienced it and their parents’ parents’ parents experienced it. This is 2016 and I live in the United States of America, I know racists and racism when I see them.
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