#108: Can't Stop Grinding My Teeth
Never on schedule, always on time...
|Ernest Wilkins||Jun 23|
Can we have a quick conversation about "the conversation about race"?
That “story” is a Washington Post feature about a store in Alabama catering to Nascar fans in the wake of the league’s decision to remove Confederate Flag imagery from races.
A few chairs down along the wire fence sat a 54-year-old man named Lonnie Miles in jeans and boots the color of the dirt, enjoying the place his father had taken him since he was 8 years old.
“Feels good being here,” he said. “You ain’t got nobody going ‘nya, nya, nya’ picking on you.”
He called the flag ban “nonsense,” and more importantly, an affront to his own sense of himself as a decent person with what he considered to be genuine relationships with black neighbors.
“I got plenty of African American friends — I’ve known 'em since I was 14,” said Miles, adding that he learned to say ‘African American’ out of respect. “They know if they need anything, all they have to do is ask me. I have supper with them, and they have supper with me too. Only thing I don’t like is blacks and whites mixing, but I keep that to myself.”
With the context of the previous tweet, what exactly is "complicated" about what that man is saying?
The way we talk about racism isn't going to lead anywhere productive until we can confront this kind of language. It won't change until we call out the obvious instead of saying things like "complicated."
To me, the usage of "complicated" in that previous tweet implies the following context:
"This is complicated for me, a white person, to discuss. I know this behavior is racist, but I am related to people who feel this way or say things like this, and it's tough to say anything because I love them. Also, it bums me out, and I don't want to have to tell my Uncle Dave, who used to take me to Cubs games when I was little that he's a racist".
That context is the elephant in the room in any conversation about race. That elephant also explains all that "uneasy," "controversial," "racially-charged" type of language you see in media. We don't want anyone to be uncomfortable, now let's talk about slavery!
It can feel at times that when people say they want a "real conversation about race," they want a concept that doesn't exist. Go back into history and look at cultural moments that "touched on racially-charged storylines." The best of them might have been All In The Family, where the old white guy gets to be openly racist in an "aw shucks" kind of way. As long as the black guy gets to tell the loveable bigot off now and then, everything is excellent, the studio audience applauds, and we'll see you next week.
So, this bears the question: Why aren't we having those "real" conversations about race?
For one, racism is a system of belief. It's hard to change what people believe in, especially if they genuinely don't care about other humans unless they know them personally.
Not to mention, dealing with racism in America isn't able to be debated with facts and logic and then summed up in a clean 30-minute panel discussion. It's scary! It's awkward! It might make you have to confront things about your behavior that don't align with how you view yourself as a person!
We will never change anything unless we first acknowledge how much of our society and culture functions based on the opinion that certain people are lesser than others. If we can't recognize that a lot of the folks in this nation actively hold these views without a need to sugarcoat it, what meaningful conversation on race can ever indeed occur?
SIX EASY STEPS TO HELP BLACK LIVES:
Carve out 30 minutes in your calendar this week. Do it now!
Click a link and make a call or donate or sign a petition.
This weekend, share the link with your three closest friends and say, “Hey, I’m (calling/donating/signing a petition). If you’re interested, here’s the link!” If you have a group chat, drop it into your group chat!
Bookmark this link.
Repeat the following week.
Do it while you online shop or while you take a shit, whatever it takes! It is truly the absolute least that you can do!
If you work in marketing or advertising right now, I implore you to read this and take the words to heart, especially if you’re in an executive capacity.
Now, as a treat, here are two good reads about problematic pop*!
*I am from Chicago. It’s pop.
I feel like Teyana Taylor is one of the most exciting pop stars we’re ever going to get.
We met her on My Super Sweet Sixteen! Now she’s dropping amazing albums! UGH.
Not even going to hold y’all, I forgot how to write about music in a way that gets my point across. Until I get this muscle back, let me throw in some music writer words so you know I used to know my shit. How about ethereal, complexity, nuanced, brash, accomplished, “the R&B tradition,” soulful, genre-defying, uh, jangly? Yeah, that’s going to be all I can do for now.
Anyways, LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM.
While we’re here: PLEASE PLEASE revisit 2018’s K.T.S.E!
I missed seeing Colleen Green tour I Want To Grow Up five years ago (!!!) and I will never forgive myself.
REMINDER: I’ll be doing a newsletter swap with Dan Runcie of Trapital this week! That means I’ll be writing an original piece over on his newsletter and Office Hours readers will receive an original article from Dan here. If you’re here from Trapital, welcome! If you want to see my piece, subscribe to Trapital.
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Office Hours with Ernest Wilkins is a production of W&A, LLC.