When You Can’t Speak Up

I’m in a place right now that I’m surrounded by a lot of people who don’t see race and racism the same way I do. They casually toss out racist slurs, and when the ones they have don’t go far enough, they make up new, cute ones they can laugh about together. Their speech and racism are both very casual. And they don’t see a problem.

I’m outnumbered. There are ten of them and one of me. I spoke up and was shouted down. I spoke up and was personally attacked. I spoke up and learned my lesson.

I always feel when I see racism, I need to call it racism. I need to point it out and say that’s wrong. It’s my responsibility as a human, but it’s also my responsibility as someone who gets it. When I don’t get it and someone else does, I need to be called out, too.

But that doesn’t work when the people around you don’t want to be educated. They think you’re over-sensitive and no fun and should just sit down and be quiet. When you’re speaking truth to power or whatever the 2012 version of the cliche is, you should never sit down and shut up, but when you’re telling the same ten people that black people are smart enough to use Facebook, or can really count change, or do know how to use a cell phone, your voice starts getting hoarse.

Maybe it’s time to shut up. They obviously don’t want to hear it, and nothing I say is going to change their minds. There is no incremental scraping away at their prejudices. Because they’re happy the way they are and with the beliefs they have, and they’ve surrounded themselves with like-minded people.

I’m the deviant. And being the deviant is starting to wear on me. Whereas my insistent drumbeat of race education is having no effect on them, it sure is have an effect on me. It’s wearing me down and wearing me out. I’m running out of steam fast.

I’m not sure where to go from here. I don’t think there is anywhere to go. I stay where I am and so do they. They keep being racist and thinking it’s funny, and I keep leaving the room.

1 comment
  1. when you’re in deep cover among the willfully ignorant, you have three options: 1) fight the good fight, consequences be damned, 2) suffer in silence, plotting some dark and twisted revenge involving watermelon, rice, beans, and a white cloak, 3) plunder the tombs of the internet to mock your nemeses and amuse yourself simultaneously. Observe, option 3 in action: http://i1.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/002/135/sw50sw8sw578.gif

    Get that on some kind of t-shirt you wear under your work clothes, and bust it out, superman style, whenever they start running their mouths. See, who says Reddit can’t be productive!

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