Diet Racism

*This is my unpublished response to the racist fraternity chant incident with SAE at OU.

Diet Racism
Racism displayed by racist chant overshadows covert racism
By Joseph Oteng

It was the chant heard round the world.

Brothers of the now disbanded Oklahoma University chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity had their charter revoked and were evicted from their house.
The racism put on display by those fraternity men was simply boring. It was the tried and true easily recognizable version of racism.
It lets us sound the alarm, condemn blatant bigots, and return to our routines of silence, apathy, or ignorance towards the everyday injustices around us, many of which we participate in.
This whole ordeal points to the oversimplified markers for racism that are stuck in the height of Jim Crow law mandated segregation.
We look for foam-mouthed vitriolic spewing of the n-word, prejudiced signage of separationist nostalgia, or the haunting visages of black face. Don’t get me wrong, those things still happen but those are too easy. That’s lazy. That’s the regular beverage of racism, these days we sip on remixed diet racism, patent pending.
Those are the examples that let us create the feel-good stories of how we’re “good” people and push those “bad” people an arm’s length away as unapologetically awful.
We’re not like them. We’re not racist because we don’t do/say those things. The hard truth is we are, and possibly worse because at least those people are aware of their racisms.
That’s what let us sleep at night unaffected by the dehumanization of people of color, racial profiling, or the insidious notion of meritocracy in relation to affirmative action.
We should be looking at the politics of respectability in the policing of the hair of people of color, tired caricatured stereotypes offered up as dynamic diverse characters on television, and gentrification projects of places populated by people of color disguised as urban renewal.
The rhetoric of needing to see lynching, battered bodies, or the ever-lingering narratives of shackled enslavement is outdated and too simple.
Whether you take a fatal dose of poison or are slowly poisoned over a lifetime, the outcome is death. That’s what racism does, it kills your soul.
When it comes to racism’s modern rebranding to this covert form, that’s where solidarity, accountability, and discourse fall apart.
Institutional racism in the forms of the aftermath and continued war on drugs, school to prison pipeline, and redlining among other things are foreign concepts to most. Interpersonal bias incidents, macro/microaggressions, and subtle tension go unnamed, unchecked, and unmediated.
The arguments of time and location are wholly invalid. Declaring the year is 2015 does nothing to support an ideology of progress neither does writing off the South as inherently racist.
The march on Selma was only 50 years ago. The murders of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and so many others occurred in the past few years.
Hoses, dogs, and police beatings in the streets may have been part he 1960s civil rights movement but tear gas grenades, tanks, and curfews are part of the #blacklivesmatter movement right now.
Sit-ins, boycotts, and exposés have taken new forms as marches, protests, and internet hackers in communities across the country. The time may have changed, but the times have not. Racism is still alive and well; it’s just sneakier, more elusive, and intangible.
Racism now goes unsaid.
It’s the ways in which we look at people of color or when we don’t at all with views of colorblind acceptance and whitewashing. It’s the hypersexualizing and exoticization of people color as well as the inability to find those same people desirable. It’s the anonymous racist postings on Yik Yak as well as the erasure of histories or sprase presentations as counter instead of concurrent.
It's the words that aren't spoken. It's how entire populations are ignored on campuses but in other pockets of society. It's the crossing the street, the purse clutching, and police harassment. It's the handshake bypassing, chair scooting, and story invalidating. It's the ways that we strip people of color of their humanity, refuse to them the better of the doubt, and question the authenticity of their existences.
Let us not forget that the issue of racism is not black and white. Asian, Latino/a, and indigenous peoples are all about but absent from these conversations and yet have their racial/ethnic identities devalued, stereotyped, and stigmatized in both similar and different ways of black people.
Colorism, horizontal oppression, and xenophobia take the issue further than ever before. People of color have internalized the messages they have received from dominant culture and even within communities of color oppression persists. Add foreign policy and nativism and the subtleties of how people let you know that their indoctrination into prejudiced ideologies are masked behind claims to place, space, and time.
Research is important but so are conversations where your (yes, you) race/racism are discussed and even more so the actionable steps of anti-racist work - whether that be questioning biased thoughts in your own head, listening to a person of color's story of dealing with racism, or joining a protest.
Regardless of whether you consume regular racism or the diet kind is your beverage of choice, the only way to better is to strive to quit racism all together by doing anti-racist work daily – it, like all social justice works, is a lifelong endeavor.


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