How Non-Racist People Perpetuate Racism

I recently entered into a discussion on Facebook with a white man who commented on a public post I made in which I shared an article about Ohio residents greeting Obama by waving confederate flags. I commented on the article with only two words: heart broken. The man responded by saying he was "tired" of the media exacerbating racial tension by pitting blacks and whites against one another. Does he count as "the media" since he posted publicly on Facebook? Aren't we, the people, the media, now? Did "the media" invent police brutality and the segregation in communities and schools that persists today?

He cites his experience as a missionary in Southern black communities as evidence of his understanding. He says he didn't experience racism in the projects. Does he think that associating with black people made him temporarily black? Does he think something doesn't exist because he has not personally experienced it?

He claims that he is not a bigot, and I might believe him, yet his denial of the discrimination faced by people of color indirectly supports it.

I do not know this man at all, but I engaged with him because I felt it important to fight against the contagions in his message. I hoped that by speaking up, I could give others the tools to speak up. I let myself become intoxicated by the freedom of speech. I knew I couldn't change his mind, but I felt empowered by disagreeing with him, openly, unapologetically.

I disagreed when he suggested that waving the confederate flag in the face of our black president was not a racist act but a political act. Then why not hold up signs with political statements as is the norm for such protests? I disagreed when he suggested the confederate flag to be a symbol of unity. The unity of whom? Certainly it was not for the unity of the human race. I disagreed when he said the treatment of blacks is not as bad as the media wants it to be. What if it's worse?

America has a long hard history with race. This country is not going to heal beneath the pretense of equality. We must demand the real thing. We can start by bearing witness to people of color. The media has largely provided us this opportunity.

The first step to change is awareness, which is why this man and so many others perpetuate racism. By pretending it's not there.

This is day 17 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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In Defense of Social Media

I think I am addicted to social media. Specifically Facebook and Instagram.

Like most addictions, I feel guilty about this. But I don't believe there's any point in feeling guilty about anything. Either you do it and you own it, or you stop.

This is me owning it.

In the morning when I wake up and turn on my phone, I check social media before I check my email. I don't do this every morning, but I do it every morning that I can.

When I actually have time to work, I interrupt myself to check Facebook.

When I actually have time read, I interrupt the pages to check Instagram.

Usually, I spend more time on social media than I want to.

Why do I check it so often?

Because I love climbing into other people's minds, seeing glimpses of the world through their eyes. Maybe I'm bored or uncentered or lacking focus. Maybe what I'm trying to write or read is hard and I'd rather be distracted than face the demons. Maybe it's resistance. Maybe I'm hiding beneath social media, hiding from my work and my responsibilities and everything else that's actually important.

Or maybe that's not it.

I'm a work-at-home mother. I don't get a lot of adult interaction aside from school pick-ups, the occasional play date or girlfriend date, and husband-wife time when we're not too exhausted from the wildness of the parenting wilderness.

Social media helps that wilderness become a community. It closes the gaps. It makes us neighbors, even when we live on opposite sides of this polychromatic planet. Today a friend secured a walker for her baby via Facebook. (Why buy when you can borrow?) Another Facebook friend with a sick child in the hospital appears to have found many prayers and much comfort via Facebook. This weekend a friend from college got engaged and a friend from high school had her baby. Because of social media I get to see my sorority sisters in their wedding dresses. I get to share articles and conversations with like-minded people. I get to stay in touch with distant family members and watch old friends' kids grow up. I get advice and support and love on Facebook.

As for Instagram. I love it more than Facebook though I find it serves a much different purpose. Instagram is simpler. Instagram is about life as it happens, and because you need a photo to share a thought, more thought goes into every post. Instagram lets you create and share your creation immediately. This platform encourages creativity while delivering inspiration curated by you. And because there's no algorithm (yet?) to the posts you see, you're always on the cutting edge of the universe. You're watching history as it unfolds.

I joined Facebook in 2004. And I've been on Instagram for over 3 years. I've grown up alongside this technology. Even when I know I'm spending way too much time stalking my tribe, roaming the streets of my teeny tiny virtual city, engaging in other people's lives while neglecting my own; I still don't consider quitting. Never, not even for a moment.

I am not willing to give up the communication, the information, and yes, the validation. I love my Facebook friends and I admire my Instagram feed. Perhaps I don't need quite as much information as I collect, or perhaps I do. Perhaps mining for data on social media helps me to understand the human experience, bringing increased awareness and compassion and maybe (just maybe!) better writing.

I may be stuck in my own world of writing words and raising kids, but I do have social media as a portal (albeit limited) into the rest of the world.

I'll take what I can get.

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