Racism: More than pointy hats and N-words

Like many of you, I have a family. And within that family, there are a wide range of people who believe things I think are patently batshit. My favorite Aunt told me she’d never vote Bernie because “he’s a socialist.” I have a cousin who swears the min wage shouldn’t be raised because it mostly applies to kids working part time, and that Citizens United is a “free speech” issue. I enjoy spirited debates when I encounter beliefs like that, but I find not everyone is willing to discuss what they believe.

So today, my youngest cousin posts a hate video….Cut for what prompted this post )

This led me to think that one reason it’s so difficult to talk about racism is this idea white people have–that the only way to be “racist” is to be in a skinhead group, the KKK, or to liberally use the N-word. Kids, that’s not so. Even if you’ve never uttered a racial slur, you can still be less than inclusive. Tim Burton probably does not hate minorities. There’s no evidence to say he does. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue that his movies have very few POC. No, thinking “white” people/culture/hairstyles are “normal” and everything else is “other/different/weird/ethnic” is a problem in terms of race relations. So is presuming that every character in every book is white unless the author specifically says they aren’t. If someone tells you that you aren’t being inclusive, or racially sensitive, or are being kind of a dick, they aren’t necessarily saying you’re Mel Gibson or Hitler. That doesn’t mean you should’t hear them out. Though yes, you have free speech and can absolutely choose to tell them to fuck off.

To that end, I say: Ron Weasley.
JK Rowling made Ron Weasley racist on purpose, and for this very reason. He’s not a supremacist, but he’s got issues with squibs (they have one in the family, but he’s never talked to them), werewolves, giants, Durmstrangs (or maybe just the one who’s sweet on his gal), and Slytherins among others. He’s also fine with house elves in servitude and considers Dobby an odd man out (in fairness, so does Hagrid).
Ron isn’t a bad kid. He’s not malicious, though I do find him petty and tantrummy at times. I don’t think he’s hateful either. He just believes certain things because they make sense to him, and has never bothered to question it. You know, like how a lot of the people who go around talking smack about Muslims have never knowingly had a conversation with one–or if they have, they come away saying they’re “ONE of the Good Ones.” It’s why the Washington Redskins logo doesn’t offend people who have never been called a “redskin” out of hate. Why WOULD they understand it? But after someone explains it fully, to respond by saying they’re lying or being “overly sensitive” is…pretty racist.

When I hear someone say something overtly bigoted, the first thing I try to do is ask questions to make sure I got that right. “Are you being sarcastic? Are you saying he deserved to be shot because he took his earpiece out? Are you saying all Muslims want to kill us for our freedoms?” The answer to that question usually determines whether a discussion ensues, or a screaming match, or I just disable notifications for that post. Calling someone a “racist” is a bad idea most times, since no one, even members of the KKKlan, actually admits that they’re racist. Literally no one does.
It’s hard to hear that you’re not being racially sensitive. I hate hearing it, and my first impulse is to explain why I’m not. But dammit, if you’ve got any kind of privilege, you also have an obligation to acknowledge it, and to think about how life might be (or listen to people when they explain it to you) for those who don’t have it.

People tell me it’s “not worth it” to “argue” with people on the internet. I maintain that discussions can make all the difference in the world if both parties have some modicum of respect for whoever they’re talking to. If I’m wrong, I wanna know why. I want facts that tell me why my thinking is wrong, and what I should have noticed that I didn’t.
So yeah, if you begin by calling someone a racist because they posted a meme they didn’t even read carefully, the ensuing discussion probably won’t go well. But if you open up an actual dialogue you might actually get some where.

Ultimately, my cousin took down the fake video because she “didn’t want to argue.” I think that’s a shame, because the ensuing discussion was a good read.

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