Tolerating Racism: The Heavy Burden Placed on Students of Color
A while ago, I had planned to write some posts about things the Latinx community had at stake this election season. Then P-Gate happened and I was like well, that seems unnecessary now. But I think I overlooked the seeds this election season has planted.
Mainly it has become seemingly acceptable for certain people to openly proclaim their racist and sexist ideology. Before we had dog whistles and even the Klan had the common sense to keep their identities secret. But now, it’s all out in the open and there are so many that foam at the mouth, encouraging others to spew their hate in an attempt to get “their” country back.
For me, it’s come to a head this past week when I learned that David Duke a former member of the KKK, is running for political office. And he is being supported. He has garnered enough support to participate in the debate process. A debate that is being held at Dillard University. A Historically Black College.
I mean, is nothing sacred?! Are Black people not allowed to have spaces of their own that they can protect and shield from idiotic, racist, and violent rhetoric?!
I’m not surprised—Higher Ed is still a place where people of color must plead their humanity; remind their fellow students and instructors that they are people, worthy of respect and consideration—but it angers me that they have to experience this.
I’m angry because the course of action that will be promoted, expected, and imposed is that all those students will have to tolerate this mess in the name of “free speech*.” People of color, but especially Black people, are expected to be dignified and charitable in accepting disgusting viewpoints because that supposedly advances the discourse.
Even if it’s ugly, we’re still supposed to support any type of speech. This stems from a long-standing American value that all ideas should be welcome because the truth will always emerge in transparent discussion.
Yeah ok. I mean, I get the belief behind this and it’s a noble thought, but who came up with it? White men in power. Literally nothing said about them could lead to harm. Yes, maybe a harm of reputation or financial disrepair, but those men could stand listening to negative remarks without fearing physical, violent retribution.
That is not the case for people of color! It’s not that speech hurts our feelings—it’s that hateful commentary leads to real physical violence against us and also leads to nefarious public policy & legislation that abuses our health, education, and financial well-being in ways that does not decimate the White communities.
So yeah, it’s not that we’re frightened of the “truth” or want eschew thoughtful dialogue, but rather some of those mafuckas are crazy and will take a kernel of a thought and do the most with it in an attempt to harm us. But those types of insidious individuals are usually easy to pinpoint. What is more troublesome and disheartening are the enablers. Those who chide POC for not embracing all forms of speech.
I recall last spring when Trump came to Chicago and this city shut it down. There were many people—well-meaning liberals–who wrung their hands at the suppression of speech. More concern for words than for the mental & physical well-being of people of color. Again, it’s easy to ask POC to be tolerant when you face none of the risks they face.
I wish I could strongly agree that the marketplace of ideas is always valuable and should be promoted by everyone, but the reality is that we face real threat when racists are given a platform to speak.
And then to give them a platform at a place that’s supposed to be safe of this behavior and then expect the students to be dignified in face of such harmful disrespect, to me, seems a bridge too far.
*obviously I know that freedom of speech is related to the government and government suppression of the people, but in common everyday life this is an ideal that has trickled down & we’re expected to accept most forms of speech without questioning their value or inherent harm.