Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Acknowledging Racism

Well guys. I went and did it. I perpetuated racism and didn't realize it, and I am writing this to acknowledge it, apologize for it, and work to do better.

Gone With the Wind is a racist book, and I had no clue. 

I did a post a few months back sharing my top 10 favorite books of all time, and Gone With the Wind has held the top spot on my list since I was 16. Erika commented on that post and said {in portion} 'Now that more time has passed and I'm a little more aware of the problematic depictions and tropes in the book, I question whether I would still enjoy it as much if I read it.' I had NEVER once thought about that, and honestly, at the time didn't give it much thought. Erika and I emailed a little about it, and I didn't change my mind about the book and went about my merry way.

Then another black man was murdered for being black {Ahmaud Arbery}. And I saw a very thought-provoking post on IG by @blackcoffeewithwhitefriends. I'm going to type it here because it was that impactful. 

The New York Times ran a piece called 'What We Know About the Shooting Death of Ahmaud Arbery'. But here is what I know:

1) He's dead because our country has never made amends for millions of black lives snuffed out by chattel slavery, lynchings, the criminal justice system, vigilante injustice, stop n frisk, war on drugs.

2) He's dead because Becky and Karen's fragile feelings matter more than justice.

3) He's dead because Thomas Jefferson and George Washington can still be someone's favorite president, and...

4) Gone With the Wind can still be someone's favorite movie.

5) He's dead because Confederate soldiers were pardoned and honored with holidays, monuments, and parks in the 1880s and 1980s.

6) He's dead because Abraham Lincoln and LBJ are seen as liberators not complicated white men who happened to be politicians.

7) He's dead because Birth of a Nation was screened at the White House and praised by President Wilson.

8) He's dead because 'Make America Great Again' isn't a slogan but a weapon.

9) He's dead because George Zimmerman is free.

10) He's dead because 'I don't see color' is a valid reason to chant 'All Lives Matter', and 'Blue Lives Matter', and 'White Lives Matter'.

11) He's dead because, 'There were very fine people on both sides.'

12) He's dead because the Confederate flag can be a hat, a bumper sticker, a t-shirt, a blanket.

13) He's dead because plantations are wedding venues.

14) He's dead because thousands can cheer, 'Send her back!!!!!'

15) He's dead because the white church says nothing and will not say his name, or Trayvon's, Sandra's, or Freddie's, like it never said Emmett's, Addie Mae's, Cynthia's, Carole's, or Carol Denise's.

16) He's dead because we had a black president and we're even, so let's not talk about race anymore.

...there was a little more, but you can see that this is a lot to think about and process. As I read it and saw #4, my heart stopped. WHAT? In my head I did a lot of sputtering 'No, GWTW isn't racist.' 'Okay, this said the movie, but surely that doesn't mean the book.' 'Let me google...ooooh this doesn't look good.' I tried to make excuses in my head, I felt really embarrassed, and I basically behaved like the entitled white woman that I am. The small upside is all of this happened in my own head.

Then I put on my big girl pants and thought about this critically trying to use things I learned in White Fragility - and I did a few things. I asked a {white} friend her opinion {it isn't a POC's job to teach me}, I thought about what I read about the stereotypes {the 'happy' slave} in the book and what it does for the anti-racist narrative {nothing}. And it dawned on me in utter embarrassment - this book is racist. 

How am I a 39-year-old woman who reads multiple books a year about anti-racism and claims to be raising her children to do better...and my favorite book is racist?

And not that this acknowledgement is much in the scheme of things - I don't have a big blog following so I love you guys but a million people won't see this - but every little thing I do adds up. And I need to take ownership for my behavior.

I am sorry for my racism. I have removed Gone With the Wind from my favorite book list. I apologized to a friend I recently recommended the book to. I will do better.


Natasha said...

Thank you for this apology because I am learning from you. I checked out the Instagram account you mentioned and found a few others to follow as well.

It's hard when the racism is so entrenched (I'd never thought about a lot of those 16 points) but that's not an excuse. We MUST do better.

Kathryn Bagley said...

I can't say I've read OR watched the movie. It just didn't seem like something I would enjoy because I'm not big on that era. This made me think of the Kitchen House because that really was the first book I've read that made me think about all the things you talk about. I didn't post on IG but last Friday I did run 2.23 miles in honor of Maud. I hope justice is fully served in that case.

Emily said...

I’m so proud of you for this post. I could come down there and hug you (in winter, not summer hehe). But seriously, learning is hard and embarrassing and I know I still have so far to go but I’m forever glad I have friends like you on this journey with me!