“The people doing the least can be found in every viral video clip of a white person hysterically refusing to wear a mask at Trader Joe’s. These people are unhinged, dangerous and just plain goofy, willing to die (and kill) over Jicama Wraps and Kale Gnocchi. And the people doing the most? Well, the most happens anytime a white person encounters a Black person who writes about race — or just a Black person who just happens to be Black — and the Serious Conversation About Racism (SCAR) must ensue. This isn’t a new phenomenon. I’ve been SCARed before in the grocery store express aisle, between pickup hoop games at the gym, while getting a colonoscopy, and at least 82 percent of the unsolicited emails I get are drive-by SCARings. But now America feels like a deleted scene from “Get Out.” Or better yet, “The Sixth Sense.” But instead of seeing dead people, white people see us as walking, talking, antiracist book lists.
There’s no better example of the absolute most than the recent ABC News feature on Ernest Skelton. Mr. Skelton, an appliance technician, was just doing his job when the white woman whose house he was working on grilled him about the plight of blacks in America. He shared that racism is, um, bad. The woman, Caroline Brock, wrote a post about their conversation on Facebook, and it went viral. Local news stations called, and they eventually appeared on “Nightline” as an example of what happens when America allows itself to “heal from the heart.” But all I can think about is this man trying to fix a sink while taking a random pop quiz about redlining.
I guess I understand the compulsion to find somewhere to engage this national conversation, even if that space is shoehorned. It feels sometimes like double dutch, as if white people are waiting on the sidewalk for a cue to jump in. And today’s best seller lists are stocked with guidebooks for navigating this terrain. Two of the most popular picks — “How to Be an Antiracist” and “So You Want to Talk About Race”— are by my friends. But I doubt either author wishes to be SCAR-bombed at Jiffy Lube.”
David Lindsay: This young man, Damon Young, has some important things to say, but I find his tone so rude, that I am repulsed by his bad manners, and his ugly self-absorbed self-centeredness. Maybe he reminds me of myself as a younger person when I was at my worst, so I am very critical. After the tragic death of George Floyd, and his the miraculous movement the video of his death inspired, I learned for the first time of the Tulsa Massacer in 1921. Such readings changed my heart, and I began to seriously support reparations, which I had been reticent to consider seriously. I have some sympathy for the white neighbors who ask this new author of a book on race, to discuss the topic further with him if he is interested.
In his defence, Kathleen S. finds very little rudeness from the author of the piece. She points out that the man simply feels rudely objectified by whites, who do not approach him as an individual, who might not want discussion while out and about, but an official black spokesperson who is always on duty, which he clearly isn’t. I asked Kathleen to define objectify, and she said, in this instance, it means to treat someone not as an individual, but as a role or position.