Sigh…Every day I read another story about a racist harassing the Black people as they live their daily lives. Whether it’s a middle-aged White man with high shorts threatening a pregnant black woman or a ditzy blonde White woman harassing a worker at Dollar General, there’s always someone trying to help Black people understand they shouldn’t be living. Once the story shows up on Twitter, one of the first sentences I see in the comments from well-meaning White People are, “I’m so amazed at how calm they are [with this racist]” or “ I can’t believe how calm they were with that bad person!“ (I won’t even go into the advice they start to give about how much taping we should do and the proper authorities the call.)
“Not-All” Disclaimer: Yes these comments may have come from Black people as well. However, based on what’ve I’ve seen personally, most of the time it’s from white people.
When I see these comments it makes me angry. You have a racist person attacking a Black person going about their day, and the first thing you notice is how calm the victim appears? Do you understand how stupid that sounds? There are reasons we need to remain calm. That doesn’t mean we’re not angry inside.
Stuck on Calm
America’s racist history is recent and violent. It’s only been 50+ years since the end of Jim Crow legalized segregation. Black people have been prepared by their families for how to act around racist, White Supremacists, and your every day modern bigoted moderate. We’ve had 300 years to learn how to negotiate racist situations whether it’s blatant racism or your daily microaggression variety at work.
Black people act calm while dealing with racists because we don’t want to lose our jobs, get arrested, or die during the arrest. We now have the technology to make catching these people a lot easier. However, if we didn’t tape these people, once the police arrived they’d play the victim, throw in the tears, and start lying about what happened. (Every racist from the blatant to the subtle.) When I hear people comment on how calm the victims were, that reminds me of only one thing:
You’re more concerned about Black People getting mad while dealing with racists than the actual threatening aggressive tone of the racist.T.Lanette
There’s always been a history of policing Black people’s emotions. That resulted from an underlying fear of us getting upset. (Just look at all the think-pieces and thought-Tweets about Mrs. Serena Williams yesterday. Shoutout to The Independent for doing a better a than the NY Daily News addressing the real issue.) Even when we get upset, people still have problems.
Our Calm is Not Your Concern
Black people will always try to be calm when dealing with racists because we’ve had plenty of practice. We aren’t looking for stickers or accolades about how approachable we are for racists. Victims shouldn’t have to worry about how they are viewed. Instead, you really need to focus on the behavior of the racists.
Before you come at me and say I shouldn’t tell you what to write, that’s not what I’m doing. I’m telling you that if you’re focusing on Black people being calm when they’re dealing with racists, then you are a part of the problem.
I think it’s entirely possible that I have made comments like this, but I honestly never thought of it as a black person being calm in the situation. It has always been about ANYONE being calm in this situation (or something similar). In fact, I’m sure I’ve likely said it to different people from varying races, genders, etc.. But I also understand that sometimes comments can be seen in a negative light or interpreted differently than what was intended. It’s not really about what I said, it’s about what you heard. I may not have meant anything by it, but if offense was taken, it’s up to me to listen, try to understand, and make things right. That’s why it’s important for us to have these conversations.
It is important for the conversations if we’re going to change behaviors. It didn’t bother me at first. But then as more of these incidents have occurred and were being filmed, I noticed a pattern. I went from being slightly annoyed to pissed. I even saw a comment that mentioned the racist as a side note and focused on how calm the victim was. I decided I had to write this article to release my frustration. Thank you for feeling comfortable enough to comment.