Racism in America, and, racism in Oak Park is nothing new. But calling out the racism of White liberals, unapologetically and blatantly, is a newer trend. For better or worse, most White conservatives own and are unapologetic with their racism. As an anti-racism advocate, my writing creed is, “call racism, racism.” My “call-out” racism/racist theory, which I call, Racial Crossfit, is the theory that in order to eradicate racism, we have to do two things: 1) clearly define what racism is and 2) clearly identify and name when someone or something is racist. Because America and American institutions were founded in White Supremacy and racism, I believe that being racist is something that is inevitable. My question for White people is not,” “whether or not you are racist?” rather; my question is “in what ways are you racist and/or participate in racism?”
According to Dr. Robin Di Angelo, this line of thinking is difficult for many White people because they define racism in very narrow, binary terms:
A racist=bad person (southern, uneducated, Republican, non-Oak Park living person)
A non-racist=good person (White, educated, Democratic Oak Park resident.)
But racism, and racists, isn’t, excuse the pun, black and white. There are many shades of racist grey. Racism is a spectrum, that runs the gamut on one end. One the extreme end of who is a racist is, “satan’s spawn reincarnated in human flesh,” Ann Coulter. And the other end of the racial spectrum, saxophone-playing, fried chicken eating, Bill Clinton, who was called “the first Black President” by the president of Black peoples words, Maya Angelou.
In the quest to clearly define racism, so we can end racism, we must all know:
- Racism is individual behavior AND racism is systemic.
- Racism is institutional AND racism is interpersonal relationship.
- Racism is both intentional AND unintentional.
- Racism can be done by both good AND bad people.
Unfortunately, Black people get to experience the entire racist spectrum almost daily. Further, contrary to what many people thing, Black people who visit, live, and work in liberal, progressive Oak Park, are not immune to experiences on the racism spectrum.
One new widely discussed form of racism perpetrated by White people, (well, it is not new, it just newly discussed openly) is a form of racism that falls in the middle of racism spectrum, the grey area. It’s being called on social media, #LivingWhileBlack.
#LivingWhileBlack is a term that describes when Black folks are harassed, antagonized, and in some cases terrorized, by White people for…well…just living their lives. Thanks to technology, Black people now have “proof of racism” for the world to see. Technology provides a full spectrum of racism on video, from police killings on the far end to murky racism grey. One of these newly documented examples racism, is White people attacking Black people, who are minding their own business, not breaking any laws, and are solely guilty of the crime of “not listening/obeying White people questions or demands.”
The perpetrators of this form of racism, #LivingWhileBlack, are overwhelming, White women.
This is #LivingwhileBlack pattern:
1) White woman sees POC, usually Black person, doing something that has NOTHING to do with them, but, the Black person makes them “nervous” or “uncomfortable.”
2) The White woman then self-appoints herself as an “authority” and begins to “police,” the POC, again usually someone Black, by demanding that person answer their questions. about an action that has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE WHITE WOMAN, but is making them, “nervous” or “uncomfortable.”
3) Because it is usually NONE OF THE BUSINESS of the White Woman what POC/Black people are doing, their demands are ignored.
4) Black people/POC failing to obey the orders of the random White woman, infuriate them so much, that they:
- start crying
- call the police
- tell the police, and everyone around, how “they are being attacked or threatened by the Black people.”
The racist White women, who are overwhelming the perpetrators, are given cute nicknames like, “BBQ Becky” or “Permit Patti.” The names are cute, but let’s be clear, but there is nothing cute about what they are doing. When White women call the police on Black folks for just living their lives, they are participating in in a form of racial terrorism. When the police enter the situation, the potential consequences, regardless of the legitimacy of the reason why the police were called, for Black people has dire consequences, including, murder. There is no such thing as a “casual call to the police” on Black people. Calling the police on Black people puts their lives in danger of legalized killing of Black folks by law-enforcement. Further, policing the behavior and actions of Blacks and POC, is a form of racial terrorism, that causes anxiety and the lives of the victims miserable, who are guilty of, #LivingWhileBlack.
#LivingWhileBlack: The Oak Park Edition
Last week during a riveting online conversation, we were discussing why casual police calls by White women, were/are racist and dangerous to POC. Many of the White women denied that there are any racist motivations behind “casual police calls regarding strangers (Black and POC) doing nothing “illegal” but “something that makes them uncomfortable or nervous” in their neighborhood.” It was in this context that I was introduced to Ms. C. and knew that I HAD to interview her and document her story.
Ms. C. is a 25 year Black resident of Oak Park. Ms. C. wants to stay anonymous because she scared of how her White neighbors would retaliate against her. (this is in May 2019). Ms. C is a homeowner, whose children went to Oak Park Schools from K-12, and she also the owner of two beautiful Pomeranian dogs.
Ms C. has a racial terrorist, that I call Pomeranian Peggie (PP). PP has been stalking and sending threatening letters to Ms. C, and Oak Park authorities on Mrs. C. Ms. C’s “crime” is “failing to take care of her dogs.”
You might think I’m jumping to play the “race card.” Maybe PP had valid questions about Ms. C’s dogs. I think people of all races could agree valid questions would be: Are the dogs starving? Are the dogs being trained to fight? Are the dogs be tortured? All those are valid questions that people of all races could agree on.
But that’s not what PP threaten to report to the police. Get ready to gasp out loud at the level of caucasity of PP. PP said Ms. C “did not look happy enough when she was in the backyard with the dogs.” Yup, PP wrote a letter to Mrs. C AND to the Oak Park Village about Ms. C’s not smiling enough with her dogs. This is not a joke. I read the letter.
Here is the story in Ms. C’s words, “My neighbor sent me a note that said I did not look happy when I was in the back yard with my dogs. Can you imagine? She is so convinced that she should supervise how I care for my dogs in the privacy of my own home and just how happy I should look in my backyard! She also sent me an article on how to crate train my Pomeranian. She said I need let them (my dogs) sleep in my bedroom in the crate versus in another room. I finally told her that if she should make one more suggestion about my dogs while she is surveilling my activities I will have the authorities on her and sue her for violating my privacy!”
Again, the nicknames, sound cute. But this is not cute; this is racial terrorism. Not only did PP send letters, she also included copies of Oak Park ordinances that she believed Ms. C was violating AND threatened to call the police on her for mistreatment of her dogs! Ms. C is now constantly afraid that people are looking into her home.
And, PP isn’t the only White woman racially terrorizing this lady in her home. She also got a letter from, who I named, Tomato Tammy. Tomato Tammy was demanding that Ms. C take down the light in her backyard/garden, because…wait for it…TT said Ms. C’s lights are stoping her tomatoes from growing properly. Again, Ms. C, sent me pictures of the light in her home. Ms. C is keeping documentation because Tomato Tammy is threating to call the authorities on her about the brightness of her backyard lights.
Honestly, when I first heard this story, I laughed. It is the most ridiculous example of racism #LivingWhileBlack I’ve ever heard! However, after speaking with Mrs. C., I was not laughing, I was crying and I was pissed. This poor woman, in her 50s, is terrified to just live in her own home. She is constantly documenting that she is “living properly in Oak Park” because of constant questions about how she lives in her own home, and whether she is following the Oak Park ordinances. Ms. C. is scared and always nervous, living in her home. There is nothing funny about this. This is racism. This is what racial terrorism looks like in Oak Park. Threatening to call the police on Black people, for living their life, is racial terrorism. Black people are not required to live their lives in a manner that makes White people feel comfortable and not nervous. Especially in their homes, that they own, with their own dogs, and the light volume in their backyards.
I asked Mrs. C., what she would want to say to White Oak Parkers:
“I would say to White Oak Parkers please don’t talk to me, pretending to be friendly. Please don’t try and make small talk with me, when you are really just being nosy about how I live my life. I don’t want to chat with you. Please get yourself together and learn to mind your own business. Stop trying to police me and other Black people in Oak Park. I have the right to peace and relaxation in my own home.”
In closing, racism is exhausting. For 400 years, we have tried almost every possible way to “nicely” prove to White people, that Black people and POC are entitled to live their lives in freedom, without the oppression and controlling of their actions. Niceness is not working. I think it is time for a new strategy called, “call a racist, a racist,” and “call something that is racist, racist” so that we can get White people to stop doing the racist things. And, for Pete’s sake, leave Black folks minding their own business, alone!
***Q & A, ADDENDUM FOR MY FREQUENT COMMENTATORS/TROLLS:
Okay, since this isn’t my first time writing in Oak Park racial discussion rodeo, I can almost “predict” what the responses will be! There are two main groups that troll me, they gave me the nickname, “race-baiter” awwww! Two hater groups are (1) the random white, liberal Oak Parkers who spend an inordinate amount commenting on editorials and (2) The, “Racism Doesn’t Exist POC” Group. (this group is similar to the people who believe the world is flat. But with racism instead of the science).
Here are my predictions of your comments and my replies:
A. ShaRhonda, why do you make everything about race? I don’t make EVERYTHING about race. But racism, I call racism. Sexism, I call sexism. Eating ketchup on hotdogs, I call wrong.
B. How can you assume it is always white women, aren’t you being sexist? I would urge to google #LivingWhileBlack, and you can see that 99% of the documented cases are perpetrated by White women. Plus, I can’t be racist against white women, my best friend is a White woman, so are two of my cousins, and THREE of my daughter’s dolls. So, yeah, see, it is impossible for me to be biased against White women, with all my proximity to White women.
C. You are hell-bent on painting a picture of a racist Oak Park and you don’t even live here. I do NOT live in Oak Park. That is correct. Nor, did Martin Luther King live in Montgomery, Alabama when we led the bus boycott. Dr. King did not live in Selma when they walked across the Pettis Bridge on Bloody Wednesday. I am not Dr. King, but, as a person who is trying to stop racism and White Supremacy, I talk about racism wherever it happens, regardless of my residency to the area. Like, George Bush didn’t live in Iraq when he talked about the oppression of the Iraqi’s. Barack Obama didn’t live in Libya when he talked about the oppression of Gaddafi. I could keep going, but, you get my point. Residency is not a requirement to discuss racism or injustice. If it was, there would be a LOT of out of work White people…
D. You could be more effective if you would use empathy and education instead of calling people out. Okay, I have taken tons of trainings and workshops on proper communication and the importance of the use of “I” statements.
So, I will put my training to use in answering this question:
“I hear” what you are saying. However, “I feel” that if you can’t have conversations about racism, that is oppressing and killing people, without people saying things that don’t hurt your feelings and/or tell you directly when you are racist, you are full of shit. Opps, I mean “I feel” you really aren’t committed to racism and you are taking up time and energy, that needs to be spent actually fighting racism. That’s how “I feel” when White people tone-police me. (Did I use enough “I” statements?)