Tag Archives: Black people

A Consequence That Has Been Years in the Making

Laurie says:


A friend pointed me at an article by Danté Stewart: “Their Lives Are Defended. Ours Are Ruined” in Sojourners yesterday.

I was planning to post this later. I’d watched the attack on the Capitol as it happened. Then today I was watching the videos of the attack at the impeachment and I realized I needed to post this now. What he says is true and clear and important. These are extracted quotes – you want to read the whole article.

“This demands, indeed, a simple-mindedness quite beyond the possibilities of the human being. Complexity is our only safety and love is the only key to our maturity. And love is where you find it.” ―James Baldwin

Danté Stewart: I have tried to find ways to speak about this country and its failure — failures that we have tried to preach about and write about and pray about; failures we sometimes try to ignore to salvage what little peace human beings can be afforded. This week, I witnessed the same terror so many of us did. I witnessed it all, and I am afraid, and I am angry.

“Trump incited a mob to storm the Capitol and fled the white house,” my friend texts me. I read over her text, and I read it again. “What? Really?” I respond as I pull up the news on Twitter. “The US Capitol is on lockdown,” she says, “They are evacuating the Capitol right now.”…

“If they invaded the U.S. Capitol with Confederate flags, a noose, and other symbols of American hatred and were simply escorted out of the building, what does that say about a country that allows it?” —@stewartdantec

…But this is not a failure. This is the country that has been chosen for us. President Donald Trump and his supporters are but a reflection of the worst of American tradition. A country that meets people fighting for dignity and justice with tear gas and bullets, but meets people attempting a violent coup with apathy and silence is one that is loud in its declaration that it cares more about white supremacy than it does about democracy. It is a country that dares not face itself nor the terror it created. It dares not deal with the rot beneath the surface because, as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) so audaciously declared, it is “the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.”

This is a powerful and persistent lie. It is a lie that keeps the country proud, singing songs, declaring blessings, and never doing anything to stop the terror that destroys us. If they invaded the U.S. Capitol with Confederate flags, a noose, and other symbols of American hatred and were simply escorted out of the building, what does that say about a country that allows it?

This is a consequence that has been years in the making.  At every moment in American history, historian Carol Anderson writes, this country has had chances to deal with white rage that “has undermined democracy, warped the Constitution, weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically, squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarceration, rendered an entire region sick, poor, and woefully undereducated, and left cities nothing less than decimated.”…

…It is a profound delusion. It is a delusion that damns us. It is a delusion we can and must be liberated from if there is any hope for us, for our country, for our children, and for our future. 

I have not slept well in days. I wake up at 4:48 a.m. and I turn on James Baldwin’s 1987 interview with Mavis Nicholson as I make coffee. MSNBC plays in the background as I take a sip. I see the images from Wednesday and I am reminded of terror. In the interview, Baldwin cracks a smile. His teeth show. His mouth closes. He becomes resolute.

“Are you still in despair about the world?” Mavis asks him.
“I have never been in despair about the world,” Baldwin quietly responds. “I’m enraged, but I don’t think I’m in despair.”

I take another sip from my coffee. I want to feel love. I think I do, but I don’t. I want to feel hope. I think I do, but I don’t. I see more images of terrible white American men. I see a Confederate flag. I see a noose.

“Black people need witnesses in this hostile world which thinks everything is white,” he says.

I listen to Baldwin. I read Toni Morrison’s words on Jimmy’s courage: “to live life in and from its belly as well as beyond its edges, to see and say what was; to recognize and identify evil but never fear or stand in awe of it.”

My son comes downstairs. I look at him, his small Black body, his smile as he plays. “Daddy,” he says. He does not know Daddy is sad. Daddy is terrified. He does not hear my silent prayers over his body and over his future. I know the spirit of the ancestors is in my bones. The spirit of the Lord is upon me. I know that one day, we shall shake the foundations together.

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African-Americans with Watermelon: Always a Racist Image

Debbie says:

The first time I encountered a black person offended by being served watermelon, I was about 14, which means it was about 1965. We ate watermelon all the time in my house, and I could not understand why our guest took it so personally. It was one of my first encounters with the “innocent” racist act, where something a white person does combines with the context to create a problem. And I hadn’t learned then that the only thing to do is apologize, remember not to do it again, and move on. Or that “intent” and “innocence” are not the important issues in fighting institutionalized, embedded-in-the-culture racism–not to mention in excusing oneself for causing pain to another person.

Walt Disney Corporation engaged in a perfect example of embedded racism when they put their only black princess, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, on their watermelon-flavored candies.

white princess on vanilla candy package; black princess on watermelon candy package

This choice does two terrible things at the same time: first, it hurts and offends African-Americans. Second, it reinforces the underlying stereotype for everyone who isn’t aware of it. Sociological Images examines the roots of that stereotype here.

According to David Pilgrim, the curator of the Jim Crow Museum, defenders of slavery used the watermelon as a symbol of simplicity. African Americans, the argument went, were happy as slaves. They didn’t need the complicated responsibilities of freedom; they just needed some shade and a cool, delicious treat.

The stereotype has never gone away, and it came back in a new ugly form when Barack Obama was elected. If you want to upset yourself, Google “obama watermelon racist.” Here’s one of the milder images; this one caused a furor in 2009 because the mayor of a small town in Orange County found it funny enough to email to town notables sharing it.

white house lawn as watermelon field

This all happened almost two weeks ago. Disney hasn’t made a public comment and, as far as I know, they haven’t removed the product either, despite a significant amount of internet furor. The only respectable thing Disney can do here is what they won’t do–because they haven’t done it by now. And that is: apologize, take the product (and ideally the whole series of flavors) off the market, and hire some high-end diversity consultants of color (they can afford it) to work with the marketing team that had the idea.

They could start by regularly reading Racialicious, where I first saw the story.