We’ve all heard it before:
“I am not racist but [INSERT RACIST COMMENTS].”
IMAGE BELOW LEFT FROM THE CREATIVE ROY.
But why? Why can we not have conversations about our biases?? And what harm does it cause when we cannot own up to these?
These are my thoughts and responses in relation to the above questions. At this time, I think it is important to acknowledge my own identities as a heterosexual white woman. I also want to stress that I am not speaking for anyone else other than myself. Agree or disagree with what I have to say? Pop a comment below and let’s chat- respectfully.
I want to talk about New York attorney Aaron Schlossberg. Aaron is the gentleman that was recently caught on camera blubbering racist hate speech at folks that were speaking Spanish in a Manhattan market. In addition to the deplorable words he has to say to these individuals, he pulls up his phone and threatens to call ICE on them (because speaking Spanish obviously means you’re in the US undocumented, right?? [read sarcasm]). Within hours of Shaun King sharing the original video on his Facebook, Aaron is identified. According to King, a few of Aaron’s former law school classmates saw the video and immediately recognized him. They also commented that they were not surprised by this behavior (important to note and remember this).
More people have begun to speak up about Aaron’s typical behavior. Another gentleman, Willie More, shared a video he filmed of Aaron in 2016 when he (Aaron) approached More asking him where he is from and calling him an “ugly fucking foreigner.”
Last time I checked the original video of Aaron ranting in the NY market, it had 6.5 million views. So obviously, he has the nation’s attention. And since then, he has issued what he calls “an apology.” I would like you to read his statement before we continue:
“To the people I insulted, I apologize,” he wrote. “Seeing myself online opened my eyes – the manner in which I expressed myself is unacceptable and is not the person I am. I see my words and actions hurt people, and for that I am deeply sorry. While people should be able to express themselves freely, they should do so calmly and respectfully. What the video did not convey is the real me. I am not racist. One of the reasons I moved to New York is precisely because of the remarkable diversity offered in this wonderful city. I love this country and this city, in part because of immigrants and the diversity of cultures immigrants bring to this country. Again, my sincerest apologies to anyone and everyone I hurt. Thank you.”
Again, “What the video did not convey is the real me. I am not a racist.”
This is not an apology. This is a lackluster publicity stunt. I have no respect for this statement.
What needed to happen? Aaron needed to acknowledge his bias. He needed to admit to his racism. He needed to vow to work on himself. Let’s see some commitment to change. Not some bull-shit response where you deny your racism. Has he seen the videos of himself?? Has he read a definition of racism??
So this all brings me back to my main questions: why can we not admit to our bias? And what harm does that cause?
Firstly, I think we are socialized in a world that likes to tell us everything is fine. Racism does not exist anymore. White people do not have privilege. We all doin’ good, ya know? No.
We need to have these conversations- in classrooms, with our children, in our families, in our friendships, etc. Do you feel uncomfortable hearing someone speak Spanish? Let’s talk about that. Let’s dissect that. Let’s maybe even make a Spanish speaking friend and get to know what their culture and language may be all about??
Are you uncomfortable or scared when someone of a different race is around you? Let’s talk about why you might feel that way. What you have you seen in the media that has made you form these biases?
A big point I want to make right now: it is NOT the responsibility of someone different than you to educate YOU about THEM. You have to take some initiative here. That is what I wish Aaron had done instead of copping out with the “I’m not a racist” card.
It is not a Spanish speaking person’s job to speak English to make you feel comfortable. Also, I just HAVE to remind everyone at this time that the United States of America has no official language and if it were to—it would technically be something like Ojibwe…amiright?
It is not a person of color’s job to befriend you and be OVERLY nice (or nice at all) to you in order to convince you they are a decent person.
It is not a Muslim woman’s job to remove her her hijab to make you feel more at ease. Let’s talk about why that may make you nervous.
I firmly believe if we could all acknowledge our biases, open our minds and our hearts, and get to know people that are different from ourselves, the world would prosper.
Unfortunately, some people are not open to that. I wonder if Aaron really has had a change of heart. Or will he now just silently slur racist speech in his head when he hears someone speaking Spanish? Because is that really progress? Nothing has really changed, has it?
When we do not own up to our biases and challenge ourselves to grow, we fail as a society. We hurt each other. We miss out on relationships. We miss out on peace. We miss out on love.
If you are still reading up until this point, (first) THANK YOU. Thanks for staying with me. It’s been a while since I wrote here and it is feeling good.
Second, I HIGHLY encourage you to head over here to take one, many, or all of Harvard’s implicit bias tests. These are an incredible way to dissect yourself and your bias. I wish that I had to take these in grade school; my kids definitely will. I took one of these a few years ago that was measuring my implicit bias in terms of gender roles. I was HORRIFIED at how biased I was towards women (myself!). But it challenged me to think in new ways, modify my language, and open my mind. I am still working to do that.
Let’s create a world in which we can have these conversations. Let’s call each other out for our biases. Let’s learn and grow together.
Note: by no means am I saying anyone has to or should engage with someone (like Aaron) that is hateful, aggressive, or makes you feel unsafe. Safety and respect always come first.
What do you think? How else can we own our biases? What else can we do to make the world more inclusive and celebratory of us all?
As always friends, peace and love.