Sorry not sorry.

My heart is heavy, yet again.

I wasn’t going to post or write about this but I can’t not talk about it. The shooting in Charleston has left in me in tears. Tears for these people who have lost their lives because of hate. Tears for their families and loved ones. Tears of frustration at the sheer amount of people who are still refusing to admit that this was a hate crime, an act of terrorism. (Even though now it has come forward that he absolutely meant to start a civil war.)

There’s a lot I could say about this completely senseless massacre, but it’s everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. What I wanted to write about is the persistent narrative that I keep seeing on the internet of people trying to deny that this event had anything to do about race. That these 9 Black people, attending a Bible study class in a historic Black church, were murdered just because of some crazy guy. It’s infuriating, it’s insulting, and it’s wrong.

Here's a doodle I made of a stick figure being mad a computer. He's probably reading YouTube comments.
Here’s a doodle I made of a stick figure being mad a computer. He’s probably reading YouTube comments.

So naturally, I’ve been getting into internet debates with strangers, and I wanted to share two very different conversations I’ve just had.

1) Site: Facebook

A friend of mine posts the Jon Stewart video (that is so amazing and made me cry again) and here are the comments in their entirety, I didn’t even correct grammar or spelling issues. Obviously not using real names but the one labeled “T” is with whom I’m debating. I’m going to use colors to help break up blocks of text but also to make this a little less painful to read. Colors are fun, right?

T:  I think people need to learn the distinction between bigotry, racism, discrimination, prejudice and hatred. Then unlearn words like micro aggression and other PC era terms. acknowledge that people “profile” others all the time based on looks. Race. Age. Accent. Size. Scent. Hair. Clothes. Class. Speech etc.
People need to understand that being offended doesn’t make you a victim. That being an asshole doesn’t make you a criminal. People need to stop reducing racism to someone’s perception of what someone might have thought, and leave it for when it actually matters. People are way too sensitive and it’s a disservice to those who have suffered and actually suffer injustices now

A (original poster): I love to read your posts because, you always do such a compelling job of outlining a position I don’t fully agree with nor fully disagree with. So, yeah, I appreciate your post….Moving on, it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation about a complex topic like racism, especially over Facebook. So I won’t attempt to prescribe a balance on sensitivity or take on your misconceptions about the power of perception, but I hope someone, who is ripe to confront themselves about this will see my post today. Thanks for reading.

(Super nice diplomatic response that should’ve ended the conversation but ooh no… not while I’m around!)

T: Well thanks 🙂 yeah I’m not sensitive. I’ve not a bone of guilt. I never get defensive. My conviction is my freedom. Being right or wrong or judged or labelled compels me personally to do nothing. I use my life experiences to determine my perspectives and I don’t expect everyone to agree with them and I surely don’t expect people, especially on Facebook as you say, to judge me simply for my character and not as a white or straight or male. That will never happen. So I may as well say what I feel since people will dismiss it anyways 🙂  let them be hypocrites and regurgitate whatever the college professors are spewing. It’s just like rap music every generation likes their voices and thinks the new/older ones are lame. Doesn’t matter if it’s flavors of Gatorade or brands of feminism. Nothing is more American than arguing about things with emotion and sentiment instead of logic or reason

A: That’s great for people to know when they consider your ideas and point of view.

(Oooh, gurl, the shade, the shade of it all. Go you.)

R (another commentator):
Logically speaking:
Racism is discrimination based on race, specifically occuring when that race has been historically discriminated against and demoralized and put in a position of oppression. (So logically those historically in a position of power cannot be discriminated against in this way).
Systemic racism is when that oppression and discrimination becomes ingrained into the very system something is built upon. So in the case of the US, that’s our constitution. Your freedom that you use as your conviction was built upon the oppression of others. I’m not dismissing your opinion. You have as much right to it as I do to mine. But I’m looking at facts. Your opinion is one that has been heard before. In fact, the majority have been saying this for longer than America existed. It doesn’t mean it is correct.
But then again logically those in a position of power will seek to keep that power. So yeah maybe it’s time emotion had its day because at least if we look at our emotions we might understand the place in which others find themselves.

T:  Emotion always has its day now. People get outraged all the time now. And like John (Editorial note: he means Jon Stewart) says. Nothing happens. My initial response was to A’s words about racism, if its inherent, what people need to do about it etc. my thoughts are that too many people try to make feelings reality. It’s not logical for society to enable that, but we do. If someone is offended, they’re offended, and they’re validated. No matter how much of a stretch it is. we’re obligated to respect their feelings no matter what now. I just call bullshit.
I don’t need to express my emotions publicly to empathize. And I don’t need to empathize publicly to show anyone I’m human, cool, forward thinking, progressive, liberal, warm, loving, etc. I know I am. This is the freedom I speak of. Don’t coopt the term for your own argument I’m. Not speaking of our 3/5ths men days of old, of slave times or suffrage. I’m talking of a personal freedom to speak my mind without fear of offending someone, or worrying about being judged. You proved my point for me. insinuating that I’m “in power” and my opinions are to be dismissed. You can believe that all you want. People have been labeling people to dismiss them before America existed. It’s time I show some emotion about it don’t you think?

(I don’t even know… most of that didn’t even make sense… where to begin… So naturally, I engaged.)

Me: Chiming in here because I don’t know you, so I can’t quite tell what is tongue-in-cheek and what is sincere in your comment, T, but it sounds like you’re being a bit dismissive and defensive towards R’s comment, which to me was very straight-forward and actually not emotional at all.

First of all: 1) You wrote, ” If someone is offended, they’re offended, and they’re validated. No matter how much of a stretch it is. we’re obligated to respect their feelings no matter what now. I just call bullshit.” But you’re missing the point. We’re not talking about the PC police or someone being offended over a Hollywood movie and posting about it on a blog, we’re talking about 9 people who were brutally murdered on Wed night because of the color of their skin. But as Jon Stewart said, this isn’t an isolated incident. This isn’t just the work of one lone wolf crazy person. This occurs all the time and it’s indicative of the systematic racism that this country is built upon. It’s everywhere. This isn’t a fluke, it’s a physical eruption of a hate culture that we live in. To dismiss it as people simply playing victim every time they’re offended because all people profile is incredibly insulting to those who live their daily lives being profiled every single day because of their race. And not just in a “oh that one guy doesn’t like me” kind of way, but the way where policemen shoot first and ask questions later, employers won’t hire you, store owners follow you – it’s systematic. Jon said, these people drive on roads named after Confederate leaders who fought to keep them in slavery. I insinuate from your earlier comments that you’re a white, straight, male. And you are entitled to your opinions, but the biggest point Jon was making is that we can’t deny that we are part of a racist society. People hate the term privilege because they react to it emotionally, but the actual meaning is that you have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be black in America (and neither do I), so check your privilege means stop telling black people to stop being so sensitive and listen to what they have to say about their experience.

2) And on that note, no, I’m sorry, you can’t have that “personal freedom to speak my mind without fear of offending someone, or worrying about being judged” – first of all, that’s called being human and everyone has that. You just don’t want to be challenged or debated. You don’t want to discuss. When I hear that, I hear, “don’t bother arguing with me because I’m right. I’m allowed to say whatever I want in a public sphere and I shouldn’t have to suffer any consequences for it.” And yet as soon as an opposing opinion is voiced, you shut it down with talks of freedom of speech. That’s fucking hypocritical. You can absolutely believe whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You CAN’T then expect to not have to deal with the consequences. That’s being an adult. Be offensive but then stand by it. What’s wrong with saying, “Yeah, I am offensive.” I think A was speaking to that – we all need to say, “You know what? I am a little racist. I can be part of the problem. But I want to be part of the solution, so let’s talk.” That’s progress.

3) What is wrong with emotions? In intelligent debate, emotion is always dismissed as weak or feminine or useless, but all progress by humankind was made when emotion met intellect and skill. People were killed. People are still being killed. We are human beings, made of flesh, and emotions are what sets us apart as evolved beings. There’s nothing wrong with emotions. I’m sad that these people died. I’m sad that we live in this type of world still. I’m sad and angry that my black and brown friends have to deal with this every day. I’m sad and angry that my Asian brother is even profiled by authorities still. I’m sad that I’ve been made to feel like I wasn’t American, like I didn’t belong, and that I was a freak, constantly every single day of my life growing up and in ways that continues now. I’m angry and sad events like being called a “Chink” in 7th grade, to my Muslim friends being taken aside at airports, to the tragedy in Charleston are all indicative of a giant complex racist culture and history that is America. I’m sad that we still have to have these discussions. I’m worried that you’re not even going to read this. I’m embarrassed that I’m blowing up A’s wall with talk about politics and race and sociology. But I’m incensed to reply and keep talking and not being quiet. Because this is my experience, because their lives mattered. Because silence = death. Because we deserve the right to be fucking emotional. But what do I know? I’m just human.

T: I myself was never talking about the hate crime murders in the church. Also I don’t care what people think about some of my opinions. It’s not that I “shut them down” it’s that I simply don’t feel a need to get defensive nor appease people should they be offended by my opinions. (In a public forum) it’s a nice freedom, a luxury, a privilege even that most people don’t have, because they don’t want to offend anyone or be called sexist or racist etc etc even if theyre speaking the truth or have an unpopular Opinion.

(Editorial note: He then went back later and EDITED his reply and added:) Which was my point about people’s feelings being reality and how as a society we enable that. Being offended equates to being a victim now. Being an asshole equates to being criminal. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Even professors have to watch what they teach so they don’t offend one single student. Lest they complain. It’s an awful climate. The irony being that the enabled offended people tend to be the ones who won’t listen – their feelings are reality. It’s a slippery slope. I find people agree with things or don’t say anything just to avoid drama. It’s pathetic.

(You can tell he’s starting to flail now.)

Me: Okay… so… what’s your point? Then how do your comments add to the conversation that A started by posting this video that was about the hate crime murders? Are your comments completely non-sequitur? I don’t get it.
PS: This article (written by a white male with a Ph.D.) is exactly what I’m talking about.

Here is a soothing picture of a beach at sunset to help prevent rage stroke. Picture by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/
Here is a soothing picture of a beach at sunset to help prevent rage stroke. Picture by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/

T: And as for your personal anecdotes, welcome to the world. People can be mean and hateful and the easiest thing for lazy people to do is attack or judge someone by their appearance / race. What could society have done besides tell kids it’s not ok and punish them for racial slurs? Nothing. It will still happen. Even as adults. Everyone will handle it differently. Some will feel like victims others won’t give a shit. Being called names sure seems like child’s play compared to being killed or beat because you’re black or gay etc. but who am I to judge? I’m not even talking about racial slurs and things that are already illegal and or forbidden in schools or the workplace. I’m talking about misco aggressions and other bs. People are looking for ways to be offended it seems like. Do I call it a micro aggression when cars try to charge me more for a fare? Or when bodegas won’t sell me loosies because they assume I’m a cop? Both of those happen because of my race. Am I a victim? You will surely say no. Do I have a right to be upset? Sure. Are they doing anything illegal? Not really. Where do we draw the line.

Me: No, but that was my point, I’m in NO way saying being called (racial slurs) names as a child is equal to being shot – please be clear about that. It’s all symptomatic of a larger issue – you being charged more for a car or not being sold loosies DOES make you a victim of what is a racially divided and problematic system – slavery didn’t end that long ago. Jim Crow laws were just over 50 years ago. Our country is built on racism and we need to admit that. Then we can start trying to enact laws and measures to try to make it better. Mindfulness, like A was advocating, is the key. We can’t just say, “Oh well, people suck, that’s life.” That’s so defeatist. In this kind of society, we all suffer, regardless of our race.

T: Yes it is built on slavery. 100%. Indentured servitude too. Which continues to this day with student loans. (Oooookay… not touching that one.) Acknowledging it out loud doesn’t do any good. All we can do is live by example and fight for and speak for those that can’t themselves. To demand justice. Maybe people have a different idea of what that means. Maybe people have different expectations. I know this, insults based on race (or size, class, slut shaming, ginger (sorry ash) etc etc will exist forever. I know I’ll prepare my multi racial kids for it, what to do, how to handle it, not to do it etc. beyond that idk what more an individual can do. I just won’t respect when people cry wolf. Which goes full circle to what I posted earlier.

Me, trying to not let him derail the conversation: But who is crying wolf? And how is talking about crying wolf even helpful on a FB post that is absolutely about a hate crime where people died because of the color of their skin?

T: There are already enough laws and enough people losing jobs over bs. IMO. God forbid you offend someone. It’s not helping anyone it’s taking away from legitimate cases of discrimination etc etc like I said originally. If anything I think it’s polarizing people and creating divisiveness.

Me:  I guess I’m just confused why we’re even having this discussion. This has nothing to do with Ashley’s post then. And can you site real examples please? Of people losing their jobs over people being offended?

Me again: Whoa, also I just notice you added a whole new addendum to your earlier comment that was NOT there before (I quote that extra part mentioned earlier).
And while I do agree with you partially (I actually wrote a blog post about the PC police and how it hurts our cause) I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for us to look inward and see if we’re part of the problem and discuss these issues because as I said earlier, silence equals death.

T:  I speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and try to silence those who try to coopt or steal from them. Like these memes out now comparing the white kids arrest to the five worst domestic assault/murders of Black men in the last year. No. Right message. Wrong day. Don’t exploit this for click bait. Don’t manipulate angry people. Don’t exploit actual victims and dead people to bring awareness (clicks and likes to your FB page) to the obvious fact that black people are sometimes mistreated by the cops. Don’t disrespect the men and women who caught this mass murderer by complaining that they didn’t beat shoot or sit on him like a teen age girl. I’m shocked how many people I know are sharing these dumb memes I’ve been up all night shaming them.

(I KNOW. I KNOW.)

Me: But I don’t think people are posting to just get clicks and likes, they’re showing the disparity between the way white people vs black people are treated in this country. Racism is racism is racism. It IS all related. We do need to talk about this. These issues are real and they are important. The senator did a lot of work to try and benefit the black community. If we’re not going to talk about these issues now, then when? How many more people have to die?

T: You can’t compare how local yokel cops abuse people with a multi agency intrastate manhunt. It’s beyond naive. There are thousands of people arrested daily without any incidents, also white people do get beat. We all know the disparities…. Still. Wrong place. Also The people who make those memes have like a million likes. They’re garbage pages like tmz. He’ll be sold for profit to a business.The only valid comparisons to this mass murderer are the last 4 black mass murderers. 3 of whom were taken peacefully while one was shot but not fatally. 

But who cares about logic! People are mad and they need to show it so they repost whatever manipulative meme comes their way. Ignoring the facts. As for the issues? I’ve been talking anouth Them since the 80’s. Nothing has changed. Idk I think people will continue to die until the government isn’t owned by the NRA and corporations. It is up to the individual states at the moment.

(He posts a picture of a young black man in a white bullet-proof vest.)

Oh look a young black mass murderer being treated just like yesterday’s white one! ^ but why remember this.. It doesn’t go with our memes.

Me: Yeah, these memes aren’t helpful ultimately, but people are angry, people are upset. I can’t blame them. It’s sparking discussions though, like this one, so it’s not all bad.

I think we actually agree on more points than not, I just think when you come out and comment on a video about 9 people being murdered as an act of terror talking about the world being too concerned with political correctness or offended parties calling themselves victims being bullshit, you can see how I would infer that you are trying to dismiss the fact that the Charleston killings were racially motivated and telling everyone to stop being so sensitive and making this about race. Because that’s what a lot of people on the internet are saying, and it makes me, as you say, “emotional.”

I’m going to stop responding now, not because I don’t want to keep debating, but I think we’re reached a pretty good impasse and we should give A’s wall a rest.

T: It’s as obvious as can be that those murders were hate crimes. Like John said. I was referring to A’s words about personal responsibility. (insert emoji of fingers in a peace sign.)

Mmhmm
Wish I could send back my own kind of peace sign, amirite

Ugh what a waste of a morning, right? We’re just talking in circles, which is usually how debates like this end up. Usually the guy (and it’s always a guy – but don’t worry, #notallmen) will at one point realize that my calm, rational points make sense and either concede but more likely, he will twist his original point while continuing to argue until I say, “Wait a minute, we are actually agreeing, why are we fighting?” And then he gets to not be the bad guy or lose, but rather it’s a “tie.” Seriously.

I’m sorry, I know that was probably painful to read and it’s okay if you skimmed.

BUT THEN I had this great exchange with another stranger. You can see it all on my Twitter but as we were using multiple tweets to reply, here it is all laid out for your reading pleasure. This is a good one. But I’ll use colors again because we already established that colors are fun.

2) Site: Twitter

kickasskmo (that’s me): Can we start calling the #CharlestonShooting an act of #terror now? He says it himself! Link.

gragonstout: @kickasskmo no for it to be an act of terrorism they have to be a political agenda you should know the definition of words before using

me: Did you even read the article? CNN reports: “To start a race war, Roof told investigators, according to one of the officials.”

me: Is a race war not a political agenda? Maybe you should check your facts before you tell me I’m not using my words correctly.

him: he is not a member of an organisation so it was not a formal act for terrorism it was one crazy guy

him: and its according to one office let the dust settle before you talk shit and stop race baiting crying voice white people bad

me: Was the OK City bombing not a terrorist act? He was also “one crazy guy”. I’m not “crying white people bad” it’s racism = bad.

me: Dictionary does not say that terrorism must be part of an organization anywhere. Your logic has holes.  Link.

him: my friends say I should do stand up toin the UK the scenes really big right now

him: because they are all one community the food is a mix of Spanish and Asian they do the best seafood what’s your stage name

Um what?

me: wait, what? That’s it? We were just discussing race and the Charleston shootings and now we’re talking food and comedy? Wha?

him:  to be honest you prove me wrong I didn’t know what else to say but do like food and comedy

#micdrop
#micdrop

me: oh my god, I am literally LOLing. Thank you for engaging with me, this has made my day. Def try stand-up! It’s scary & fun!

him: I was going to try the feminists and race baiting way of dealing with it being proved wrong letters I just couldn’t do it

me: well, good sir, I applaud you. I think discussion is so impt. Thank u for not being an arse. We need to promote love, not hate!

him: thanks you give me confidence now all I need is a time distance girlfriend

(ignoring that…)

him: thanks but do you have any of your work on YouTube

me:  I do, you can check out my webpage in my bio!

him: thanks for sharing video good luck in the future

me: Thanks!

Wow. Yeah. I don’t know what to think now. Just when I’m ready to go jump off a cliff, I actually get to have a meaningful intelligent conversation with a stranger who seems to be just a troll and change his mind.  You win some, you lose some. The internet, amirite?

ANYWAY.  Want to do more than just debate with strangers on the internet? Let’s end this on some important links:

Donate to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

Sign a petition to remove the Confederate Flag From All Government Places

Find out how you can have more constructive conversations about race. 

I am sending my thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims. In the end, people lost their lives to a senseless act of violence, and that will never make sense and no amount of debating can bring those lives back. But I maintain that it’s important to keep discussing, keep talking about it, and do what we can to try to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Don’t let them die in vain.

 

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