I don’t remember what we were talking about, or how we got around to the topic. I don’t remember how I ended up pulling out my phone, or what prompted me to start reading internet comments aloud, my voice getting faster and faster as my repulsion grew.
It doesn’t matter what we were talking about, because there’s always something – some celebrity throwing around the n-word in a leaked video, some racist tirade caught on camera, some half-assed thinkpiece that manages to miss the point of its own topic . And there will always be hordes of commenters justifying it and waxing poetic about the so-called end of racism even while they continue to perpetuate it, and it was starting to seem like I would always be around to get up in arms about the whole thing.
Dealing with racism – witnessing it, reading about it – used to leave me deeply unsettled, like my insides were gravel that had just been disturbed by a speeding car. It made me feel tired and bitter and joyless in a way that was hard to climb out of; what made it even worse is that it seemed like I was alone in what I was feeling. Casual racism has a way of making you doubt yourself – you see it, nestled comfortably in everyday conversation and seemingly polite interaction, but no one else seems willing to do anything beyond perhaps looking awkward and changing the subject.
I don’t write about race in the hopes of changing any racists or even convincing people that critical examination of media is a worthwhile endeavor. I write for those that already know that it matters, who want reassurance that they’re not alone in caring. I write as someone who is angry, who is tired, who is, at times, heartbroken. Because here’s what it comes down to: entertainment and advertisements have a bigger impact on society than many people think. Over the years, we internalize what we see, and it’s in this way that the media we consume informs everything that we do. It effects how we see others and, as a result, how we treat them. It is the reason why, when we watch tv, no one questions the latina maid in the background or the old white male doctor in an infomercial. As children, we use what we see to develop ideas about who we think we are and what we are capable of being and doing, and if you don’t think the lack of positive role models for black girls (or really, anyone who isn’t an able-bodied white male) is important, then this isn’t the blog for you.
For me, writing about race and media has never been about educating bigots. That’s not my calling; I’m not trying to make anyone see the light (though if you do, that’s great – I’ve just been around long enough to know that that isn’t likely). It’s about getting out what I’m feeling so that I can understand it, process it, and move on. I share it in the hopes that it can help someone else who’s feeling angrysadsick to their stomach and unable to express why.
I refuse to carry the toxicity of the world inside of me anymore. This is the space where I unburden myself. This is the space where I heal myself. I hope you can find a lightening of the spirit for yourself here too – or at least a good laugh.