I recently read an article about an African-American postal worker in Colorado who was subjected to a racist co-worker’s repeated displays of racial animosity by adorning a racist Gadsden Flag hat back in 2014, a symbol adopted by the Tea Party and aggrieved White people across America after the election of the first Black president. We all know the federal government is the premiere proponent of White free speech, so buddy row got to wear his racist frocks to work as he pleased.
The African-American postal worker filed a complaint, charging that he had been subjected to racial discrimination and harassment. The complaint was initially dismissed because the decision-makers determined at the time the symbol was ambiguous. The ruling implied it was difficult for White folks to decipher whether the hat was in protest of the government or a symbol of hatred towards a Black man working for the first Black president of America.
TRANSLATION: There are good people on both sides. The flag has two meanings (maybe), and White decision-makers didn’t want to side with the Black person because they never want to mis-characterize a White man’s action as racist. The powers that be didn’t think the hat was associated with hate. White people responsible for investigating this case could not decipher whether a flag designed by a former slave owner was racist — because Whites get to dictate what and who is racist. White history matters, and all White history is good history to them. White rights matter!
It took a White man not involved in the matter to inform the federal government that the White man’s hat was indeed a racist symbol of hate. The government didn’t believe the Black guy who brought for the complaint.
White people dictate what’s racist and who is racist, and White people are far too often the only ones who can convince White people that White people are racist.
In 2016, two-years after the initial complaint was filed, the EEOC reversed their ruling in favor of the African-American postal worker after a professor challenged the federal government’s interpretation of the meaning and usage of the Gadsden flag. In 2016, as the Obama administration was coming to a close, White federal employees were finally convinced by a White professor that the Gadsden flag was indeed being used as a form of racial harassment. In 2016, that yellow “Don’t tread on me” rag had been used by White supremacists for nearly 7-years prior, making it nearly impossible to misidentify the intentions of its use unless you were deaf, blind, dumb, or a White supremacist.
This is one of the primary reasons Blacks and people of color rarely get justice for crimes committed by White supremacists. White people deny justice every step of the way because they are frequently in positions to ensure justice won’t be served. White folks often act as gatekeepers against justice. Many White people don’t realize they have implicit biases, prejudices, or are racist, making it difficult for them to see fairly let alone rule impartially.
White people (and some passing) get to have their cake and eat it too. These cake eaters like the racist postal worker get to break and challenge workplace rules, draw a paycheck from taxpayers, protest the government, and be racist in the workplace at the same time — especially in the military.
Amazing when you think about it.
Not all White supremacists wear robes, tattoos, bald heads, adorn the rugged, survivalist look, or carry racist flag rags. Lots of White Supremacists have splendid jobs serving as police, the military, or politicians, are clean cut/pretty, educated (sometimes not), well-spoken, dress nicely, and are always in positions of authority to decide on behalf of racists. Racists save racists and White Supremacy protects everyone.
White Supremacy isn’t just about looking racist (that’s what the weak and stupid ones do) because as we know from our ugly history, racist can be anything they want to be, work anywhere they want to work, be smart as Albert Einstein or dumb as Donald Trump.
White Supremacy is a mindset and methodical racists work hard at getting into positions where they can structurally protect their racist institutions, systems, and behaviors. White Supremacists have their own words, their own symbols and handshakes, and many ways to obstruct, harm, torment, injure, terrorize, and kill. Racism isn’t an action. Racism is a neatly constructed culture we can’t seem to wrap our minds around, and that’s just the way Whiteness likes it.
This is one reason I believe White people shouldn’t be positioned to make such decisions on racial discrimination against Blacks and people of color. Almost without fail, we die before they see. From juries, to work boards and commissions, to the federal government’s EEOC, the history of Whites ruling in favor of Whites and against blacks is ingrained in White America’s psyche. That’s racism. When you can see a person injured and questioned the intentions of the person of color instead of addressing the harm by Whiteness.
For too many White folks, it’s easy not to see bad in Whites because Whites are conditioned to only see bad and inferiority in others. White is always right.
White people are allowed to get away with using thousands of sneaky, subtle racist microaggressions to injure us because they misidentify or cannot classify the actions of White people as racist. Dictators give passes to their fellow racists, reinforcing the behavior and the thought process that comes with judging their atrocious, racist behavior.
Racist White folks get pleasure making others miserable. Racist sympathizers get pleasure from helping their fellow White people escape punishment from violent and traumatic racist acts against Blacks — just like they did during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era. Check out the mini-blogged history lesson on Twitter by Michael Harriot of the Root and South Carolina native.
White people wearing their racism is as bad as speaking their racism and being allowed to get away with it in the workplace is unfathomable- yet it still happens.
We Know Our Whites; We Know Racism
I can’t speak for Brown folks and immigrants, but I know Black people knew the first time we saw that yellow, racist rag flying at a rally littered with a bunch of angry White mobs across the country threatening the first Black president that it was a symbol of hate.
Why aren’t Black folks trusted to know what’s racist and what’s not?
Had White folks listened to and believed us in 2009 when we sounded the alarm and back in 2014 when President Obama (Black man) attempted to sound the alarm, perhaps we American wouldn’t be in such a raggedy, precarious state. America has a lengthy history of ignoring White Supremacy.
White people don’t know other White people because White people pretend to not know themselves.
Blacks knew we would get White rebellion because of our nation’s reactions to slave revolts and news of slave uprisings. White folks always rebel anytime Black and Brown folks seem to move up in the world, or when we attempt to seek justice for ourselves. With rebelling comes retribution. Whites must put us back into our place so they can remain in theirs.
Blacks just didn’t expect the White revolt would go on this long, that White folks would be this angry and this violent, be this ignorant and uncivilized.
A Black man was inhabiting racist White folks’ White House, and they needed to let us non-Whites know about it. Protest. Harass. Threaten. Kill. Strip Away Rights of Otherness. Repeat. White racists needed to avenge what they view as the ultimate Black avenger, President Barack Obama.
White people always allow White people to exercise their racist rights to be violent, discriminatory, bigoted, and prejudice all awhile infringing upon the supposedly inalienable rights of non-Whites because they’ve always believed their rights were more important. The rest of us can just get in where we fit in.
White people don’t know what real racism looks or what real racism feels like because racism isn’t crafted to intimidate them or to infringe upon their rights. It’s just for us. Whites have no clue about the devastating short, intermediate, and long-term impact stemming from their oppressive systemic racism — yet across America, Whites primarily inhabit most positions that decide what is and what is not racism from civil and criminal courts to workplaces.
White people are deciding whether White people’s behavior is racist. They are having discussions about us, without giving us any say in the matter. It’s like asking the police to police and punish themselves. That ain’t never gonna happen.
White people have designed every system and institution in America to police themselves the same way.
White people have absolutely no business rationalizing what’s racist for non-White people because they are incapable of deciphering the racist actions of their own folks.
The Federal Government DOES NOT Protect Employees of Color
The United States of America allows White people working for its federal government to display their racist symbols of hate, giving them the cover of free speech. Racist military personnel, federal police, and other federal employees may proudly display their racist rags in the workplace while working alongside Blacks and other non-Whites regardless of whether Blacks and non-Whites find them offensive.
For example, here in Miami, my partner was forced to work alongside her White Cuban federal law enforcement colleague who displayed his red “Make America Great Again” flag in his workstation.
Author’s Note: Research the Cuban Migration, Black-Cubans, how white civic leaders in Miami occasionally modified Jim Crow practices for Latin American vacationers, Black and Cuban racial chasm, and the Miami Race Riots to get a better understanding of the racialized hierarchies reinforced by Whites here in Southern Florida. It helps set the scene for the story. White Supremacy is at the root of every problem in America.
Prior to my partner’s arrival to this division, several Black agents in the group with MAGA Don had complained about his rag. The complaint went to the highest chains of command (to White and White Cubans people) only to be ruled the flag was not only NOT offensive, but that co-worker’s right to have racist political shit flying at his workstation was allowable. The rights of one White Cuban usurped several Black agents who were offended and intimidated.
Racism wins yet again.
How could this MAGA rag not be a symbol of hate, when the entire world watched orange Satan come down the escalator and demonize Mexicans? My partner never trusted her colleague from the moment she saw his MAGA workstation. He’d show her who he was. She had no choice except to believe him. It didn’t help he regurgitated Fox News talking points all day in the office during their downtime and glowed about how great his 401K was doing.
The question in the back of my partner’s mind was if they were out in the field doing work and things got dicey like a shootout or if a drug deal goes wrong on the streets, would her government sanctioned racist colleague have her back? We knew the government had his back. My partner had two racists she had to contend in the workplace. The colleague and the boss.
The MAGA “Good Old Boy” got to keep his flag, and the Black federal law enforcement officers and other support staff working in the office got to keep their mouths shut and their anxieties to themselves.
Racism and capitalism are brothers and sisters in our oppression.
Instances like these are what many Blacks and non-White people of color endure every day when we attempt to move about the country like the citizens we are. We aren’t protected anywhere we go, and we already know the Whites’ government will not protect us from White terrorism or racial discrimination. We’ve known since the Three-Fifths Compromise the federal government wasn’t going to ever really make us equal to Whites, treat us equally, or respect us equally.
The federal government keeps a White state of mind. It’s White focused, White centered, and White-racist friendly.
White men and women (and those non-Whites harboring anti-Black sentiments) always get the privilege of dictating or reinterpreting to Blacks what and who acts racistly against us?
About Those Flags Racist Prefer
For readers who don’t know, a South Carolina slave owner and trader designed the Gadsden Flag and “patriot” (that’s what White folks call him, Black folks would beg to differ), Christopher Gadsden. Guess where the Tea Party originated — in South Carolina.
Author’s Note: Read up on South Carolina’s racist, rebellious history in these here United States to understand the significance of this flag being chosen during the presidency of the first African-American in America. Google it or take a history trip to Charleston, South Carolina and work your way to Greenville. When we are Rona free and it’s safe again, visit all the states of the East Coast and all the Gulf States in the Southern U.S. to see all the places where time has stopped and where racism, segregation, and hate thrive.
Other pro-racist states have given credence to this racist rag. In 2014, Alabama became the seventh state to approve a specialty license plate with a racist Gadsden flag design. States have given racists the right to not only promote their racism, but that rag car tag also allows racists to identify fellow racists. I must admit I appreciate knowing my enemies, so self-identification is appreciated.
White people, you need to understand YOUR violent and racist history so that you can better assess racism. Whites should never get the honor of defining racism when they don’t even know how racist they are individually or collectively. White people shouldn’t decide, judge, or have a say in what’s racist and/or what’s not because they have terrible moral compasses. Their anti-racism credit is bad. They are blind and are often and unwilling to see racist injuries inflicted by their White brethren.
A White person’s right to be racist shouldn’t trump a Black person or person of color’s right to safety — but it does. It always does.
Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my mind around the absurdity. It’s easy to see why White people can’t understand why we say racism is bad. They have the privilege and honor of determining what is racist and what’s not, the redefining the thing so that Whites get to keep their rags and continue their destructive, immoral behavior.
What Racism Looks and Feels Like
Although the African-American postal worker eventually won his case, the toll it likely took on his life and his family’s irreparable.
White people don’t get to see or feel the impact of the racism they inflict upon us. The impact of racism is out of sight — out of mind for many Whites, so let me give you a unique perspective of what racism looks and feels like through the eyes of a Black person and extended family member living in a household where workplace racial discrimination took place.
The Postal Service gave the White man perpetrator along with many other Whites working throughout the federal government the privilege of taunting Blacks and other people of color with racist behaviors.
The federal government also signaled federal Black federal employees Uncle Sam didn’t care about their discomfort or their safety. It’s the epitome of White lives matter.
I’m sure the African-American postal worker suffered during this time period. So did his Black and Brown colleagues. It’s bad enough suffering the injury, but then to present complaints to White folks who decide racism is not racism not is heartbreaking. It’s hard to have hope dealing with you White people. It’s hard to keep the faith because you can’t see us.
I bet that Black postal worker caught hell every day after the ruling until he or Mr. Tea Party left that position. If the brother is still alive, I’m sure he still wears the scars from the trauma. In fact, I know he does, because the same thing happened to my mother when she sued her White city employer for racial discrimination and harassment.
The entire family pays the price when racism occurs in the workplace or at school. It’s 8–10 hours per day, several days per week of dealing with people who dislike you, overlook you, take subtle jabs at you, or intentionally harming you because of the color of your skin. She lost her one little White friend at work because her White boss threatened the woman, so she fell in line just like most White folks do. White Supremacy rules with an iron fist.
Although my mom won her racial discrimination case eventually, it took a huge toll on her physically, mentally, and emotionally. She lost weight. She developed black rings under her eyes and she had trouble sleeping. She paranoid the city government was listening to her calls, so she limited her conversations and withdrew from the public. She was grouchy as hell and she was always on pins and needles because of workplace retaliation.
My mom’s entire life for a few years comprised surviving workplace racism instead of raising her kids. Her conversations at home were consumed with all the racist, inequitable things done to her in the workplace for a few years. Those are years we cannot get back. That’s what racism produces.
To this day, my mother doesn’t trust White people and she’s never viewed the same since her workplace incident. And why should she? That group of people represents trauma to her being, and I support freeing yourself from things that reignite trauma. To her, there are only two kinds of White people. There are the White people that engage in overt, injurious racism, and then there are the White people who see the behavior and turn the other way, excuse it, pretend to not understand how it works, and act like it’s not happening while smiling on your face.
There are no innocent actors in racism. Like most Black people and people of color, we’ve had some wonderful interactions with White people, but most end with some truth being revealed about how detached they are from our worlds and racism.
That’s what racism looks like when our loved one’s experience racism indirectly. If you’re blessed to find a true self-aware ally like Sherry Kappel, Tim Wise, Glenn Rocess, and others, you’re blessed. When we speak, they listen. They understand. They stand with us. They speak up for us, and they don’t coddle White people. They tell it like it is and I appreciate their advocacy and awareness. Good allies are scarce.
Denial, rejection, and punishment usually happen when Blacks and people of color finally take a personal stand against racist injuries in the workplace. It’s the reason we’re silent on racial microaggressions. They retaliated against my mom by passing her over for promotions, denying her transfer opportunities and pay raises, and the workplace bullying were undeniable — so much so a jury awarded her financial compensation, the most ever paid by the city. My mom won her case, but lost her lengthy battle fighting against racism and White Supremacy. We can’t kill that monster and it won’t die.
Racism everywhere we are is the reason we’re stressed. It’s one of the reason Black men die earlier than White men. White people dictate who and what is racist. They also punish us for standing up for ourselves trying to help them see their racism.
White people teach racism to their children and practice it with family members to maintain inequality, thoughts of superiority, and to intimidate. White people inherit the racist ways. Black people and people of color inherit the traumatic stress which comes from living and working for decades under duress. White people can be apathetic because racism doesn’t really affect them.
They don’t feel those cuts every time a White person does something racist to Blacks or people of color. They never will. They lose nothing when Whites injure Blacks or people. They don’t lose jobs, money, sleep, time, status, wealth, their health — nothing. Racism pays and rewards participants dearly.
Since White Folks Can’t See Racism, They Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Define It
Black folks know we cannot rely on White people to define what’s racist to us, because they cannot see.
It takes White people so long to comprehend what racism is and to understand the thousands of ways it harms us they can’t possibly ever save us from it. Racism is too serious and life-threatening to be forced to wait until they are convinced a thing is a thing.
So why are they allowed to define racism for us, anyway?
Racism and microaggressions in the workplace is one of the primary reasons Blacks and other non-White racial groups have such poor health outcomes. Life is harder for us because of the willful ignorance of White people. White decision-making on what’s racist and what’s not force us to endure and internalize racism.
Siding with the perpetrators of racism and racial discrimination perpetuates racism, so it’s no wonder so many White men feel empowered any and every time they feel like it to be racist. The law and the federal and state governments are on the side of racists. White people reinforce racist decisions by allowing the government, politicians, clergy, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc., to get away with racism and discrimination while supporting decisions made by Whites reinforcing racism.
One wrong decision made by a blind or willfully ignorant White gatekeeper upholds White Supremacy. White ignorance is never bliss for Black and Brown people.
So here we are in 2020 with a racist orange cheetah Satan and his racist regime inside and outside of the White House guiding his every racist move. We’re here because White people refuse to acknowledge and do something about racism. We’re here because when White people can do the right thing, they don’t. We’re here because White people are in the positions of power to determine and dictate what and who is racist.
The police are policing themselves, and it isn’t right.
When the cops police themselves, rarely, if ever, do they find themselves guilty of any wrongdoing. The same applies to White people seeking to determine whether they are racist. They just can’t see themselves as terrible people, which makes them poor judges of White character, and because of this, we should not allow white people to tell Blacks and people of color what’s racist and what’s not.
White people are partial, and they are blind. It’s exhausting trying to teach them they are, but we must continue.
We are never achieving equality or reducing racism if White people after all the centuries still can’t recognize racism even when it’s flying their faces, worn on a White man’s head, or rule in favor of White Supremacists in the workplace. Wearing White robes and waving flags aren’t the only ways to be racist. There are levels to this shit.
Seeing is believing, and White people just aren’t trying to see their biases, so stop allowing White people to dictate to us what’s racist because. They don’t know, and most aren’t trying to know.
Marley K. in Quarantine (2020)
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