I don’t know what it is about black people that we always have to apologize for our feelings — oh wait, yes, I do, it’s called oppression — but I, for one, am sick of some of the biggest mouths in our community feeding into it.
ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith has never been a friend of ours, and I really wish I was at a point where I could just ignore him when he says silly things. But I’m not one to let stupidity run amok so I must call him out for deciding to “ruffle a few feathers” when he spoke on the University of Missouri situation during a broadcast Monday.
“To white Americans out there, accept the reality that to some level racism still exists,” Smith said in response to Mizzou president Tim Wolfe’s resignation. “It’s just inescapable. It’s the reality.
“But to black America, let me make this statement — everyone who’s white is not racist, and it’s important to point that out because with this particular incident it was warranted but that doesn’t mean we turn around and the second somebody disagrees with us of a different hue, pigmentation, culture, etcetera. The second somebody might be oblivious or ignorant to what we are, what we believe, what we feel, etcetera, doesn’t make them racist.
“We have an obligation to appreciate that there are a lot of people in this God-fearing country that we live in who are not racist. Don’t be so quick to jump. That wasn’t the case here. That was valid. But there are some folk out there who will use this as an excuse to jump on every issue and attach racism to every issue when it may not be that. It may be that somebody just doesn’t like you.”
So now we’re going to usher victim-blaming into this travesty of a situation as well?
Never in my life have I seen people who seek justice in the best way possibly turn around and be scolded with a lesson they didn’t need to learn. Do we tell rape victims to remember not all men are rapist? (Thankfully, no because they’re put through enough shame as it is but you get the point). Do we remind the families of loved ones murdered in movie theaters across the country that not all moviegoers are murders? Do we remind students on college campuses that not all gun-loving white men are killers? No, because those victims are white and they’re allowed to feel with they feel and any animosity they hold as a result of a national tragedy is seen as just. But as soon as black people starting proclaiming their lives matter, we have to be told cops’ lives matter too. And as soon as a group of black college students peacefully force an administrator to resign because he failed to protect them from discrimination, we’re schooled on the fact that not all white people are racist.
When is a white news anchor going to end his 6 o’clock breaking news report on a shooting in the inner city with a reminder to white folks that not all black people are thugs, thieves, rapists, gang members, and killers? Furthermore, when are these black puppets on TV going to stop oppressing their own people to appease their overseer and actually seize the opportunity presented before them?
The way in which Smith diminished the accomplishment of these college students and the experience of black people everywhere is, in a word, sad. How powerful it could have been to speak to the fact that Mizzou is just one school that had enough fight in them to challenge the status quo and point out the issues they raise are far more prevalent than anyone, like Smith, cares to admit. Instead, we hear a message that reads, “OK, you got the bad guy this time, but don’t go trying to undo racism across universities around the United States. Take your one win and be happy.”
All Smith asked white people to do is accept racism still exists, a task that requires little to no effort on their part because their innate privilege allows them to ignore its pervasiveness. What Smith should have encouraged them to do was acknowledge racism still exists and the role they play into it, unwittingly or not. The worst consequence that comes out of accusing someone of being racist when they’re not is, typically, future claims get dismissed and ignored. But for years black people have suffered incomparable consequences as a result of racism being denied and upheld by institutions we’re all forced to play a part in on a nearly daily basis. That is the reality that needs to be talked about, not some overblown narrative likening our struggle to the boy who cried wolf.