The death of George Floyd and the failure to properly investigate the deaths of 7 black men who were found hanging from trees in America, serves as a stark reminder of just how deep the roots of systematic racism are.
However, the solutions that are being put forward from the top down are questionable, to say the least.
A case in point: earlier this week, I received an email from Tailwind apologizing profusely, with the subject line ‘We messed up’.
I thought perhaps a scandal had broken out. After all, there’s been plenty of headlines about companies mishandling the coronavirus or data breaches from various organizations.
But that wasn’t it. They were emailing to apologize for their “privilege” and vowed to change the name of one of their products — Tailwind Tribes. The idea was to drop the word tribes in case it offended anyone.
The email read as follows:
“Recent events have led our predominantly white team to look inward and examine the privilege many of us take for granted every day. We’re determined to become more intentionally anti-racist.
But…what about Tailwind Tribes?
Can we ever truly become anti-racist if we have a product whose name is offensive and racially charged for many Native and Indigenous peoples?
Our answer is “no,” so we’re committing to changing the name by the end of the year.
You can read more about this decision here, written by CEO and co-founder Danny Maloney.
Thank you for being patient with us as we learn and grow.
Personally, I don’t recall any protests about the use of the word ‘tribes’, but this is one of many self-imposed solutions that some companies are now taking.
Pandering Does Not Address Racism
But that isn’t the only example of lunacy in this new wave of politically-correct (and useless) pandering.
Netflix announced it will remove shows such as The League of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh from its platform due to the depictions of blackface in those series.
This was widely criticised by those that would seek to deny or downplay the existence of institutional racism. But it was also condemned by those on the other side of the fence: the dissenting voices that believe these moves do nothing to address the real, underlying causes.
Last month, comedian Jack Carroll tweeted that the decision to remove “offensive” shows from Netflix was a way for them to avoid any “real work” to counteract racism.
He added: “It’s an arbitrary gesture that means they don’t have to put any real work into combatting actual instances of racial discrimination and comedy history is getting smashed in the process. Glad I kept hold of my DVD’s.”
But the pandering did not stop there.
This week it was announced that many Realtor groups would stop describing some bedrooms as the “master” bedroom, in case some fragile snowflakes got offended.
The Houston Association of Realtors replaced the phrases “master bedroom” and “master bathroom” with “primary bedroom” and “primary bathroom” on its property listing database after a small group of members were concerned that it could be perceived as sexist or racist.
Then of course, we have the white voice actors and actresses that are either voluntarily or forcibly stepping down from roles they have held for a long time, due to the fact that they were depicting black or biracial characters.
Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate who played mixed-race animated characters on “Central Park” and “Big Mouth” are stepping down from their roles. The shows say they will recast the roles with mixed-race or Black voice actors.
They were followed by Mike Henry from Family Guy, Hank Azaria who plays Carl Carson and Springfield police officer Lou in The Simpsons. And don’t forget David Herman, who plays Marshmallow, a black transgender character that appears in Bob’s Burgers.
The above are just a few examples of individual or corporate-led pandering that seems like it is trying to increase equality and institutional racism, but in reality does nothing of the sort.
These sentiments were mirrored by many in the Black Lives Matter Movement, with the admin of one group stating the following:
Top-down Solutions to End Racism Do Not Work
Deleting mildly offensive shows from decades ago does not address police brutality.
Removing the word ‘master’ from bedrooms, aside from being silly, does not stop police officers from unlawfully murdering unarmed black men.
Deleting the word ‘tribes’ because it might upset the professionally-offended will not bring George Floyd back.
Nor does it remove the denial of racism that allows the worst incidents to continue unchallenged.
While I do not and cannot in any way speak for other black people, as a black woman that has been physically assaulted many times over by racist thugs, I think most reasonable people would agree that none of the above addresses the root cause of injustice and racism.
In actual fact, it does the opposite: it distracts attention away from the real issues and leads to what I call: racism fatigue. Essentially, this means that whenever the word ‘racism’ pops up in the news or on social media, people are quick to deny or downplay its existence.
This is partly due to the influence of the right-wing media that loves to highlight and amplify cases where political correctness truly has gone mad. Take the Daily Mail for example. You’ll hear endless stories about 5 year-old white children being expelled for describing another child in a mildly “offensive” way or stories about black people that lie about experiencing racism (Jussie Smollet I’m looking at you).
However, resentment can and does also occur thanks to well-meaning but misguided individuals or organizations that are a little overzealous in their attempts to show they are the “good guys”.
Maybe I’m just a tad cynical, but perhaps that is the intention. It is difficult to tell in this age of insanity.
All of this highlights the reason why the solutions to racial inequalities should not be dictated from the top-down. Instead, it is up to each and every one of us to examine our own world views and demand accountability from ourselves and those that have power over us.
Let’s be clear: most black people (including myself and at least the ones that I know of) don’t give a fig if you stop saying “master bedroom”. It’s a term I use all the time and I will continue to do so.
I had no idea some of the voice actors playing black cartoon characters were white. I had no idea because I didn’t care. And still don’t.
I don’t care because cartoons aren’t out there killing black people (or anyone else for that matter). Nor are the actors that are playing them.
Society Needs Accountability Not Apologies
Let’s be clear.
No sane person is asking anyone to apologize for their whiteness. In the same way that I will not apologize for my blackness — or for the crimes of other black people unconnected with me.
Anyone making those kinds of crazy demands can be safely ignored.
What many in our society are actually crying out for is fairly simple: greater accountability for those in positions of power and better protections to prevent the senseless death of George Floyd from happening to other people.
Anything else is a mere distraction.
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