First, a warning. Some of the videos below, and my transcriptions of what is said in those videos, contain racist, ignorant, and insensitive comments. Best to leave the videos for some time when you’re wearing your headphones or at home away from children.
Don’t judge me, but I was playing on the XBox the other day. (XBox is a gaming console.) I was playing the latest Call of Duty game, a video game simulation of fighting in a war. You get some fake guns and fake scenarios, and you go around shooting the avatars of other players in different settings, or maps. You also get to talk to those other players. If you’re lucky, you make a few friends… Friends who call on you to come join them whenever they log on.
As I was playing, one of the players on the other team started talking trash. This is par for the course as most players are immature and insecure little boys who feel that they can lash out verbally without any kind of consequence. For the most part, they are correct in that there will be little to no consequences for their verbal abuse of others. Only after many reports from other players will the XBox administrators do something to lock out the player in question for a period of time in order for the player to cool off, or something. Unfortunately, all that player has to do is log on with a different account in order to come back and be the insecure little jerk that they are.
The trash-talking player started taunting me that he would “whip” my ass during a match. “Have at it,” I said. “It’s just a game.” Our team lost badly. Before the next game started, he continued his taunting. “Imma whoop you,” he said. “Your ass is mine.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I replied. “You can add that to your resumé or put it on LinkedIn: Whooped some random guy’s ass in Call of Duty. Your future boss will be impressed.” Little did I know that this was his pressure point.
The dude went off on me with a number of expletives. He called me every name in the book, from homophobic slurs to racist slurs. “Wait, did I just find your pressure point?” I asked. “Are you unemployed?” This made him lash out even further, and it made players on my team lash out as well, taunting him for his lack of employment and for being on the game all day without much of a job. The dude got even angrier and left the game.
I immediately blocked him on the system so he would be unable to send me any messages. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to not want to have the last word. Still, I felt a little guilty to have triggered others into taunting him. That wasn’t my intent. Frankly, I just wanted to play. It’s a good way to blow off some steam in the days when it’s rainy outside… Or in the late nights when I can’t sleep and have nothing going on the next morning.
The sad thing about all this is that online (be it XBox or Facebook or whatever), a growing number of people are behaving as if there are no consequences to their actions. They post lies and misinformation about vaccines, causing people to forgo vaccinations and triggering outbreaks. They post lies about other people, causing those people to be viewed in a different light by those around them in real life. In essence, they say things they would never say in the real world to real people in their lives.
This has all bled over into real life, unfortunately. A man who has a track history of being a bully and a jerk was elected to the highest office in the land by people who looked the other way when he was disparaging of women, minorities, and immigrants. They looked the other way when he was caught on an open mic boasting about his sexual assaults. “That’s just locker room talk,” my friends say. “He didn’t get anyone killed in Benghazi.” No, but his body count is rising. And that’s just what we know of. It’s almost even odds that his cutthroat attitude towards his business practices were literally that, cutthroat.
Then there’s the election in Montana this week. The Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a reporter out of frustration by grabbing the Guardian Newspaper reporter “by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” according to an eyewitness (a Fox News reporter, nonetheless.) Greg’s campaign then lied about the assault, stating that it was the Guardian Newspaper reporter who started it. How do we know it’s a lie, beside the story from the eyewitnesses? Because, after winning the election, Greg came out and outright admitted it.
As he did so, some in the audience told him not to worry. Some said that the reporter probably deserved it. Some said that it was okay. In essence, his followers normalized this behavior, and Greg gets to sit in the Congress of the United States and vote on laws that affect us all… When he couldn’t even deal with one reporter asking a simple question.
It doesn’t stop with politicians, either. Because of the rising number of us with smartphones that can record audio and video on the fly, more and more people are being caught having racist rants with total strangers. Hate groups, made up of people who live among us and go to the same stores and clubs and public event as us, are on the rise according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. They have a whole section dedicated to news about hate crimes. and those news come almost daily it seems.
Take this grandmotherly-looking lady at Wal-Mart. She’s in the digestive aids aisle, probably suffering from some sort of indigestion. A Hispanic woman asks her to move so she can reach for the prilosec (or something), and Grandma Jones loses it:
“This is America,” she says, probably forgetting that this is America. When confronted by a Black woman about her ignorance, Grandma Jones asks candidly, “A nigger’s calling me ignorant?” What the hell, Grandma Jones? You were supposed to be that nice lady I look to for life advice when a girl rejects me. I was supposed to stop traffic for you to cross the street. Honest, decent men have probably held the door open for you!
Grandma Jones probably longs for the Antebellum South, where something would be done about those Brown people mouthing off to her. And she’s not the only one. Take this guy Mike at an airport. He’s in his wheelchair, probably waiting to get on a plane to go visit his loved ones. Apparently, Mike has served in the military and is now physically disabled. He probably served with dozens upon dozens of men and women of all colors and backgrounds, who spoke all sorts of languages. But Mike ain’t taking no Spanish from no random dude at the airport:
Mike, like Grandma Jones, reminds the man recording him that this is America, likely also forgetting that this is America. He forgets that America doesn’t have an official language for a reason, and then berates some random dude at the airport for not speaking
American English. Nice.
Then there’s Nancy. Nancy founded an academy in Georgia. Black children make up a lot of her students. When she forgot that the valedictorian was to speak at graduation, a lot of people thought the program was done and started leaving. Nancy wasn’t having any of it and started ordering the doors to be closed. (She also called someone a coward over something.) As she continues to ask people to stay for the valedictorian speech, she makes one tiny mistake. See if you can catch it:
“Looks who’s leaving, all the Black people,” Nancy said. To which the crowd erupts out of their seats. Of course, Nancy says that she was “just frustrated” and something to the effect of “The Devil made me do it”:
I could post more examples, but you have access to the internet. You can find them yourself. Heck, if you’re lucky enough to be non-White, non-Christian, non-Straight, or non-Conforming, and living in certain parts of America — parts that keep forgetting this is America — you will see them in person at one point. Remember, these people are sitting next to you at the airport, shopping for things alongside you at Wal-Mart (or Target, if that’s how you roll).
Of course, you could be my one conservative friend and ask me with a straight face what’s wrong with any of this. You could tell me that White people are just sick and tired of being the bad guy in these situations and that Black people call each other the n-word plenty of times. You might even say that there’s a “White Genocide” going on because the new Star Trek series has a Black woman in the lead, an Asian woman as the captain of a fictional starship, and a gay man as one of the officers. Or you’ll tell me that you were outraged when Roots portrayed the slave traffickers and slave owners as being White.
None of those arguments are valid, by the way.
As one of the reports on these racists rants stated, these feelings in these people didn’t appear overnight since the presidential election. None of these people woke up on November 9 feeling suddenly racist. Racism is a deep-seeded behavior that is learned by children from their parents and their peers. In fact, there are good odds that you won’t become racist in your adult years, once your brain has fully developed. If you grew up in a racially/culturally diverse part of America — a part that looks more like America than other parts — then you are very likely to not hold these grudges.
To you, Black people getting up and leaving a high school graduation are just people getting up and leaving a high school graduation. Black children acting like fools at a sex talk are just children acting like fools at a sex talk. A Black man walking toward you on the street wearing a hoodie is just some dude walking toward you. A Hispanic man on the corner, waiting to cross the street, is not an illegal alien looking for a job but just some dude waiting to cross the street. And so on and so forth.
A friend of mine once told me that he was very prejudiced against Black people because he didn’t have a lot of interaction with non-Whites growing up in rural Maryland. He said that it all changed when he was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam. When the men he lived with and relied upon to survive where Black, Hispanic, Asian and from other faiths, he realized that all of his prejudices were based on lack of exposure rather than bad experiences with non-Whites. And I bet that’s the case with most of the people going ape against people of color in those videos. It’s not that they’ve had bad experiences with us, it’s just that they haven’t gotten to know us.
I hear those stories all the time. Someone is bigoted until the reasons for being a bigot are proven false, then they turn around and actually become active in social justice. However, not everyone has these experiences. Too many people live in a social and cultural bubble. Then, like the aborigines of old, they revolt and attack anything that is foreign to them… Even if by “foreign,” we’re still talking American.
The first step to fixing any kind of problem is to accept that there is a problem. As you might have guessed, a lot of people with deep-seated racist beliefs either don’t see that they have a problem, or they refuse to accept that there is a problem. As the Tangerine President has done time and time again, they will say that they are actually good people, caring people, and they only want what is best for America… Their version of America, the homogenous America where one class rules over the other and “those people” know their place.
So what do we do about all this? Well, that’s better left for another blog post at a later time. We’re at over 2,000 words here, folks. Time to take a break.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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