24 February, 2014

Wearing An Afro Makes Everyone Else A Racist

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Mystic Metals Body Jewelry

Wearing An Afro Makes Everyone Else A Racist

I'm tired of it, kids. Nearly all of it. What is the it of which I am tired? Phony outrage, lack of personal responsibility, forced white guilt, ignorance, victimhood, and the rising tax on cigarettes. Also that McDonald's keeps changing my value meal number. But mostly the first group of things. I read an article today, and it pissed me off. I'm going to talk about it, and in such, I'm going to look like a racist or an intolerant, and sadly that seems that is by sociological design.

Facebook has become the awful soapbox of obscenely ignorant social statements. When someone disagrees with something or thinks that some drastic social change needs to occur, he immediately takes to Facebook with a stolen internet image of a cat making a funny face, or some still from a familiar movie, and then pastes his tiredly sarcastic or ironic sociopolitical idea in block letters over it. This is how we lobby for change. With Grumpy Cat, Willy Wonka, and the Most Interesting Man In The World. We're really making Dr. King and Branch Rickey super proud. So hypocritically, I found an article that some Facebook acquaintance posted and I clicked on it because it reeked of 'white people are bad,' and that pisses me off. And I love to be pissed off.

The article was written by a woman named Liz Dwyer for xojane.com, whatever that is. Liz Dwyer writes about her being black and the difficulty she has found with white people toucher her afro. Her son, who himself has grown a triumphant afro, has recently decided to shave the aforementioned triumphant afro because white people touch it and this offends him. Unfortunate? Yes. Tragic? I'm not too sure about that. But whatever. We'll go with it. Liz Dwyer talks of her own experience with white people touching her afro, and equates that to her sympathy toward her son's own difficulty. This in itself isn't a terribly interesting story to me. So the kid is irritated by people invading his personal space. Welcome to reality. Welcome to a society of me and not us. It's a byproduct of self-importance and diminishing personal responsibility. We'll explore that more in a second.

First, I want to explore why this is a race issue, like so many issues involving different races seem to manifest as. What makes this article counter-racist is the focus of blame on whites as a whole rather than specifically applying the blame to the kids who are accosting the be-afroed son. Liz Dwyer says this in debating the son's desire to shave his head:

"White parents have the luxury of worrying about head-shaving as part of an angsty, teen-rebellion phase—or maybe their kid threatens to join a Skinhead gang. Black parents, however, along with having to worry about our kids getting shot for playing hip hop on the car stereo, wearing a hoodie or buying Skittles, also must have conversations with our children about dealing with white classmates who believe black bodies don’t deserve respect."

Stop, Ms. Liz Dwyer. White parents and black parents share more than you seem to be presenting here. They share a responsibility to raise their children. Which has very little to do with race. If we as a society are made to believe that a kid with a good heart and a parent with a good heart are devoid of race in their goodness, then the perpetuation of this idea that black kids' and white kids' worries are unequal is as racist as a perceived sense of white superlativeness. Way to throw in an unsubtle opinion of recent race oriented court cases too. Slick. Also, this idea that head shaving for whites takes on some simpler sociological acceptance is laughable. I shave my head, and have frequently been accused of being a Nazi, Skinhead, racist, or heroine addict. You know why I shave my head? Because my hair fell out when I was seventeen and I don't want to look like Homer Simpson. And yes, at least once a day a stranger rubs my head for luck. A curiously similar situation, you think? Which has nothing to do with race. I do appreciate, however, that in the above quote, Liz Dwyer assesses that black parents need to talk to their children about sociological difficulties. Liz Dwyer does, though, assert that these classmates are attempting to touch her kid's afro because they believe that "black bodies don't deserve respect." That's the part that is knee jerkingly stupid. Thirteen year olds are curious of things they perceive as different. Any year olds are curious to things outside of their own familiarities. And the reaction is usually to touch. That's a human thing, not a race thing.

I have sympathy for this kid. I really do. And if my sympathy is perceived as separate or invalid because I'm not black, then you're an asshole, so let me throw a couple examples your way. Modified people face this shit constantly. Constantly. Everyday a stranger asks to finger my lobes or stroke my tattoos. I have people pulling on my septum, and even sometimes my nipples. People blatantly ask me if my dick is pierced, if it gets my girl off better, if because of my mods I enjoy some sort of pain fetish, if I belong to a tribe or even worship Satan. We've talked about this quite a bit on this blog, and I always say the same thing; we made a choice. We don't have to be modified, and if being modified is making our lives more difficult, then we have to decide if the mods are worth the aggravation. But A. Robert; people are jerks and I shouldn't change myself because people don't understand me. You're right. You shouldn't. But you also shouldn't expect everyone with an inkling of curiosity to exercise good judgement either, which puts a greater responsibility on us. We are the ones who made the decision that garnered the attention. Is the jerk stranger at fault for being a dickhead? Absolutely. But we cannot, under any measure of reason, be completely absolved ourselves.

The second example I have for you cats and kittens is a little different. I use a wheelchair because of spina bifida. You kids know this. I also use a cane when I'm at inaccessible places, of which there are many. Strangers, without permission, will frequently lean on my chair waiting in line at wherever. The will ask to push my chair because it looks like fun. They will try to sit in my lap. They will question my handicap, assuming that all people in chairs are paralyzed. They will ask for rides. They will say things like, "I wish I could get good parking just for having a wheelchair." And with the cane, strangers will grab it to look at it, unbeknownst of my reliance on it to stand. They will ask me, "Is that your pimp cane," or "Where are your hoes?" They will try to take a walk with it to see what it's like to have a cane, while I wait, leaning against a wall until they're finished with their little adventure. They will say things like, "You don't look like you should be handicapped." What makes this example different than the modification or the hairstyle is that, unlike my fashion choices, I cannot change my disability. And aren't -isms reserved for the inalienable elements of our lives and not the choices we make?

I'm not blaming the kid for wanting to wear an afro. Go wear your afro. Whatever, I don't care. But Liz Dwyer failed in her preparation of the kid in what was to come. Consequences. Yeah but, there shouldn't be any. Yeah, I know. And you're right. But there are, so let's not be stupid about it. Liz Dwyer's second failure was to paint the curiosity of the kid's white classmates as legitimate racism. There is legitimate racism in the world. It is awful and needs to end, but this isn't it. The kid is rolling up to school with other teenagers with an antiquated aesthetic. What the hell did you think was going to happen? Use your brain. If some white kid rolled up to class with a powdered wig and pantaloons, he'd probably be personally invaded too. Is that racism? Oh wait. Is it only racism because only black people can grow afros? Well that's not true, unless every movie from the seventies has lied to me.

Personal responsibility. Own it. Do it. If the kid is getting (what he perceives as) bullied, then he needs to appeal to the people who run the school in a constructive way. Oh but they won't listen because he's black and black kids don't get the same classroom respect as whites as illustrated by this lovely Liz Dwyer quote: "And isn’t that the way racism works in America? When people of color don’t go along with obvious racist behavior, if we don’t ignore racial micro aggressions, if we advocate for ourselves, if we point out that injustice in our schools and workplaces, then we’re the problem." These -isms have to stop, and the first and obvious step to me is to stop perpetuating the self fulfilling misery with generalization and victimhood. And we need to solve problems not by martyring ourselves on Facebook, but rather by actually addressing the issue at its source. A place I go isn't handicap accessible. What more quickly and efficiently solves the problem; aggressively bitching about it on social media (or this blog), or taking to the town's zoning people or the store's management? I'm really sick of everything being everyone else's problem. And I'm really sick of the assumption of an inequitable sympathy just because I'm white, or a dude, or straight, or modified, or whatever. The question is buried and muted. Is it, 'I'm upset because people invade my kid's personal space,' or is it, 'I'm upset because white people invade my kid's personal space.' Liz Dwyer muddied the thesis there, and the tones of each go from the first as 'this is about bullying and child rearing' and second as 'white people are the problem.' But racism is a sexy story and it sells newspapers, I suppose. We need to grow out of this shit. Stay beautiful, kids.


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