Is Central Montana racist?
In a word: Yes.
While there are individuals residing in the area who are not, as a whole, Lewistown and Central Montana is racist.
The truth is racism is bone-deep and often innate. Many citizens don’t even realize it’s there. Many believe if they don’t wear white pointy hoods or perverted Swastikas or say things like nigger and wetback and kike, they’re not racist.
But herein is the rub: Many don’t object to it either.
It’s called passive-racism.
The passive-racist doesn’t outwardly support racism. They may even oppose it should the topic arise. The passive-racist may even date, marry and have children with People of Color. But when that old relative who is “just that way” rolls racist sentiments at the Easter table, friends and family exchange knowing looks but never actually object. “Please don’t,” the passive-racist insists to others, “it’s just how they are. Don’t rock the boat. You’ll upset the family.”
The passive-racist says nothing when the elementary school allows Blackface at their wax museum event. Upon seeing the racist exhibit, they don’t alert a teacher, the principal or a staff member. After all, they’re just children. It’s just dress up. What’s the harm?
So what does the passive-racist do? They tell someone they know will see the racism and that person will take action. Then the passive-racist pats themselves on the back for “doing something” about it and call themselves an ally. But if ever asked why they don’t take action themselves, say things like, “I’m a pacifist” or “I’m a white male, I don’t know how I could be of any help,” when it’s precisely that white factor that gets hailed as empathy while people of color get the “angry black” label.
Meanwhile, negative billboards bookend their town even well beyond the era of a Black President because, well, it’s paid for and the Tea Party “wasn’t about race.”
The lone voice
Let me be real clear: When a person tells you you hurt them, you do not get to decide you didn’t.
White people cannot decide what is racist and what is not.
And guess what?
Someone did tell the town, the whole of Central Montana that they were hurt. One biracial Person of Color voice spoke out… And this area tried to crucify her as a result.
When she tried again – one lone voice to speak out – she was told by white males she was wrong and should apologize.
The Blackface wax museum incident?
Not one person other than the biracial Person of Color spoke against it. No one stood by her side and voiced their support and agreement. And most heinously, no adult in the school or school system said a word against having Blackface in their school.
Yet a whole lot of adults had plenty to say in defense of the school and the event. That biracial Person of Color? Was told she was sensitive. Implied she was ungodly. Would be prayed for. The best one? Was when she was told by a white male, she didn’t understand racism.
Nor was Blackface at the elementary school wax museum the first time racism was discovered in the Lewistown school system. A few years prior, that same biracial Person of Color discovered that her daughter’s elementary teacher used colors attached to racial identities (black, white, yellow, red, brown) as her discipline behavior cards system. The colors were assigned to specific behaviors: White = Good, Yellow = Warning, Red = Detention, Black (the worst of the consequences) = Detention plus Principal Notification.
When she wrote the school about it and discussed it with the principal and teacher, neither school staff member seemed to grasp the overall problem, saying that “No one had ever complained before” and that the teacher “had used this system for years.” Adding insult to injury, the educational personnel asked the Person of Color what colors she would suggest instead. Why insult for a seemingly reasonable question? Because it should have been a no-brainer: Go for basic traffic light colors. Or any combination that doesn’t point specifically to skin colors. And as a principal and teacher of education, this should have been a given.
Then not even a year later, still yet another passive-racist incident occurred during an elementary school-sanctioned event: Family Fun Reading Night. Books from the library were brought over to the school for families to read together. Neither the librarian nor the principal thought to screen the books prior. Neither the librarian nor the principal thought, period.
A little girl brought over a book for her mother to read, “How the Leopard Got Its Spots” by Rudyard Kipling, because the book had a kitty on the cover. And the mother started to read the story, only to be brought up short by the word “nigger.”
The book was written in 1902; the biracial mother was aware that such were the times when the book was published. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was the complete lack of sensitivity and awareness on the school and library’s part; such a book was not appropriate for “Family Fun Reading Night.” And what were the odds that it was only the family of color in the school who managed to select that particular book. What would have happened had one of the white families present selected that book?
The worst part of all of these situations? No one else in either the school or the community thought it was a problem. No one spoke out against it. Nor did the principal and school district utilize what happened as a “teaching moment,” to provide education to the parents, school children and community so that this level of racist harm could be avoided in the future. And what happened later as a result? Blackface in the wax museum.
Days of future past
With that background – just the last decade in Lewistown – it was no surprise that a racist-supremacist misogynist won Lewistown and Central Montana’s vote to be President of our United States.
I warned this area in my “Welcome to the Fourth World” column that with Trump at the helm, United would become Divided. I was told I was wrong, I was told I was offensive. I was told I should apologize and re-write the column. I was told a lot of things. My favorite was that I was told I was racist.
Trump is from my hometown. I knew what he was when I was still a child. And I knew no good could possibly come from that pathological-lying, gaslighting, narcissistic, white-supremacist racist being president of our nation.
Blatant aggressive racists aren’t the only ones backing this disgrace for a United States president. Passive-racists support Trump. Yet for them, there’s usually a list of shallow rationales to try and disguise their racism. Sick of the same old politician families, let’s try something new angle. One of the best excuses is the “businessman entrepreneur” angle.
New Yorkers tried to tell you. I tried to tell you: the man Trump is a professional con.
Trump’s character – with its complete lack of any redeeming qualities – goes against multiple religious-based morals and common sense, and should have been enough that entrepreneur or not, he wouldn’t be someone you’d want running your country, representing you and your loved ones, or alone in a room with your daughter. Yet in spite of his pussy-grabbing in spite of (ever-increasing) evidence of his incessant lying, and racism (past and present)… Central Montana and Lewistown voted for him.
What I find fascinating as a biracial Person of Color; is how quick white Trump supporters are to deny his blatant white supremacy even when it’s tasering them right between the eyes. Since those people seem unaware how that translates, I’ll tell you. What it says to People of Color, LGBTQ, non-brainwashed women, pro-female men is this:
Trump can’t be a white-supremacist racist because that would make me one, and I’m not ready to admit that reality to myself.
It’s called transference.
So rather than accepting fact and working with reality as it stands, for better or worse, these people deny it and therefore deny and deflect or transfer it to the easier scapegoat: those who don’t support Trump. Racists who haven’t accepted their racism do not like being called racists. They get defensive, angry. Deny. Accuse. They try to flip. They try to discount opinions, yet refuse to see the irony of insisting it’s their own opinion that matters. They insist that the other party is “wrong” and should apologize.
They never stop for a second and think, what am I doing that’s giving this Person of Color (or other minority) the impression I’m racist?
The best answer, in my experience, for whites living in a small town with little to no outside world interaction, is to say, I don’t think I’m racist. What did I say/do, etc, to give the impression I am?
Because reality: Without People of Color around to give honest feedback, white people cannot claim to be non-racist with each other. It would make as much sense as males deciding healthcare for women.
When a majority of the town’s adults were brainwashed as youths through elementary school conditioning (e.g. racist behavior color cards system) that white is good and People of Color are bad and black is the worst… They have no clue.
What’s going on in our community is best exampled by what happened when the black woman ESPN anchor discussed supremacy versus when the white woman pageant contestant did the same.
The ESPN woman, Jemele Hill, was severely criticized, and reportedly even told she should be fired by the White House.
The pageant contestant, Margana Wood, a.k.a. Miss Texas, was hailed a hero.
That is just the tip of the racial issues iceberg, and it holds strong and true.
I hear white people ask this repeatedly since the monument upheaval. They say no one complained before (which seems to be a white person “go to” rationale), or another – if the statues were so terrible, how come Obama didn’t remove them during his presidency?
Uh huh. Right. Because had Obama, the first Black President, removed them, white racist south and its northern counterparts would certainly understand. (And yes, you do hear Tone.)
“Why now” seems to be the “counter” I heard whenever I voiced my complaints regarding inappropriate reading material, card behavior systems and Blackface. “No one’s complained before.”
Let me be clear: Black people have always complained; we have never liked nor appreciated being surrounded by symbols of our slavery, our oppression.
No one in (white) power cared, listened, or cared to listen.
The few minorities in positions of authority were likely the ones trying to pave the way for others; they don’t have the security to make a stand about innate objects when they’re trying to help push live people through. And again, it’s another example of flipping. The question that should have been asked was, “How come we didn’t remove these horrible symbols of systemic oppression of an entire race of United States citizens sooner?”
As mentioned previously, people get really defensive if it’s even suggested they’re racist… Especially when they actually are. Like sociopaths, they become accusatory and try to flip it around; gaslight the situation. Racists try to deny the very real feelings of the person telling them this is how they come across, whether or not they actually are. Racist radars are a very real thing; and oddly enough… White people don’t seem to have them. And why would they? In this country (and the world), they’ve never been oppressed enough to create racist radars as a self-defense mechanism.
My racist radar first alarmed shortly after the election. Two white males driving their pickups; feeling perfectly safe and appropriate in giving me the nasty racist stare whilst I drove my children to school because Trump was now president and my black, Obama-supporting ass could suck it.
My racist radar later went off when being confronted by the audacity of the white male who approached me to chastise me about my Fourth World column. He felt it perfectly acceptable to step into my personal space to voice his superior opinion.
That same racist radar also triggered during a more recent Sunday trip to Albertsons, when three white males of varying ages gave me side-eye to the point of outright staring as I tended to my shopping and in the parking lot, to the point where I took a different approach returning to my car as I didn’t feel comfortable letting them know which vehicle was mine.
Remember the school district?
Rather than immediately apologize for the Blackface, you’re right, never again; in a solid racist move, the entire school district tried to flip it onto me, by taking a “Chappelle’s Show” quote I’d said on social media deliberately out of context, and blowing it up in an attempt to smokecreen their racism.
Was the quote I used on social media the smartest thing to do ever? No. Lesson learned. Yet clearly, no one directly involved in said comment thread was worried; they knew I was using humor to diffuse. But the school district decided otherwise and added to the problem rather than try to work together to resolve it. Passive racism turned active, the moment the person of color said No.
Other examples of flipping?
Refusing to acknowledge the other holidays during the winter months, naming everything after “Christmas” as though other people’s religious days don’t count. “Christmas bazaars” instead of “Holiday” bazaar or even “Winter” bazaar, just to be inclusive and show respect for those who may celebrate religions other than your own. It isn’t about taking the “Christ” out of Christmas, but recognizing that Christ would have wanted no one to feel discounted… Oh, and he was Jewish, soooo… Really? Jew ’em down?
Refusing to even make an effort to change one’s terminology, “Asian” or “Asian-style” instead of “oriental,” for example. Or simply naming the country when listing the food, “Chinese” or “Chinese-style,” (my Korean brother would say oriental is a rug, not a race), because “I’m sick of all this politically-correct stuff.”
Feelings, nothing more than feelings (or What is “privilege?”)
When I first told friends I was going to write this editorial, some said I should write it in a way that considered others’ feelings.
Interesting, because, what about mine? Interesting, because women as a whole do that innately. Also interesting because I literally went to school to become someone who considers others’ feelings and overall holistic wellbeing.
Then November 2016 happened.
And I was told by a white male in this community that not only was I not allowed to have feelings on the subject, I was not allowed to express them, and if I did any of those things, my feelings were – straight up – “Wrong.”
And I was told this – and that I owed him and the community an apology – not in place of employment or in the form of a letter to the editor, or even a phone call. This person felt it was his right and absolutely appropriate to waylay me at an elementary school as I picked up my youngest child.
Privilege isn’t limited to the white male or racism (though it’s most prevalent). Everyone calls on it at some level and usually does so at least once during their lives. Nor are People of Color exempt from utilizing it themselves. We all experience privilege at various intersections in our lives. The point is to acknowledge and accept it and try not to flex your own privilege to the detriment of others. For instance, when I was pulled over by highway patrol this summer, it was an example of my own privilege that I didn’t immediately start recording or live-streaming the encounter, even knowing about the Black Lives Matter and “Take a Knee” movements.
Why? Because of my background. My parents are Caucasian. I was raised in a very diverse community of Manhattan in New York City. I’ve been fortunate in that my few encounters with law enforcement have been mostly positive experiences. Even so, initially, instinctively, I was deferential to the officer, automatically calling him “sir,” even though he was someone clearly much younger than myself. Yet towards the end of the encounter, I was annoyed enough by what I felt were overly personal and unnecessary questions that I stopped being deferential, ceased calling this decade-plus younger man “sir.” And that is an example of my own lighter-skinned privilege. I have friends of color for whom no way they’d stop saying “sir.” Look what happened to Philando Castile in 2016. All the deference in the world didn’t stop him from getting shot and killed in front of a four-year-old.
“Take a Knee”
Distract and deflect. Classic abuser and controller techniques. Trump is a master at it. Those who choose to believe Colin Kaepernick’s choice to take a knee during the (racist, look it up, people) anthem is about the American flag and the military got played. Those who insist Kaepernick and others who choose to take a knee are unpatriotic, anti-veteran, anti-flag, anti-military, anti-police simply refuse to acknowledge their inherent racism and the fact that it was a veteran who convinced him taking a knee was a show of respect; it’s much easier to blame him and decide he’s anti-American instead of a voice against injustice.
Seriously, there should be enough folks in this country knowledgeable about American football to know what it means when a player takes a knee. It means a player got hurt. It’s giving recognition to the injured player, allowing the player’s pain and injury to be witnessed and respected. The analogy is not that complicated. So what does it mean when so many white people allow themselves to be swayed otherwise? Especially football fans?
I was asked why I wanted to write this, and did I really want to put myself at risk by opening up in this way to our community. Because it needs to be said. While I’m not the only one who can say it, after over a decade of living here, it seems I’m still the only one who will.
America is injured; she took a damaging wound a long time ago and it’s festered ever since. Can’t fix what’s wrong if the infection is not recognized.
How can we heal?
Like with anyone with a life-threatening addiction or “bad habit,” the first step is admitting this country, your state/town/community/friends/family/self have a problem. People must own their racism. Until that happens, until people are able to admit their racism to themselves and stop denying what is so obviously present in our community, it cannot be addressed. If the wound isn’t addressed, it can’t be treated. Without treatment, it won’t heal.
One of the best ways for people to get a grip on racism and privilege is to watch the videos (can be found on YouTube) by the incredibly brave and exceptional [white] woman, Jane Elliott (http://janeelliott.com). This is something that can (and should) be done in schools, at places of employment, clinics, offices and in the privacy of your own home. She helps people realize what racism is happening on their own levels, and what they can do to open communication pathways towards acceptance and healing.
Some white people told me they don’t ask questions for fear of their questions being taken in the wrong light, and being labeled racist as a result. And I know it’s much more difficult to educate oneself in a community with so few representatives of People of Color. While I can’t speak for everyone, I find that tone and respect go a long way. Listening, both to what comes out white mouths as well as to People of Color, also goes a long way. Listen, and don’t leap to take offense. Listen to and evaluate your own responses (why am I getting upset?), and your empathy. However, don’t expect People of Color to constantly spoon-feed your evolution. You have to take responsibility for your own education. The internet is your friend.
It won’t be easy. America as a whole has centuries of conditioned bad behavior to work through and resolve. Yet America is beautiful, diverse, strong and good-hearted, just like Her people. Together, united, She can.