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Racism is Still Real – An Open Letter

Katherine Webb, AJ McCarron, Dee Dee Bonner
Earlier this week, Dee Dee Bonner, the mother AJ McCarron (Alabama Quarterback and Heisman runner-up), tweeted this statement concerning the victory speech of Jameis Winston (Heisman winner, National Champion & Offensive MVP of BCS National Championship game) after winning the BCS National Championship game:
“Am I listening to English?”
The tweet set off a fire storm of negative responses. Bonner would eventually delete the tweet and tweet the following statement:
“ny1 that knows our family knows we r far from racist. My tweet was not in any way meant that way. I sincerely apologize if it offended any1.”
I will give an allowance for a certain bit of veracity in this statement simply because I don’t believe that she meant for it to be malicious or cause harm; however, this is where the allowance and latitude ends. There is a common misconception that intent is the distinguishing factor in defining racism or a racist act. The erroneous philosophy that racism is bred out hatred confuses the issue and exacerbates the frustrations that are associated with attempting to engage the issue with any efficacy.
Racism is not bred out of hatred, hatred is a result of racism. Racism is bred out of ignorance and arrogance. When any group does not possess a lucid knowledge of the social collective in which they reside, they can develop social norms and standards that foster an arrogance complex. This complex makes them see themselves as superior and others as inferior. It is this same arrogance that allows them to see cultural differences as deficiencies.
This ignorance also breeds an intolerance to anything that moves against its tenets – this is where hatred begins to develop. There is a natural human proclivity to protect ones beliefs – at all cost. Thereby racism is not the hatred of another race only, but the thoughts and actions that express your beliefs – consciously or subconsciously – that you are superior and others who are not like you are inferior.
One of the most engaging discourses concerning this event was by gentleman responding to a social media post on the topic. You can tell that the response was urgent and impromptu, but the point was lucid and worthy of examination:
“TO DEE DEE BONNER, MOTHER OF ALABAMA QUARTERBACK AJ MCCARRON, AND ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE WHO DON’T GET IT.

I don’t have time to write a full blog on this right now, but check this: YOU DON’T HAVE TO DON A HOOD, BE A MEMBER OF THE KKK, BE BULL CONNOR, GEORGE WALLACE, STRUM THURMOND OR A MEMBER OF THE WHITE CITIZENS COUNCIL, FROM THE SOUTH, OR ANY OTHER HISTORICAL TROPE THAT YOU ASSOCIATE WITH RACISM OR being RACIST TO BE A DAMN RACIST OR DO SOMETHING THAT IS RACIST. 

Please get it out of your head that a racist is a personality type, it is not. Racism has more to do with an investment, protection, and celebration of certain privileges or way of life based your race or social race. It is the belief, conscious or unconscious, that your racial group’s ideas and practices are right and the norm (read superior) and everything else is wrong. It has a lot to do with protection of space and place (physical and social). Example: I am not a sexist (as a personality type) but If I say or do something that privileges my biological sex over someone else’s biological sex then I am operating from sexism, thus being a sexist. 

Your statement: “Am I listening to English” is racist. I understand that white guilt makes you want to disassociate from anything racist or being a racist, particularly since you are from Alabama, but just because de jure and overt acts of de facto racism seem to be a thing of the past for you does not mean that you are unable to do something racist. Your statement and your apology was racist because your knee jerk reaction to Winston’s celebratory speech was rooted in a set of racist discourse that not only privileges a certain type of American English, but also one that believes that black bodies are unintelligent, mumbling monkeys, uneducated, etc. Were you consciously thinking this? Probably not, because that’s how systems of power work, the discourse is so pervasive that you unwillingly and unconsciously participate. That is why I call “bull shit” on your apology statement: “ny1 that knows our family knows we r far from racist. My tweet was not in any way meant that way. I sincerely apologize if it offended any1,” because it is still based on what you consider a personality type or someone who lynches black men and not on how racism really works as a system of power. Also, your apology allows you to stay comfortable in white guilt while also enjoying your privileges of social whiteness, but Mr. Winston never gets to escape the marking of what many consider to be his black body and black existence-deviant, sexually aggressive, very athletic, sexual prowess, unintelligent, etc. And that is the power of racism that you benefit from.

P.S. I understood what Winston spoke because we share similar cultural and spatial realities that shape speech. Its funny that we don’t get tweets about how the people on Duck Dynasty speak or how Honey Boo Boo speaks, but let a black person speak or do something in a way that mainstream (read white America) does not understand and that black person is classified as unintelligent. I have two degrees and working on a third degree, but I know what the hell Winston was saying and if you catch me at home around da folk or when I am not in my professional mode I would probably sound like Winston, and I would be speaking English, just a different form than what Mrs. Bonner is familiar or even comfortable with.
I did not sensor the statement written by this young man because I believe that is done quite enough already. I posted it as is because I wanted to respect his right to express ideas in his own way.
Honestly, he makes some very valid points. Until we truly grasp and apprehend the true nature of racism, it will continue to thrive. I don’t know Dee Dee McCarron, so I will refrain from making judgments about her intentions, but what I can do is evaluate her actions. So, let’s put this entire event into proper context. First of all, Jameis Winston is the young man that beat her son out for the Heisman Trophy – the second time her son has lost out to an underclassman. Her precious Tide did not make it to the Championship Game, leaving her to root for another Alabama school – Auburn. Auburn loses after having the lead the majority of the game, leaving Alabama without a National Championship. Did I mention that she is from Alabama?
When you combine the dynamic elements that are present here, you will come up with a mindset that is, let’s say – SALTY! What I am getting at here is that even if this kid would have spoken in a completely grammatically correct way, she was likely going to have something to say.
Her immediate deletion, retraction and apology concerning the statement points to a number of possibilities. First, it shows that she is not radically or overtly in line with the perceived tenets of racism. It could also point to the possibility that the publicist for either, her son or his famous girlfriend, made a call to her explaining how it could impact their public relations efforts. It could also mean that she reacted out of instinct while being fueled by some not so virtuous character traits. Her declaration that she is not racist only serves to intensify the fallacies associated with the erroneous paradigm that classifies racism as that frame of mind or personality type that acts out of hatred toward another race.
I have not spent any time around Mrs. Bonner to make a determination on whether or not she hates blacks or any other race. Since I believe in dealing with facts and not emotional projections, I will stick to what I can ascertain. At the very least, she is ignorant of the social plight of blacks and the environmental influences that impact their vernacular. This is a phenomenon that is widespread in America – not only among whites, but blacks as well.
There are numerous nationalities that have migrated to America and use English as their second and sometimes third language. Their English is often broken and difficult to decipher, but rarely is their poor English speaking skills associated with a lack of intelligence. This seems to be a designation solely reserved for blacks. The stereotypes associated with blacks are perpetuated by the media and other cultural mediums.
As an educated black man, I am concerned that these viewpoints are driving the wheel of racism in way that most people cannot comprehend. White America must understand that racism is more than simply hatred of another race, and blacks must learn to stop apologizing for their differences. Like the young man that wrote the aforementioned discourse on this topic, I come from a background that allowed me to completely understand what Mr. Winston was saying during his interview, and honestly, I have heard much worse from a grammatical perspective. Was his speech eloquent? No it was not. If I was grading him as a speech teacher, I would have kept him after class to discuss that one. But as a black man from the inner-city, I related and celebrated his moment with him.
Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston represents the hope of the black man in American. Not because he is a World Class Athlete that will probably make a lot of money doing something he loves, but because he has beaten the odds – the odds that say that as a young black man he was more likely to go to prison than college. The odds that say he was more likely to commit violence or be the victim of violence than become a successful law-abiding citizen. These are the things that a non-racist white American would have celebrated that night. They would not have focused on his deficiencies but acknowledged his victories.
This is not to say that Mr. Winston should not seek to improve in the area of public speaking; he most definitely should. He should not seek improvement as a means of assimilation into a culture that will probably never truly accept him, but to improve his value as a person and eventual business man. He must understand that there are systems in place that will use his deficiency in this area as a means of denying him opportunities.
I would warn blacks that sent out quotes about how embarrassed they were to hear him speak, that we must not forget who we are and where we come from. We must not lose sight of our history. The way that Mr. Winston speaks is inextricably bound to the history and plight of African Americans. Those of us who have had the privilege to obtain an education should aspire to reach back and touch the lives that we left behind. We do not do this by looking down at them. They experience this enough as it is. We accomplish this by meeting them head on, face to face. We do this by relating and understanding who they are and why they are where they are.
Anyone that has spent any time around me knows that I don’t believe in making excuses for failure. We must take the hand that we are dealt and use it to rise up and overcome every obstacle. I feel an immense responsibility not to take a superior approach to those who have not yet attained that place of prominence or success in this life, but to reach down and help them to do so.
There are some white people that played immense roles in my development, especially in the way of business and even now in supporting my ministerial endeavors. So I don’t dare place all people of any race in one category. With that being said, I am not the least bit convinced that racism has died in America. It is very real and it has very powerful implications. Any beliefs centered on superiority and protecting social and financial positions of a particular race over others, is racism.

No one wants to admit that they are racist, but the fact is that we all must examine ourselves introspectively to insure that our way of thinking is not supporting racism. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace

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