|Credit: Tony Puryear|
gerund or present participle: gaslighting
As I watch many of my white friends and colleagues go ballistic about the clear and present fascist regime our country is dealing with, I have only one thing to say: welcome to the world of African-Americans.
Please do not consider this an "I told you so" piece, but this Trump and Steve Bannon embarrassment fully illustrates the reality of institutional racism and how the most vile and prejudiced White guy can ascend to the top of the world simply by having the right set of compatriots and using white skin privilege to the nth degree.
Allow me to share a short story from my time in Los Angeles: after I got my first break working in animation in 2011, I was surrounded by a small population of very angry and depressed White (male and several women) writers who toiled under the impression that the reason that it had been "harder" for them to get animation writing gigs was because of the "forced diversity" imposed upon the industry.
When I met these people (all of whom had been vetted as "cool" by White friends and trusted allies) they were spiteful, dismissive, petty and altogether boorish. At first, I assumed I had done something wrong but upon further inspection, I noticed an interesting pattern:
All the White people I knew believed these people were awesome but all the Black folks I knew considered these writers racist as hell - or at the very least - NOT fans of African-Americans and particularly fearful of African-American men.
This illuminates the phenomenon of what I call the "One in Ten Racist" Problem. There will often be a White writer (in this case) who is universally beloved amongst the ranks of other White writers but has a ridiculously negative appraisal amongst the ranks of Black writers. This situation occurs in pretty much every aspect of American life and vocation; I only use my experiences in this town as a clear example.
However, if you report your experiences of bigotry and bad vibes to your White friends and allies, they often react with shock, disbelief and the unspoken accusation that you must have "done" something to deserve that reaction. Why else, in their estimation, would this "awesome guy/lady" treat YOU that way, they don't treat anyone else like that - so it must have been YOU.
African-Americans have had to live with that kind of racial gaslighting since 1865. Before that, we were enslaved, and you pretty much knew where you stood for better or worse (mainly worse).
This flips around to a valuable currency that Black folks DO NOT GET in this society: THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. We have to prove what we're NOT before anyone grants us a modicum of humanity.
We have to prove that we're not:
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
A guy like Steve Bannon (an open racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, etc.) can utilize coded Neo-Nazi doublespeak and still be given the benefit of the doubt. A guy like Trump can openly insult the POTUS, make horrible sexist remarks, trash entire ethnicities and religious groups and still be given the benefit of the doubt to run the most POWERFUL NATION ON THE EARTH.
In spite of EVERYTHING that is occurring, there are still those who want to "give Trump a chance." Seriously. They are out there and in great numbers.
If you're naïve to the existence and scope of weaponized prejudice and bigotry: THIS IS WHAT INSTITUTIONAL RACISM LOOKS LIKE.
Meaning people in positions of power applying their sick ideals to impact hiring practices, budgets, educational opportunities, residential movement and voting rights.
There are Trumps and Bannons in high finance.
There are Trumps and Bannons in real estate.
There are Trumps and Bannons in law enforcement.
There are Trumps and Bannons in health care.
There are Trumps and Bannons in Hollywood.
There are Trumps and Bannons in academia.
There are Trumps and Bannons in the House and Senate.
There have been since 1778. This is what African-Americans been saying ALL. THIS. TIME.
You cannot go back to sleep. Our planet is on the line.
ALL CREDIT GOES TO TONY PURYEAR FOR THE NEW PHOTO.