Don't Tell Us to Smile: The First Southern Discomfort Discussion

A small portion of that day's panel. I'm sure our faces hint at how intense the day was. 

A small portion of that day's panel. I'm sure our faces hint at how intense the day was. 

If you’re up to speed on Charleston news, you probably saw the wildly inappropriate #SlaveBaby picture that some kid decided was a good idea to draw.

My friend, Diaspoura, called the artists and others out on it. Long story short, we had a panel about a week ago, and I was asked to sit on it.

This was my second panel appearance of any kind to date, and the nerves I felt beforehand were ridiculously unbearable. I was sick to my stomach, and kept moaning just like Tina from Bob’s Burgers. Why?

It was the first time I’d ever been given a place to talk about racial issues, and the fact that perpetrators are so quick to claim ignorance and obliviousness cuts me deeply on a daily basis. We were asked the question, “What is the spectrum of racism?” and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit. And yet, I actually found the words. My answer?

“Racism can be blatant, but it is also saying, “anyone who knows me knows I’m not like that.”

This is on my list of top 5 hated phrases. I DON’T KNOW YOU. Therefore, in the moment where you felt it was cool to draw a baby in shackles with a large nose and lips, you gave me all of the impression that I needed.

The artist claimed to not know why he chose to draw the picture, but I honestly think he was embarrased to be on stage in front of everyone by that point. Why those features? I would have respected him better had he just flat out said, “When I think of ‘slaves’, I think of black people. When I think of black people, I think of fat lips and noses.”

It wasn’t long before the Uncle Ruckus-types came out of the woodworks, and to say that I was so ashamed for them? One was so misinformed as to say,

“We’re crying about white people being racist towards us, but we as black folks can be racist, too.”

There is WAY TOO MUCH reading material available for anyone to still be believing that. Minorities can be PREJUDICED, meaning that it is possible for us to dislike someone for the way they are. It only can be classified as racism when power of some kind is able to be exercised over another group because of how they look. See the Trail of Tears. See Slavery.

 

 

This one got me too, and it was in response to artists Matt Monday and Benjamin Starr sharing with the audience the struggles of trying to book Charleston area clubs as hip hop artists. Now, I assumed the screwed up part was the realization that they’re only able to book certain shows when a white colleague calls venues on their behalf. But the KICKER, y’all? A fellow “hip hop” artist countered with, “Go slow.”

 

 

Y’ALL. All I could hear in my head was Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” These artists want change NOW. Wait and go slow FOR WHAT? I’m ready for this next panel, because it’s evident that focused discussion needs to be maintained, and citywide political education needs to be a thing.


Did you catch the panel in person or on Facebook Live? What are your thoughts? Also? 

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