Before I start, I want to say that I wasn’t planning on posting today – but sometimes the universe moves you. I haven’t posted anything about the recent tragic violence in Atlanta against AAPI People other than a brief mention yesterday because I didn’t have anything to add to the discussion that wasn’t already said. Until now.
What I am about to share is a Facebook conversation that I watched happen in real-time. I’ve blurred avatar images and tried to minimize any personally identifiable info present in the discussion. And I didn’t ask permission before posting these – I just felt moved to share. So, if the person whose account this is from asks me to remove this post, it will be taken down with no resistance from me. Just putting that out there.
[UPDATE: Permission has been granted by the source to leave this post up.]
As I said, I wasn’t going to post today (I’m off work and enjoying a little vacation time watching a bunch of TV and eating pizza… I’m working out, too – LOL), but my day started with this image (shout out YC) from another friend’s account. That cool message (click the link) rooted the start of my day in “words” and had me contemplating their importance. And then this happened…
The Facebook Conversation: Words Matter
Context: This was posted in response to someone sharing a screenshot, and their opinion, on the Atlanta Massage Parlor Shootings that targeted Asian People. I encourage you to read the conversation in-full.
Why This HAD to be Shared
I felt like this was an amazingly insightful example of the sympathy, empathy, understanding, passion, patience, defense, and verbal gymnastics afforded to White People that are given to no other racial group in America. People act as though this doesn’t exist, but read it for yourself. When you see the frustration of those responding to the initial comment, you get a clearly articulated example of why people are so outraged when the murder of 8 people is reduced to someone having a bad day (ESPECIALLY when it’s done by someone who seemed to further promote hate speech through images on their social media accounts).
The conversation is made all the more fascinating if you look at the timestamps in the last photo. Mark said what he had to say, got no response, and came back after he slept on it and thought a little more.
I know some people will dismiss this as a guy having an opinion and then getting ganged up on, but I’d beg to differ. He was engaging in an open discussion in public on a racially-charged topic and people brought him to task for it. And then, thankfully, they had a civil talk about it. You could feel Mark’s growth, potential embarrassment, shame, and humility as you got through the ENTIRE conversation (that’s important — read the whole thing).
And because of that, we got to see, in real-time, a person have an epiphany and openly admit their misconception in the year 2021. Is it made all the more fascinating because he’s a 67-year old White male talking about a racially-charged issue? Honestly? Yes. But, this could easily be anyone.
And look, I don’t want to come off as too much of a hypocrite here. I don’t make a secret of my support for BLM on this site, and it’s no secret that some demonstrations where their slogan has been used have devolved into riots. But, the key difference between myself, others, and what was happening with Mark in that conversation (and what MANY other White People do) is that I will admit that the bad stuff happens at the riots, state that I understand why it happened, but then I don’t defend it. The rioting is wrong. The destruction of property is wrong. I am not saying that EVERYONE does that, but I do.
What happened in that conversation was someone’s crime being minimized through language. It builds sympathy for the wrongdoer, and it just feels like there’s a pattern of that happening.
When I first saw this news break I was personally miffed that yet another White mass shooter was apprehended without incident, but minorities (read: Black People) can’t seem to get out of some parking tickets or just sleep in their home without loss of life. James Holmes, Dylann Roof, and now Robert Aaron Long. All mass murderers. All captured alive. All treated humanely once apprehended. I won’t run through the list of high-profile Black police-related deaths where the suspects had done considerably less and were treated considerably worse.
Minorities in the U.S. see how these things play out, and we pay attention to the language used in the media and at press conferences in the aftermath. We also suffer the consequences of that selective word choice and watch others reap the benefit (of the doubt). Killers, rapists, racists, and insurrectionists who look a certain way are referred to as suspects, good kids, kind people, and mentally stressed. All while others who were just living their life are referred to in less flattering terms.
Stop it. Language matters and I hope more people realize the power of their words and how that shapes narratives and systemic treatment in various U.S. systems. The bias has to stop.
I won’t just say everything I put out there above and leave people hanging – wondering, “How do I stop bias in language? How can I help solve this problem?” There are professionals who help with things like this (from a personal and organizational level), and I’m going to go ahead and shamelessly plug one such person whom I’ve had the privilege of working in proximity with in the past. 📧 Contact Dr. Nicole D. Price (click the link to be taken to her website) if you seriously want a thorough and professionally nuanced understanding of this topic and other related subjects like it.