Most every American family has their Thanksgiving traditions. Rare is it that you realize in the moment when these traditions begin. For my family and me, Thanksgiving 2016 was one such time. It was a warm feeling traveling with Erin for our family celebrations with our daughter to celebrate her first Thanksgiving.
On our drive from Mt. Pleasant to Bay City, I checked Twitter. “Native Americans” was trending in my area, I clicked to see the conversation. The first result, from Twitter user @leahrboss, stunned me.
I quoted the tweet, adding “Let’s check in on Twitter for Thanksgiving . . . oh, still racist af. The Tweet generated moderate traffic, earning several retweets and more than 100 “favs” by the day’s end.
I woke up this morning and was very surprised to find that throughout the night the tweet had spawned numerous replies, almost universally negative. In total, I had more than 1,000 notifications related to what I had thought was a self-evident truth: this was a racist tweet.
A few Twitter users, including the author of the original tweet, challenged me to articulate just how she (Leah) was racist.
To be very clear, this tweet, and the sentiment that Native Americans are somehow “less civilized,” is objectively racist. Without unpacking the subjective meanings of “civilized,” I can still assert that most reasonable people will read “Not gonna (sic) feel guilty for Native Americans. Nope. They were conquered by a more advanced civilization. The end.” as racist.
The idea that Native Americans lost their lands because white conquerors were more civilized meets the most basic understanding of racism: that somehow one’s own racial group is better than another.
I will not debate this further. As the dozens of Twitter users already engaged with this conversation have illustrated, this only devolves into circular arguments.
What I take away from this interaction is the absurdity and ferocity of Twitter users’ energy directed at this tweet between Midnight at 9:00 A.M. Eastern. A Twitter user with the handle @Slybantr replied, “lol, you still think the word racist holds power, that’s adorable.”
That’s frightening. It’s frightening because, as a quick review of much of the discourse in our nation presently shows, it’s true. Calling someone a racist no longer holds power.
It’s as though I had called their words racist, and the response was a clear “so, what’s wrong with that?”
When a member of community asserts that their right to America is somehow derived by their race, that is undeniably racist. Calling an action or statement racist, and being able to objectively demonstrate that it’s racist, should elicit immediate condemnation from all.
In this instance, I saw dozens of Twitter users refuse to denounce racism, instead becoming aggressive in their defense of the position that those of White-European descent deserve to rule America because they were a superior race.
Their methods sought to intimidate. Several, through a quick web search or by reading my Twitter feed, discovered that I am employed by Central Michigan University. They soon began tweeting my employer, asking if they supported my “vulgar ways.”
They resorted to name calling.
Twitter user @jwiggenebt suggested that I slit my wrist.
To be fair, not all commentary was aggressive or dismissive. @mike4libertyCA offered that “we can condemn the wrongdoing that was done.. while also praising the civilization that was brought here.” To some extent, I must agree. I, too, live on lands formerly inhabited by indigenous populations. I, too, am enjoying a great deal of privilege because of my ancestry.
What did I learn from this? Racism is alive and well in America.
When you see it, don’t let it pass.
The internet has become a powerful tool to share your political convictions. Regrettably, it has also become a place where standards of fact and civility no longer exist.
I welcome constructive conversations that bring our country forward. As anyone who knows me will attest, come to my office in Powers Hall anytime you like for a conversation. I want to hear you and understand you.
Tweet shit that’s racist as fuck? Blocked.