Race & Identity
It's Great To Go High When Racists Go Low. But It Can Be Equally Great To Tell Those Racists To F**k Off.
What Valerie Jarrett's response to Roseanne Barr and racism teaches us about the good in blackness.
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to former-President Barack Obama, was the latest casualty of racial violence. In an unwarranted attack-by-tweet from sub-par, comedian Roseanne Barr, Jarrett was referred as the offspring of “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes.” The incident resulted in a public outcry, a half-assed apology from the comic and the cancellation of ABC network’s show Roseanne.
If there is but one thing we learn, as black folks living in America, it is that white people are gonna white. By that I mean white people, no matter what their social standing will perpetrate violence over blackness; be it physical, verbal or psychological. And their usual weapon is racism. This ain’t exactly news.
Like what you're reading?
Get more in your inbox.
What is also not news is Jarrett’s response. There was no offense taken from Barr’s comment and none given in return. In a special MSNBC town hall Everyday RACISM in America, Jarrett said she is "fine.” With dignity and poise, she voiced her concern for other African Americans who are subjected to racialized vitriol and white ignorance.
Jarrett is not alone in her modest reply to lowly white behavior. Barack and Michelle Obama remain the targets of Donald Trump and nasty right-wing attacks to which they both address with much finesse. Mrs. Obama raised the issue in her 2016 DNC speech, when she spoke about the resillience of black people. Rakeem Jones, who was punched in the face by a white Trump supporter at a 2016 campaign rally, reconciled with his attacker, hugging and shaking hands at a court appearance in December. For Jones, the color of his skin was a non-factor. He said “as far as race, not one time throughout this whole six months have I mentioned his race. I got hit by a man, period.”
In our quest and allegiance to black excellence, we’ve learned to appreciate and adopt Michelle Obama's “when they go low, we go high” approach to vicious assaults on our humanity. However, this practice isn’t an elixir for white supremacy. Since the New Negro campaign of 1895, respectability politics has permeated Blackness. It suggests and requires a level of acculturation and passivity; in exchange Negroes could only hope to be respected. Yet, no matter how compliant, or graceful or upstanding a black individual, whiting against blackness will persist. This is evidenced in numerous slave narratives, American Renaissance and Realism texts like Charles W. Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and of course throughout history--particularly during Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights eras.
The dominant culture loathes black people.
This is a well-established notion, and especially the case under Trump’s tutelage. The current president, who actually called Barr to congratulate her on the shows ratings, sanctions negative behavior toward blacks. He has given rouge white folks permission to trade-in their white fragility for white rage, and in an effort to resuscitate a shitty nation, they are going hard in the paint to secure the racist, imperialist, supremacist and patriarchal culture that is all-American.
Peak whiteness--read white inferiority--has no regard for black lives in any capacity. Therefore, it is less than likely to respect well-dressed, well-behaved and well-spoken black folks. We, not whiteness, must define what our humanity looks like for us.
And though it is noble and quite commendable of Jarrett to consider others and dismiss Barr’s childish fuckery, it is also rather human to reject her whitelash and apology, bless her heart in the name of Jesus and simply respond “fuck you.”
After all, this is America, right?