Racism and racial inequality is a hot topic right now, and for good reason. There are social injustices between the races, and they’re being brought to light more and more every day. It’s important that we talk about race, and move toward a kinder, more accepting, and more equal union. However, the real issues about race are being watered down by our collective focus on things that are far from the root of the problem.
The above statements were recently posted to social media by a former member of Tri Delta, Ashley Carter. They undeniably touch on race. I don’t, personally, find the Chun Lee joke funny, mostly because it’s been overdone, and I am personally uncomfortable with with the term “nigga,” although many (but not all) people view the term as markedly different than the racial slur ending in the hard “er.” Whether you like these statements or not, though, the question remains, are they racist?
Every decent person can agree that racism is bad. Treating someone differently, causing them harm, or even simply disliking them on the basis of race is socially and morally wrong. But somewhere along the way, the definition of racism became hazy, and the lines were not so clearly defined. Any comment denoting acknowledgment of race can be considered racist. Being improperly informed about any cultural background can be considered racist. Having opinions about social issues regarding race can be considered racist. And comments like the ones above, intended as jokes, are made out to be hate speech. So we ask ourselves a million questions before we do anything.
“Is it racist if I don’t believe in affirmative action?”
“Is it racist if I do?”
“Is it racist to ask a black girl if I can touch her hair?”
“Is it racist to wear braids?”
“Is it racist if I can’t tell the difference between Chinese and Koreans?”
“Is it racist if I sing the N-word when it plays in my favorite rap song?”
“Is it racist if I dress as Pocahontas for Halloween?”
“Is it racist to think that #BlueLivesMatter?”
“Is it racist to want big lips and a big butt?”
“To like rap?”
“To like Bollywood films?”
“To attempt an accent?”
“Is this racist? Is that racist? Am I racist?”
The only questions we should be asking ourselves are these: “Do you hate people on the basis of race? Are you attempting to hurt someone else, physically, politically, or emotionally with your words or actions on the basis of race? Do you think you are better than others on the basis of race?”
If you answer “no,” it isn’t racist — or at least it shouldn’t be. We are so focused on words, and not intent, and I think that’s doing a grave disservice to the people of this country. I’m not here to argue whether or not the statements made were racist, but only to say the intention was clearly humor, no matter how ill-received. Maybe race is something we simply can’t joke about any more, but I think being chastised for something said light-heartedly, whether or not it came across as funny, is sad. And I was honestly deeply saddened to see the above photos posted to Twitter with a screenshot of the following email, captioned: “When your sorority sisters try to say racism doesn’t exist. P.S. these are all posts from girls of USF Tri Delta.”
This is Ashley Carter. Unfortunately, I can no longer be a member of Tri Delta. I have witnessed too many instances of blatant racism and stereotyping by Tri Delta members. Some of the more memorable occurrences include sisters dressing up as “thugs” on MLK day and their frequent and casual use of the N-word. Sisters have even posted things online that ridiculed my own ethnicity, and I can include a screenshot of that if needed.
I no longer feel comfortable in, nor do I want to associate with the Tri Delta Organization.
In addition to the screenshots from her former sisters’ social media posts, the email was accompanied by some heated Facebook discussion about the Baltimore riots. One girl claimed that rioters “act like ignorant monsters,” and another suggested that the “cops should definitely be allowed to do more than stand there!!!” Though there was no mention of race, again, I’m not here to argue whether or not the posts were racist.
When your sorority sisters try to say racism doesn't exist P.S. these are all posts from girls of USF Tri Delta pic.twitter.com/taUT7ViVqz
— ashley (@ashleycarterrr) August 5, 2015
What I do want to discuss is Ashley Carter’s handling of the situation. She clearly was upset by the words of her sisters, and it is absolutely her right to feel that way. It was absolutely her right to say something about it, and perhaps even her duty as a member of the organization to let her sisters know how she felt, and how they might have been perceived by the public. But to take a group of women who took her in as one of their own and put them on blast like that is just wrong.
The sisters of Tri Delta may have said some things they shouldn’t have, but they very clearly did not have malicious intentions. Ashley Carter did. And isn’t that what we’re trying to combat in the first place?.
[via Ashley Carter]