Posted in 365 Days of Blogging, Racism

Day 137: Why I don’t like the phrase “we’re not all like that.”

A lot of people try to make the comparison of “well you wouldn’t like it if I said _____ about black people,” but that doesn’t hold water. Stereotyping of PoC has been used historically by white people to dehumanize and devalue our lives. Stereotyping of Black people is one of the main reasons why cocaine is illegal. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

Hyperbolic reports of the effect of cocaine on African Americans went hand-in-hand with this hysteria. In 1901, the Atlanta Constitution reported that “Use of the drug [cocaine] among negroes is growing to an alarming extent.” The New York Times reported that under the influence of cocaine, “sexual desires are increased and perverted … peaceful negroes become quarrelsome, and timid negroes develop a degree of ‘Dutch courage’ that is sometimes almost incredible.” A medical doctor even wrote “cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by the negroes.” To complete the characterization, a judge in Mississippi declared that supplying a “negro” with cocaine was more dangerous than injecting a dog with rabies.

These attitudes not only influenced drug law and policy but also led to increased violence against African Americans. In 1906, a major race riot led by whites erupted; it was sparked by reports of crimes committed by black ‘cocaine fiends.’ Indeed, white-led, race riots spawning from reports of blacks under the influence of cocaine were not uncommon. Police in the South widely adopted the use of a heavier caliber handguns so as to better stop a cocaine-crazed black person – believed to be empowered with super-human strength. Another dangerous myth perpetuated amongst police was that cocaine imbued African Americans with tremendous accuracy with firearms and therefore police were better advised to shoot first in questionable circumstances.

The stereotypes that white people use against PoC are harmful, dangerous, and can get us killed. It is something that should be avoided at all costs.

When it comes to PoC asking white people not to say “we’re not all like that,” it’s a completely different matter. What we’re asking is that white people not come into conversations that we have about institutional and personal racism to simply say “I’m not like that” and then complain about how “hurt” their feelings are. When that happens, they derail the conversation and make it all about them and their feelings. They’ve taken what could’ve been an open and honest conversation about racism and turned it into “the PoC are being mean to me.”

There’s also the fact that when white people say this to us, they’re not saying anything new. Normally when that phrase is uttered, it’s done in a very condescending way. It’s like the person saying it thinks that the PoC they’re speaking to has absolutely no idea that there are white people out there who wouldn’t do what they’re talking about. That is extremely insulting. Of course we know that not all white people are like that. We come into contact with white people on a daily basis who are not like that. We do not need that pointed out to us. We aren’t naive.

Most of the posts that receive the “we’re not all like that” derailment don’t even say “all white people do _____.” For some reason, a few white people will read the post, see an imaginary “all” somewhere and then completely lose it. I even had a case where a white person saw the imaginary “all” and went off the deep end. I pointed out many times that she was wrong and she never backed down. A white ally came in, said pretty much the exact same thing I was saying and that was when she decided to apologize. Only she didn’t apologize to me, she apologized to the white ally and then said “well the OP [me] shouldn’t have been so mean.”

That’s why we hate it when so-called “allies” come in on our posts to say “we’re not like that.” If you’re really “not like that,” why don’t you show us you’re not like that. Actions speak a hell of a lot louder than words.

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I'm a simple single mom living a complicated life.

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