Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

Tales of the Races Part 3: Racism in America. Right now.

Read Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.

Let’s talk about racism in America right now.  Those Oklahoma frat guys, man. Singing on a bus,

There will never be a n***** in SAE,
There will never be a n***** in SAE,
You can hang him from a tree,
But he’ll never sign with me,
There will never be a n***** in SAE.

This deed deserves to be judged by the rest of American society.
So as a member of American society, I say…

The spirit of exclusion + lynching reference + N word = racist.

My initial reaction when I saw the video was
!!!!!!!!!!!<— (eyes wide. angry furrowed brow.)
Not surprising because I’m well aware that racism still exists.
Outrageous nonetheless.

It’s disgusting to me because I personally believe that it’s the responsibility of all Americans in 2015 to fight against ignorance, to educate ourselves about our history, to make every effort to not be hurtful… to not be racist!

Because being racist is the ugly combination of ignorant and hurtful.

Not ignorant about everything.  It’s not my intention to do shallow name calling here. Racists, I think, are ignorant of the fact that some stereotypes are untrue, that some stereotypes are incomplete.  But most of all ignorant of the fact that racist words or deeds are hurtful.

So what about freedom of speech?

Well, I think the frat boys have a legal right to sing their racist song.
I also have the legal right, but more importantly the civic responsibility, to tell them SHAME ON YOU.  How DARE you disgrace our people, our country, and our history like that. You shouldn’t say or do things like that because it’s hurtful.  It’s destructive.

Did U. of Oklahoma’s President have the legal right to expel two of the boys?

Maybe not. But I think this is the wrong question to ask!  I think the better question is was it his civic responsibility to expel them?  And my answer to that is ABSOLUTELY!  I think he made the right decision.  An act of civil disobedience, perhaps.  A response to send the message that YOUR WORDS WERE HURTFUL!  You shouldn’t speak like that! Not because it’s ILLEGAL.  But because it’s HURTFUL!

So does that mean being racist is unforgivable?

Absolutely not.  Maybe this is the crazy part.  I don’t think being racist means you are a 100% terrible human.  It means you say hurtful things out of ignorance.

The truth is, I have plenty of extended family members who are racist.

My grandfather straight up told me that I shouldn’t let black people in my house because they’ll rob me blind.
Did I find that hurtful? Yep.
Did I stop loving my grandfather after that?  Nope.

My great uncle sang that eenie meenie miny mo song.  But it wasn’t catch a tiger by the toe, it was catch a N***** by the toe.
Did I find that hurtful? Yep.
Did I stop loving my great uncle like that? Nope.

I’ve listened to plenty of people tell racist jokes.
And not in a haha-funny these are so outrageous kind of way.
In a… we actually think these stereotypes are the whole truth kind of way.

So some people say stuff like, Aw, you can’t blame them, it’s not their fault. Racism has to come from somewhere. It comes from family. It comes from people’s environment.  They’re raised that way.

My response to that is YES it comes from family. YES it comes from people’s environment.  But that doesn’t make it okay.  That should not stop ANYONE from saying,

That’s hurtful!
You shouldn’t say that!
And DEFINITELY don’t say it around me anymore.

So does all this mean that you just shouldn’t talk about race?

NO!  Over the years I had a shocking number of middle school students who thought that talking about race made you racist.  And that’s a big part of why I wanted to start writing all these tales of the races in the first place.

Not only is it okay to talk about it, you can talk about it at full volume!

There have been so many times that I’m in a public place and a white person says a sentence at full volume but when they go to say a person’s race they WHISPER it. It’s always fun to laugh and ask, why are you whispering that?! Races are not bad words.

Okay fine, but you should never LAUGH about race, right?

NO! You think Anga and I haven’t had some big laughs about race? About each other’s race? Oh boy, there is plenty to laugh about.  But humor about race is incredibly conditional. Context matters.

I think the most important context is who is saying it and in what spirit. If the person saying it clearly understands that what they’re saying is a stereotype, that it’s not always true, and they are clearly saying it in a non-hurtful spirit… then sometimes it’s okay to laugh at ourselves!

But what about that dang hip hop music full of the N word?!

I said it once and I”ll say it again, context matters.  Who is saying it and in what spirit. So is saying the N word in a hip hop song different from telling a racist joke with the N word or those Oklahoma frat boys singing that chant?!

Sure feels different to me.
Hip hop doesn’t feel hurtful.
The others do.

In the end, it’s not racist to talk about race.
It’s racist when people say ignorant and hurtful things like the frat boys on that bus.

And it’s everyone else’s job to say

That’s hurtful!
You shouldn’t say that!
And DEFINITELY don’t say it around me anymore.


11 comments on “Tales of the Races Part 3: Racism in America. Right now.

  1. Sally (mom)
    March 13, 2015

    EXACTLY! Perfectly stated. I wish everyone in the US could read this.

  2. Margaux
    March 13, 2015

    ❤ this, miss you & your voice in my life and at CIP

    • Sara Rich
      March 13, 2015

      Miss you too! I hope all is well! I need to get over to Brooklyn to visit you!!

  3. stephaniehernandez708107648
    March 13, 2015

    I usually end up dismissing what the person said that felt hurtful and then changing the subject. For example, Mike and I were apartment hunting in DC recently and this older white guy showed us his daughter’s place up for rent in Dupont. He was shocked when I told him we were also looking at places on U Street. He said “I don’t want to sound racist but, there just aren’t enough WHITE people on U Street.” I said frankly- “that’s what I like about it!!” and then promptly changed the subject. Wondering if I should have done more, but I had just met the guy that day.

    • Sara Rich
      March 13, 2015

      I’m so glad you said that. What a perfect response. A few months ago I overheard a lady on the bus saying, “I love this neighborhood because there’s jussst enough, but not TOO much, diversity.” What’s crazy is that lady probably has no idea that that’s a hurtful thing to say. No idea that she’s racist. Just like that guy who showed you around.

  4. Anga
    March 13, 2015

    Well done Sara!

  5. Lonnie Rich (Dad)
    March 13, 2015


    • Sara Rich
      March 13, 2015

      Thanks dad. It was great talking to you about all this the other night! Also, I love this story you just emailed me:

      To take it one step further, did I ever tell you about my rebuking a pastor, who regularly went on an “anti-racism” rant in his sermon? I said, “Hey preacher, you know we have a lot of sins besides racism and in this church you are preaching to the choir on that subject. Why don’t you get closer to home and talk about greed, materialism, envy, gluttony, pride, and self-righteousness (say, over our being above, beyond or over racism)?” So bam. I may not have that mote in my eye but I do have these other logs hanging out that are obscuring my vision and need some attention.

  6. rhike123
    March 14, 2015

    Great post. Well said.

  7. Robert
    March 14, 2015

    Well said Sara, Racism is deeply rooted and dislodging it requires bold steps like you’ve taken. Keep up the boldness and I am joining you in saying no to racism.

    • Sara Rich
      March 14, 2015

      Thanks so much Robert! And thanks for reading!

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2015 by in humanities.
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