America continues to gaslight Black people about racism
OPINION: From repurposing the words of MLK to declaring that "America is not a racist country," the gaslighting of Black people in AmeriKKKa continues.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
This past Monday was the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, and if you ever needed an example of how America continues to gaslight Black people and play in our faces, look no further than the tweet the FBI sent out in “commemoration” of that day.
“This #MLKDay, the #FBI honors one of the most prominent leaders of the Civil Rights movement and reaffirms its commitment to Dr. King’s legacy of fairness and equal justice for all,” their social media person wrote as a caption to a photo of the MLK monument in Washington, D.C.
A Twitter community note added to the tweet said, “The FBI engaged in the surveillance of King, attempted to discredit him, and used manipulation tactics to influence him to stop organizing. King’s family believe the FBI was responsible for his death.”
Included with the Community Note was a CBS special report from 1999, in which Coretta Scott King said she felt “vindicated” by a jury in a civil lawsuit finding “her husband was the victim of a conspiracy, not a lone assassin.” (The Department of Justice conducted an investigation and found the conspiracy claims not credible.)
In addition to the Community Note added to the tweet, there were thousands of replies and quote tweets from Twitter users calling the FBI out on its hypocrisy.
This isn’t the first time the FBI has trolled us with this particular tweet on this particular day, and it likely won’t be the last because if nothing else, AmeriKKKa is going to AmeriKKKa, and that includes finding new and improved ways to continue the forced subjugation of Black people in this country while lying in our faces about how much progress we have made and how “equal” things are now.
Take Nikki Haley for example.
The former U.N. ambassador, governor of South Carolina and current presidential candidate wannabe made an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday morning, during which she made the assertion that the United States of America “has never been a racist country.”
Her comments were in response to MSNBC host Joy Reid questioning whether Haley, a woman of color, could win the Republican nomination for president.
Haley — who is the daughter of Sikh Indian immigrants — said Reid “lives in a different America than I do” (which, lol, y’all do, but OK, my brown sis masquerading as a white woman) and then leaned into her child-of-immigrants identity to further make her point.
“I mean, yes, I’m a brown girl that grew up in a small rural town in South Carolina who became the first female minority governor in history, who became a U.N. ambassador and who is now running for president. If that’s not the American dream, I don’t know what is,” she said.
When asked by the host if the GOP was a racist political party, she responded by saying, “We’re not a racist country, Brian. We’ve never been a racist country. Our goal is to make sure that today is better than yesterday. Are we perfect? No. But our goal is to always make sure we try and be more perfect every day that we can.
“I know I faced racism when I was growing up. But I can tell you, today is a lot better than it was then. Our goal is to lift up everybody. Not go and divide people on race or gender or party or anything else. We’ve had enough of that in America,” she added.
Not only did she contradict herself in her own statements, but here is where I remind you that Nikki Haley is from South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union because it wanted the right to continue to enslave Black people.
This is the same Nikki Haley who couldn’t find it within herself to admit that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War.
A spokesman for her presidential campaign didn’t make it any better when, according to CNN, he said, “America has always had racism, but America has never been a racist country. The liberal media always fails to get that distinction. It can throw a fit, but that doesn’t change Nikki’s belief that America is special because its people are always striving to do better and live up to our founding ideals of freedom and equality.”
That is a Soul Train Scramble Board response if I ever saw one.
There are white people in this country who will go above and beyond to deny the white supremacist foundation of America. They will ignore the legacy and history of slavery and Jim Crow, and they will bend over backwards to try and make us disbelieve the entirety of our lived experience as Black people in America.
Black people are in an abusive relationship with the United States of America, and the United States of America engages in DARVO to gaslight us into thinking it’s not happening.
It’s much easier for them to say the people calling out racial injustice are the problem instead of acknowledging that racial injustice is the problem.
It’s the selective offense and selective outrage for me.
These are the same kinds of people who will tell us that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and affirmative action are no longer needed in this country while ignoring the loud and obvious disparities between opportunities afforded to white people versus those afforded to Black people and other marginalized groups.
Sometimes, if they are as bold as Bill Ackman, they will take an opportunity to roll their gaslighting and their misrepresentation (and complete misunderstanding) of the messages of Martin Luther King Jr. into one loud and wrong offensive statement.
You have probably heard Bill Ackman’s name in the news lately because he was a loud and strong proponent of accountability when it comes to plagiarism and played a part in Claudine Gay’s ousting from Harvard University.
He was all for that accountability until the same accountability showed up at his front door and asked to speak to his wife, but I digress.
During a Twitter Spaces (again, I refuse to call it X, idc idc idc) conversation with Elon Musk presidential hopeful Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., on MLK Day, Ackman did the thing white people do when they take the words of Dr. King and twist them into a statement that is upholding white supremacy.
According to NBC News, not only did Ackman write a lengthy post on his Twitter account in which he stated “DEI is racist,” but he said during the Twitter Spaces conversation that MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech “is precisely about a world where people will be judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character. And when I came to learn about the DEI movement, which is an ideological movement, it’s really the reverse of that.
“I think Dr. King would be very opposed to this sort of ideology, even though, you know, diversity is a good thing, even though, of course, a culture where everyone feels comfortable and included is critically important,” he added.
I’ve written before about the misappropriation of Dr. King’s words by white people who want to pretend that Dr. King was in favor of a “colorblind” society. As I said last year on the anniversary of his assassination by white people who disagreed with any and everything he stood for:
One of the biggest lies ever told about King is that he believed in a colorblind society. This is false.
It is an idea derived from a 40-word passage from his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in which he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
And if we are being honest, that 40-word passage has been whittled down to nine simple words “not be judged by the color of their skin.”
What King meant when he said that and what white people have twisted it to mean are two different things.
That 40-word passage wasn’t a plea for everyone to be colorblind; it was a direct rebuke of the systems of whiteness and white supremacy that held Black people back. When he said “my four little children,” yes, he was speaking directly about Martin III, Dexter, Yolanda and Bernice, but it was also a metaphor for Black Americans as a whole. King wanted a better future for us all as Black people.
MLK was murdered for working tirelessly to see Black people treated equally in a country they helped to build from the ground up, but white people would have you think he spent all that time working to teach Black people that race and color were not the issue.
It’s annoying and infuriating and disgusting all at the same time, but it’s also AmeriKKKa in a nutshell.
America gaslights Black people because America wants to continue on with the status quo, and in order to do that, America has to pretend that speaking out against racial injustice and creating programs that level the playing field are the real problem.
Dear America: Whiteness and white supremacy are the real problems, but you know that. You just want to continue on in this abusive relationship while promising Black people that you are going to do better next time.
We won’t hold our breath.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
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