It’s Easy to Fight Racism on Twitter, But What About in Your Own Living Room?

Roseanne got checked. She tweeted faster than she could think, and spoke what was truly in her heart. And the Twitter-sphere resounded. The Internet gave itself a collective pat on the back. And perhaps rightly so. Anytime bigotry gets exposed as being simply unacceptable, and yet ever present, in our society, that is a win. Any day the collective comes together to say no to hatred, that is a good day. But I cannot simply let Twitter do my anti-racist work for me. Let me explain what I mean. The other day, I was with my two boys, 5 and 2, in a pizzeria in Southern New Jersey. The local evening news played on a tv hanging from the ceiling. The broadcaster was reporting on the recent settlement between the City of Philadelphia and two Black men who had been arrested for sitting down in a Starbucks. A White man behind me said, “I don’t know. If a cop tells you to leave, you leave. They should have left.” In my opinion, that is not a racist statement, but it's an ignorant one. This man may not have bigotry in his heart, but he obviously has not considered the fact that the cops had been called in the first place simply because the two men happened to be Black. While this man may not be a racist, he certainly hasn’t checked his privileged standing as a White man in America. I spend the vast majority of my time teaching in a school in which nearly all students are Black. Race, racism, systemic oppression, White privilege, biases; these are ideas we address and consider every single day. So, back in that pizza shop, I had a choice. I could do what I have done my entire life, and retreat into the obliging racial silence that so often comes with being White amongst White people. And that would have been, at best, weak and corny, or more likely traitorous and betraying. After all, to speak up for justice in theory, but not in practice, is to be complicit in the perpetuation of injustice. And, most importantly of all, my boys were watching. So I cleared my throat. “Yeah,” I said, “But we wouldn’t have had the cops called on us in the first place.” He nodded and shrugged. “I suppose.” Now, please don’t misunderstand, this was certainly no Nobel Peace Prize stuff. In fact, I have no idea if his mind was changed at all, but that’s not really the point. The point is that while it is good that Starbucks started its racial bias training and that Roseanne lost her show as a consequence of her bigotry, it is important that I remember that racism and bigotry must be fought at home, amongst our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We must fight racism in our kitchens and living rooms, not just in our retweets and timelines. And, most importantly of all, our kids needs to see us do it. So while I’m glad Roseanne got hers, that doesn’t leave me off the hook. I, we, have work to do.
Photo courtesy of ABC.
Zachary Wright 
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating ...

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