I’ve just had the most exhilarating Twitter interaction! With a alt-right white man.
I came across an article, on Twitter, from the Independent which reports that Undercover Police spied on more than 1,000 groups of people in UK and before I’d even looked at the article, I knew that those groups of people would include people of colour. And it did. Therefore I commented, because in my opinion (especially because one of those groups of people included the family of Stephen Lawrence), this article is more proof of Institutional Racism in Britain.
Assumed intelligence (or lack thereof)
It took less than two minutes for an alt-right white man to respond to my comment; he called my comment “typical of black people”, he called me “lazy” and “stupid” and also “disinclined to work”.
This guy made an assumption about my level of intelligence, based upon the colour of my skin. White people assume that we are stupid, because we are black. We call them racist, they retort that we are “dumb” and “stupid”. We all know about the Jim Crow minstrel shows, performed by Thomas Dartmouth in “Black Face”, as he mocked black slaves.But this was in the 19th Century right?
As you know, I’m reading Why I’m No Longer Talking About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and this page has been burnt in my brain, since I read it on Monday, on my way home from the Black Lives Matter protest march for Rashan Charles’ death (for context in case you haven’t read it, during the 1980s, a black sociologist wanted to prove that racism existed within the police force and had been asked to train their cadets, so asked the cadets to anonymously write essays on their opinions of black people):
“Black people are a pest”
“They are by nature unintelegent [sic] and can’t at all be educated sufficiently to live in a civilised society in the Western world”
“I think that all blacks are pains and should be ejected from society”
White people are still saying this every single day now and it’s 2017.
I asked my new alt-right white friend first of all, how he felt about calling a disabled person lazy.
I then asked him how he had arrived at the assumption that I was stupid? Was that to do with the colour of my skin? Because actually I have three degrees.
Is one of them sociology?
Nope. Is that because of that colour of my skin?
(Because let’s address that stereotype here: that all POC do Law and Sociology degrees, or become rappers, while only white kids study Literature and Art degrees or study classical music.)
My new friend then realised how stupidly racist he looked, and then went on a rant about how he wasn’t racist because he had black friends and that he shared quarters with black guys.
Oh yeah, this guy’s a soldier, fighting for our country. So he thinks I’m “stupid” and “lazy” and a “typical black stereotype“, but I’m supposed to respect him because he’s fighting for my country? A racist who doesn’t want me here, fighting for my racist country which doesn’t want here either.
By this point I realised that it was almost midday, I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I blocked him.
A black girl who knows Shakespeare???
White people are constantly surprised by our intelligence, and especially more flabbergasted when we break out of the stereotype.
My University Tutor, assumed that I had a low level of subject knowledge, based upon the colour of my skin. When I told him that I did an MA in Literature, he was surprised and he nearly fell off his chair, when Shakespeare’s name passed through my lips and looked at me, as if to say: You know who Shakespeare is??!
At my first Tutor visit, he said that he was concerned about my subject knowledge, however didn’t give me the chance to justify myself. I was asked about Shakespeare, my first love, but was never allowed the opportunity to explain that Othello at GCSE was the reason why I’d chosen to study A Level English Literature. Studying The Tempest, had given me the highest grade in my year and had also been one of the reasons why I’d chosen to study Literature alongside Film, instead of Law at University. But I was never given the opportunity to express any of this, because instead my Tutor asked me when the last time I’d read Shakespeare was, to which I proudly replied: Coriolanus, a few months ago for my MA.
Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s most sophisticated and profound plays.
My Tutor looked at me, then at my Subject Mentor, and then laughed loudly as he said:
“well when was the last time you saw THAT on the curriculum?!”.
So instead of feeling proud of my intelligence and knowledge, under their eyes I felt ashamed. I blushed with shame, but in hindsight, as I think back on that memory I think, wow, you couldn’t even give me that?
And that was only the beginning…