Why Are We Rewarding Racism and Intolerance in Our Country?
It’s been quite a few weeks in America. A few weeks, if we must limit it to only a few weeks, when all the progress that we have made as a nation has been completely ruined.
Where to start?
Oh yes, let’s start with Suzy Lee Weiss, a white, privileged, young woman, who, after being rejected by the Ivy League colleges of her choice, proceeded to use her family connections with the Wall Street Journal to point out the fact that she failed to abuse the whole “diversity” thing like many others have done. Failed to pretend to give a sh*t about charity. Failed to have gay parents. Failed to pose with black babies, or wear Native American headgear, or all the other tricks we people of color have mastered in our never-ending efforts to get an in…whether it be at Ivy League schools, or jobs, or housing or anywhere. She failed where we are winning, apparently, and was rejected. Stupid brown/black/gay/Muslim/Native American/liberal jerks (note my sarcasm) taking away all her chances to get what she deserves. And THIS is why she didn’t get into her colleges of choice. And the crowds cheered. They cheered loud and hard. Major networks interviewed her, featured her and allowed her to further share her views of how minorities are ripping white people off. “It was satire!” Yup…so effing funny, right? Fear not – Suzy will do just fine. She even got a job and internship offer. Go, Suzy. You showed us!
Then there’s sorority girl Rebecca Martinson, who wrote a letter to her “sisters” with more cuss words than even this Brooklyn girl could keep up with. And, listen, I won’t deny that even I read the letter and was glued to it like one is to a horrific car-crash scene. That she talks to other grown women like this and they tolerate it? Whatever, that’s a whole other level of WTF.
What I couldn’t believe was how, even after reading her racist tweets, the media still couldn’t get enough of this girl – giving her offensive letter full morning news coverage and, according to some, potential job offers. “You should hire this girl! She’s awesome!!” commentators kept saying over and over again.
But don’t be fooled. You have to be a special kind of someone in America for this behavior to work to your advantage. I certainly wouldn’t encourage my Latina or black sisters to try it. Imagine that instead of pretty little Rebecca Martinson from Maryland writing this letter, it was Latoya Jones of Detroit. There would be serious consequences. White girls everywhere, and their parents, would be filing complaints about how they feel “nervous,” “scared,” “not safe” around someone “as angry” as Latoya. There might even be a police investigation to address the serious bodily threats detailed in the letter.
Had it been Maria Lopez from Arizona who had written the letter about being rejected by Ivy Leagues, people would have laughed at her, pointing out how she got so far already despite being from somewhere else, all due to the taxpayer’s hard-earned cash. She certainly wouldn’t have gotten the attention of the WSJ…or NBC…or potential employers.
But while we are all laughing and praising these girls, we also make their ignorance and hateful words OK. We numb ourselves to the stereotypes and ideologies that they believe in, and we help them spread their venom. And though the severity of the actions of Ms. Weiss and Ms. Martinson don’t even compare to the horrific events in Boston, our society’s reaction – the attacks on Muslims, the Islamophobia, the fear and resentment and hate – all stem from the same place of ignorance and intolerance.
Ms. Weiss might call her WSJ piece “satire,” but her joke comes from ideas that she and her family (based on interviews I’ve heard from them) believe to be true.
Ms. Martinson might be funny and “quick,” but her tweets were blatant displays of racism.
We are all saddened by the events in Boston. We all cried and worried and were in shock. But the angry response by some came from a place of ignorance, negative stereotypes, and ethnic and religious phobias of other members of our community. This was displayed in the media and fed to our society long before we even knew who had attacked us, leading to more innocent people, who “looked the part,” being judged.
It’s all funny, until it isn’t. If we don’t take the time to address ignorance and biases, if we just brush it off as “no big deal” and as “so f*cking hilarious,” if we don’t call these girls to task and instead reward them with attention and offers, we allow the ugliness to spread. And then it will reach a point where nobody is laughing.