I #StandWithJamilah

If you were away from the internet and television (and by TV, I mean specifically Fox News, which for your sake, I actually do hope you abstained from viewing) over the last 24 hours, you might have missed what went down between Ebony Magazine Senior Editor and writer, Jamilah Lemieux, and Raffi Williams (wait…who?). Actually, more like what went down between a bunch of misinformed RNC-supporters and racist trolls (often one and the same, from what I see), as they spewed a lot of hatred at Jamilah. There was also, as one would expect at this point, a lot of “you’re racist!” being thrown out by people who clearly have no concept of what racism is. One of the more creative definitions I saw was from Moira Fitzgerald who explained racism was “an obsession with race even when race is not at issue.”

Once again, conservatives, mostly white, took something and made it about them. They were offended. Gee, this sounds familiar. Suddenly, Jamilah was “racist” because she was denying a white man his opinion.

That’s what it came down to. White people sure are experiencing a lot of racism these days, so I understand that they’re extra sensitive to such debates. Except wait, white people don’t experience racism here. Yes, a person of color can be prejudiced and discriminatory, but not racist. I know it’s time-consuming researching what words mean and how institutional racism, from slavery to Jim Crow to Stop-and-Frisk, has a long history and is still playing out today and that we white people benefit from white supremacy and have since we invaded this country, but it’s past time to look in the mirror. Pick up a book. Visit a museum. Listen. Get educated. Be informed. Don’t sound like an asshat when you call a black person “racist.”

Because this is utter b.s. and because I respect Jamilah Lemieux, I wrote a letter to the editors of Ebony. They are hearing a lot of demands for an apology, and for much worse. From Melissa Harris-Perry to Anthea Butler and now Jamilah Lemieux, it feels like every time I turn around, white people are calling for a black woman to be fired. Before I get to my letter, I have to make an important note here. I tried to find additional links to the stories about Melissa, Anthea, and Jamilah above. However, what shows up page after page on Google are mostly stories from right-wing and racist publications. What are we doing wrong here? Likewise, it’s been sad, but again no longer surprising, to see a lack of support for Jamilah yesterday and today from white feminists (look at the date on that, 2008…SIX years and still nothing). Those that have grand platforms, those who perhaps could write pieces is support of these fellow women and have them show up prominently in Google searches. And yet, in publications and on Twitter, all I hear is crickets.

Please take a moment today and contact Ebony in support of Jamilah Lemieux and tweet using the hashtag #StandWithJamilah (thanks to @FeministaJones for starting it!). Then exhale, make a cup of tea and read this mater mea beautiful interview with Jamilah about motherhood.

 

Dear Ebony,

I want to lend my support for Jamilah Lemieux. Her voice is indispensable. Through her writing and from following her on Twitter, I have been educated, engaged, and entertained. Her value is something I simply cannot put into words.

I appreciate Jamilah for speaking her truths and in doing so, being someone I can look up to and learn from. Jamilah Lemieux is a part of what my feminism looks like and I’m grateful for her work. What happened yesterday is only another attack against, from my observations, a black woman daring to speak out. I’ve seen these attacks only get more frequent and widespread as of late. It is one more symptom of the fear growing in our country amidst white men and within mainstream (“white”) feminism. The idea that if white people aren’t the only ones that matter, if the voices and movements of the marginalized count, is the stuff of nightmares for many.

Taken at face-value, this was simply a matter of mistaken identity and warrants no apology whatsoever. Those who were “outraged” by Jamilah’s tweets are offended because a black woman dare to tell (someone she assumed to be) a white man to go away. She shut him out and that is why there is an uproar. The audacity of a black woman to have a voice in the first place, and then to use her voice to tell a white man to stand down, that is something they will not tolerate. Telling is that those who claimed support of Raffi Williams on Twitter were simultaneously calling Jamilah the worst racist names. This was an opportunity to publicly attack a black woman, and in particular, a successful black woman who is in a place of power with a magazine that has international reach. They are trying hard to silence Jamilah Lemieux, only to move on to the next person they deem threatening.

Please don’t underestimate the importance of Jamilah and her talents. I beg, please support her through this campaign by right-wing (and many racist) folks who want her shamed and ousted.

With gratitude,

Lauren Markham

 

When writing my letter, I went off on some tangents, hence it became a blog post along with sharing my shorter letter. In terms of the actual tweets involved in this mess, there simply isn’t a story or scandal here. Right-wing blogs and news agencies were labeling Jamilah’s tweet(s) as “extreme racist bigotry,” yet has anyone read the comments on those sites? I won’t link to the tweets mentioned in my letter or those comments, but they are abound. So tell me again how this is about Jamilah claiming Raffi isn’t really black or that she is being racist? It’s just not so.

No one is ever owed attention or for their opinion to be heard, not on Twitter, not anywhere. We all have a right to tell someone we refuse to listen. And if a black person is discussing a topic inherent to being black, they most definitely have every right to tell a white person to shove it. Stop getting your feelings hurt. There are many times when we need to either butt out or simply listen. But white privilege (and especially when combined with male privilege) tells us that our voice must always be heard and our opinion always matters. We are white saviors and of course “these people” need our “help” after all. I even see many so-called allies guilty of this, stepping in when it’s really just time for them to observe. Hell, I’ve probably been guilty of it at some point. If I do so in the future, I’d be grateful for someone telling me to zip it. I’ve made a conscious effort to learn and to do better. I don’t have to pipe up about everything, many times, I’m doing the best thing by listening.

I wish more people with privilege, on all topics, would start doing the same. Sometimes a white person just needs to learn and try to comprehend what oppression looks like, and hell, learning what racism actually is would be a huge help. Sometimes men just need to shut up and realize they won’t ever understand what it’s like to be seen and treated as an object but that they can call out other men when they see them participating in harassment or other elements of rape culture. Sometimes straight people need to realize that their TV-show education of the LGBT community isn’t reality.  And so on. For anyone with any shred of privilege, also realize that no marginalized group or people are a monolith. So listen to many and learn much. One last thing: don’t forget to LISTEN.

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for linking to my post about this. I received a lot of anger about it, and the post’s URL made it to a white nationalist website as well.

    You wrote “I wish more people with privilege, on all topics, would start doing the same. Sometimes a white person just needs to learn and try to comprehend what oppression looks like, and hell, learning what racism actually is would be a huge help. ” Yes, but this rarely happens I guess. Picking up an intro book to critical race and critical whiteness studies could remedy much of this confusion, but it seems that most have no interest in engaging in social science based research to learn about how racism functions institutionally and structurally. Oh well…. (sigh)

    Best
    Breeze

    1. Your post was exceptional! I was glad I came across it and have it for future reference. So long as racism doesn’t affect them, the majority of white people are content to stay ignorant of the facts when it comes to that social science based research. Quite sad.

      Thanks for your comments.

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