I’m in the gym, starting off the new semester (somewhat) right on the elliptical machine, trying to distract myself by watching the news. There’s a story (maybe you’ve seen it) about a fraternity in Arizona State that threw an MLK-themed party. Note that the link refers to the jerseys the students are dressed in as “gang attire”.
I was already over the story at “MLK-themed”, but when I saw the watermelon cup, I was done. I turned around to make sure that my friend, who’d come to the gym with me and was on a machine behind me, was also watching. Of course she was.
“This is literally ‘Dear White People’!” I yelled back at her (to be heard over the machines). “Are they serious? How are they serious?” I then realized that we were virtually surrounded by white people on the cardio machines, all of whom swiveled their heads questioningly in my direction. They looked confused, as if they didn’t know whether I was about to make an announcement, or if I was trying to offend them. Guess they hadn’t seen the trailer.
This was wrong on so many levels. The fact that only white people attended (although, what black person would really want to go?); the fact that jerseys, gang signs, and watermelons were the only things anyone could seem to think of in connection with blackness; that this was captioned with #ihaveadream as if THIS is what Martin Luther King Jr. imagined, and that fighting for THIS is what made someone think he deserved to be shot…
Making everything worse, though, were the reporters.
“Oh, this is bad,” they were saying. It is.
“This is really bad.” Tell me about it.
“And these kids, they don’t even know!” Obviously not.
“They’re just stuck in their own little world…” Yeah, their white privilege world.
“…and what they don’t even realize…” Tell ’em! Channel your inner Eli Pope!
“…is that this is seriously going to negatively affect their lives.” …Excuse me?
“Kids today don’t realize that what they put online stays around forever! In a few years, they’re going to have to break out of their world, and employers are going to look at what they’ve been up to, and it’s going to be hard for them to find jobs. Those kids are in for a rude awakening. Now let’s talk about this bungee jumping vine!”
That was literally it.
“Are you kidding me?” I was yelling to my friend again. “Are they really going to talk about the people who did this like they’re victims, and completely skip over the fact that this was racist and wrong? Aaah!” People were looking again, but I did not care.
I know that this has happened before, and it will happen again, but somehow it’s still hard to believe that things like this occur. How are you really going to talk about what happened, not as if it was a blasphemous thing on MLK Day (or offensive on any other day), but as a lesson to kids at home who should be more careful about what they post? It was as if the reporters were shaming the frat, not for what it had done, but for being stupid enough to get caught doing it. That is NOT the kind of rude awakening that should be happening.
You know who had a rude awakening? I did. I realized that if you have power in this country, or anywhere, the worst thing you can receive is bad press. It doesn’t matter if the world finds out you have affluenza, or if the world finds out you’re somewhat racist; as long as you have social power, the worst repercussions you’ll face are your media record. For everyone else who’s dead, dying, or oppressed, well…I don’t know what to say, and reporters clearly won’t waste words on you.