I was driving through Hollywood, windows up, radio on, when a news anchor spilled the Roseanne story, how ABC dropped her like a hot potato for her racist tweet. My eyes got wide, I slapped my hand over my open mouth and said, ‘whaaaaat!!!’ A red light caught me by surprise and I slammed on my brakes.
As I drove home winding through narrow streets, I kept replaying the news in my head. Something about it got under my white skin, something I didn’t want to face. Something about my own racism. The tsunami of attention directed to Roseanne’s bad behavior made it easier for me to fly beneath the radar.
While the world (or some portion of the world) was busy throwing tomatoes at Roseanne, my not-so-blatant, unintentional, equally destructive racism was getting a free pass. It was time for me to take my own inventory. How was I also complicit? What do I do, say and/or think that degrades, demoralizes, or dehumanizes other people? People who are black, brown, yellow, white, short, tall, or differently abled. People who are politically left, right or somewhere off the deep end. My thoughts aren’t always those I’m proud of.
I don’t want to be telling you any of this. It’s feels like I’m farting in public. Or worse, I’m peeling back my holy public persona to reveal the stinky parts of myself. I don’t want to admit to myself that I can be a person who excludes, belittles, or bullies. But I can. And I do. Not all the time. Not with everyone. But enough that I need to pay attention.
Roseanne’s face should not the only face on a bullseye of a dart board.
On the same drive home, on the same radio station, I listened to an African-American man review a mantra he repeats before he leaves his house; keep your hands visible at all times, don’t make any sudden moves, speak in a low, calm voice, smile a lot, stand with your feet close together, dress conservatively.
Some days, he said, he just doesn’t go outside. He stays home, away from harsh words and handcuffs. Away from people like Roseanne. Away from people like me?
Roseanne got called out for crossing a line, a thick, solid line. But more often than not, racism is subtle, like when a black guy walks toward me and I cross to the other side of the street, or when I’m extra friendly to cover my discomfort, or when I fail to see the human being in front of me. I didn’t send a tweet, but I have much work to do.
Roseanne, thanks for the wake-up call.