Will America ever have a #MeToo-style reckoning for racism?
#MeToo is a tough social movement to define, but several overarching themes emerge: Perpetrators of sexual harassment are being called out for specific bad behavior, ranging from very explicit to more subtle forms. People are losing their jobs because of it. There is a cultural conversation happening that involves identifying this behavior, once acceptable (or ignored), as unacceptable. And there is a broader conversation happening about the underlying systems that enable this kind of behavior.
What would a similar movement centered on race look like? What consequences would they suffer? What would it take to make this broader conversation about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior happen? Vox politics and policy writer Jane Coaston, identities editor Michelle Garcia, and identities writers P.R. Lockhart and German Lopez got together to discuss the challenges of a similar reckoning for acts of racism in America. Here’s their conversation, edited and condensed for clarity.
Racists are all too often able to defend themselves by simply claiming that their racism doesn’t count as racism. I think that our history puts the “what counts as racism” bar so high that many believe to fit underneath it renders them “not racist.” “I’ve never burned a cross! I’ve never called anyone a ni**er! I just think that interracial relationships are bad!”
You see that kind of thing with the opposition to taking microaggressions seriously. People really, really don’t like the idea that just making a certain group of people uncomfortable might get them in trouble. They want to be able to get away with it.
Yeah, that’s what worries me about this “politically correct/incorrect” business. For so long people were able to say things, unchecked, that were incredibly racist, or at the very least unkind to other human beings — but being held accountable for those actions is suddenly oh so stifling? Give me a break! Be a human being.