I’m almost a hundred percent certain that former Miss Universe Malaysia, Samantha Katie James, was surprised at the predominantly negative reactions she received online from her comments. Her surprise will not have been from the negative reactions but that people condemned her thoughts that are supposed to be a shared idea in the community that she was raised in. It almost sounded like the people criticizing her are anti-racists. If I lived in a different country and only read the comments and saw the reactions online, maybe I would have believed some or any of it.
She even got angry before she apologized. Her anger at the reactions of her country people wasn’t feigned. It is the genuine expression of someone who has been betrayed. In her mind, didn’t they all laugh and make fun of the immigrant construction worker who has been forced to return to his country? Didn’t they all laugh and share hearsay stories and say how they were so lucky that the Black person did not make it into the elevator with them because they were quick enough to shut the doors as he approached? Lock the car doors in the center of a crowded open parking lot as the Black couple walked away minding their business? How could these same people now mock her for saying the same thing that they’ll have said, only in the confines of their living rooms, the elevator, or the parked car?
You know my favorite kind of racist? The correct answer should be that that is a trick question and that no one should have a favorite kind of racist but it is 2020, and unfortunately, no one can afford that kind of luxury. Anyhow, my favorite kind of racist is the one that I know, the one, like Samantha Katie James, who owns their ignorance or — what they’ll be quick to tell you — are their beliefs. Because the racists who hide that they are racists know that being racists is a testament of their ignorance and hate towards people who have done nothing to offend them but they are content with remaining racists as long as no one openly knows it.
And I understand, oppressed people oppress people, although some people seem to relish oppressing people at any chance they get. Many people who are regularly being oppressed pass that oppression to anyone they can. I have come across people who only respect you when they find that you are more fluent in the English language than they are. If, perchance, you so much as stoop their level in the language, you have given them the right to disrespect you. I have no idea how or when a borrowed language became a measure of intelligence or social hierarchy, but that is the world that we live in.
For many people outside the United States, the protests and challenges that led to it are strictly US problems. If you’re Black in the world, you know this problem because it is your problem and it has always been. Elevators being shut in your face, people crossing to the other side of the street, the stares, your Black body magnet suddenly activating car central locks as you walk past. That last one, I have never really understood, and this especially happens in crowded places. I would completely understand if it were a woman in a car in an empty car park and I (or any man) walk past and she locks her doors. That is safety first and understandable. In a crowded place with several people in the car though, what is your mind telling you is going to happen?
Samantha Katie James has been comprehensively flamed in the last few hours and she has “apologized,” which should calm everyone down. My issue with all of this is that it will be another ‘death of a celebrity moment’ — the few days following the passing of a celebrity when everyone, including those who have never heard of said celebrity, puts up a picture of said celebrity on their social media account for the likes or to be counted among their peers. The protests in the United States is a humanitarian issue. If you’ve ever lived outside your country and encountered any form of discrimination, you know how much you needed actionable support. That is the support that Black people need right now. Not just a show of hands.
If nothing, use this as an excuse to understand why and how Black people got to this point. I’m not sure how much I expect from you if I have to first convince you that I am a human being but use it to learn that Black people are people — weird to say but true. Not just go through the motions of Black lives matter and then shut the elevator door in my face or activate the central lock in your car when you see me tomorrow. Try to actually start to change. Try. And start. Because I know many of you have a long history of learning to hate Black people that you’ll need to unlearn. But how about you start now?