Last week, I posted a Facebook announcement to a group of woodworkers that I administer. The post reiterated our inclusive stance and made it explicit that we do not allow racist content, and won’t take down anti-racist work. For example, we refused to remove a spoon that had written on it “craft against racism.”
We made it clear that we are anti-racist, that Black lives matter.
The response was decidedly mixed, and I received threats and irate comments and angry direct messages.
Disregarding the pure threat and a few overt racist posts, most of the anger shared a common theme: “I’m tired of hearing about racism! Leave me alone and let me have this space without your politics!”
Many people pointed out that this is a position of privilege. Choosing whether to engage in this is a luxury not given to people who experience racism.
And, here I suggest this exhaustion with engagement is deliberate. Not that racists have tired themselves out, but that people who haven’t yet addressed the problem of racism are already tired, and their safe space feels threatened.
I also suggest that if this started in a time of peace, that I wouldn’t have received nearly as many angry posts. That many of these people would have actually given the idea pause and maybe thought it through enough to support an overt anti-racist platform. They’d be more open to active inclusion, and making their safe space more open to others.
But, I think that people across the works have been deliberately worn down until they don’t have spare capacity for thought – that they respond quicker and more emotionally than they might do if rested. I don’t think it’s an excuse. Non-engagement is not an ethical option. Standing against racism is the only course of not-racist action. In other words, if you have a choice, doing nothing supports racism.
I’m rereading a book called How Fascism Works. It’s got a lot of details and deep thinking, but it’s also good at showing some straightforward tactics common to fascist and other authoritarian regimes. All centre on division.
Creating or emphasising existing fear and framing stories (rewriting history or simply lying) enough to where people stop trusting, act from fear and insecurity, and mindlessly back whomever offers security, familiarity; or just not engaging, making space for people who want power.
“I’m too tired for your anti-racism,” is a terrible excuse for demeaning, shouting down, or directly insulting people. But, it’s not impossible to feel a tiny bit of sympathy for the idea that people are too tired to engage. Frankly, I got bloody tired of their anger, too tired of the racist posts, too tired of engaging in the same discussions that didn’t need rehashing.
Peace be with you.