Don’t confuse hate speech with “dumb”

Listen to this post: 

Warning, this post describes and discusses hate speech against the Black community and discusses ableism. Please read or listen with discretion. If you will not be traumatized by the content, I sincerely ask you to please stick with it.

Another day on Facebook, another Black community member sharing hate speech they came across. I watched a short video today of a young white person waxing philosophical about her hatred of Black people, her disdain for all the privilege she thinks they have and attention they get, and how she wishes she were Black so she could get attention. The speech then ironically concludes with a remark that she wishes Black people would no longer exist. I won’t link to the video. It was shared on the IGotShyt2Say Facebook community page. You can go find it if you really want to.

Here’s why I bring this up. There are some people criticizing this YouTuber by calling her or her remarks dumb, stupid, idiotic, low IQ, ignorant, or even that she’s drunk or on drugs (which would impair her thinking). Here’s the deal, though:  if you call her dumb, crazy, or whatever, you’re making two enormous mistakes that, as individuals and a community, we can correct.

#1: It’s unfair and unreasonable to expect that only non-disabled people can show respect and love or be anti-racist. Let’s stop tying compassion and caring to some unspecified amount of smarts. And let’s stop implying that if you do have a lower IQ than me, that you’re less good than me.

#2:  Focusing on some unproven idea of intelligence or sanity gets her off the hook. Well, she’s not educated or smart enough to figure it out, is the implication. No, she should be kept on the hook. Keep this person on the hook. The way to do that is not to make judgmental statements about how you think she doesn’t have the capacity to think through something. The way to do it is to be clear: This person is saying racist, white supremacist stuff. I don’t know where she got her untrue, unjust, and BS ideas about Black experience in the U.S., but she needs to be called out for what she’s saying. She is using hate speech. Using hate speech is also not tied to low IQ or to being mad.

And it’s important, also, to always remember the ways that white supremacy and racism have been tied to intelligence and IQ testing, special education referrals and services, and the school to prison pipeline among Black and Brown community members. So this is a connection that needs to be broken in all directions.

Many people have written and vlogged about our need to get past white people’s fragility about being called out for racist speech and behavior. It’s well past time to call it what it is. Robin DeAngelo, a white scholar, writes about white fragility for a white audience. And below is a great, Closed Captioned TEDx Talk by Jay Smooth, looking at the problematic and unuseful way we look at racist = bad person and non-racist = good person. He suggests eliminating these binaries. He suggests being clear in our communications around race because until we get together in conversation around race, we can’t work together to unlearn and undo institutionalized racism.

I feel strongly that if anyone wants the YouTuber above to unlearn her violent, vitriolic, self-absorbed, and entitled white supremacist lines of thinking, calling her dumb isn’t gonna entice her to engage. I’m not talking about coddling her. She deserves no coddling, and she should face a call-out of racist hate speech. I don’t expect one single Black person on the planet to try to educate her and put themselves in her verbal line of fire. We have to stop expecting Black and Brown people to end racism, seeing as they’re the targets. It would likely take another white person for her to listen, if she would listen at all. No matter how this does or doesn’t get addressed, connecting her hateful thoughts to impaired intelligence is also unuseful and only perpetuates hate and marginalization in yet another direction.