Simon Williamson, columnist with Georgia Voice

Simon Williamson: Racism is not a mere disagreement

I tend to refrain from writing about race because we’re not short of people who are on the receiving end of racism doing it much better, and from a lived-experience thereof. No matter how much we read or watch or listen to, racism is something white people, on the whole, won’t ever understand near the degree to which black folks can. In other words: we just won’t ever be as good at writing about it because we haven’t ever lived it. Well, except those who believe a black person being mean to them equates centuries of oppression by both government and the “free” market.

Nonetheless, I am about to wage into it. In a lowlight of 2016, while our Facebook feeds rearranged themselves as they do during election cycles, I got into a spat with a former friend of mine about a series of protests in South African universities, over him deciding there was some genetically racial flaw in black protesters that made them do things. Our friendship had waned before then and this particular argument ended it until Christmas Day, when he sent me a message decrying how we acted over political differences.

“Political differences.”

Me gods.

The free market is a political difference. Right to work laws are political differences. Investing more in one sector over another is a political difference. Trade agreements and protecting the environment are political differences. Using public money to enrich stadium builders are political bloody differences.

Being able to ascribe traits to someone because of their race is not a political difference: it is denotable bigotry that is so incredibly obvious.

When we are told we should engage the other side, I am always happy to tell them how publicly funded healthcare is a great good for society, but I am not about to get on the train where we discuss whether racism should be allowed or not, or under what circumstances we employ it.

Homophobia and racism are different, but do share many traits. We in the LGBT community know exactly what it is like to have your rights be a mere political difference; we are well aware that our rights are a partisan issue. Democrats have found us acceptable, and Republicans hope for the ability to wish us away, which in some states they can through a bedeviled piece of legislation girded within the euphemism “religious freedom.” We know that in budget negotiations and legislative tussles, there is always the chance that our rights may be traded on.

There is always the chance they may be undone or taken away from us, like former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory did when the city of Charlotte decided homophobia and transphobia weren’t so cool. We know that in this Republican state (admittedly run by grown-ups at the moment, relative to our Southern brethren), it is reasonable to be scared that LGBT rights can be sold off for the right tax break aimed properly. The fact that our rights can only stem from political victories by Democrats is absolutely sinful. That our very existence in public is dependent on the whims of state governments, the federal government and the courts is hideous. And expansion of the idea that rights are negotiable should be shut down immediately.

In the same manner, racism being a political disagreement so understates the severity of the crime. Being able to discriminate on race has no place anywhere. It certainly shouldn’t be anywhere near the confirmation hearing for the next attorney general. Racism is not a political difference.

If you are for racism, that is not an equivalent point of view to one against racism.

My husband and I are currently trying to adopt a child, and chances are that child will be black. May the child never ever have to deal with racism being expressed as a justifiable point of view. May my former friend never come near my potential child. And may our political elites who drive public conversation realize the damage they do in backing a racist president who espouses racist ideas, loudly.