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Brittney Cooper has a sharp bit of writing on the Marcus Smart-Jeff Orr racial slur incident over at Salon.

She attracts a good many trolls who use her essays as a soap box for their bigotry. They are predictable in their talking points. The screeds are no less annoying while also being instructive about the lazy quotidian nature of colorblind racism in the post civil rights era.

I particularly enjoyed this passage from Cooper's piece:

In this regard, then, I’m actually intrigued by Jeff Orr’s rush to apologize and to clarify that he didn’t use a slur to refer to Marcus Smart. White folks, too, want their humanity conceded, even after they have actively disrespected someone else. And a credible argument for racism is the one thing that has the potential to erode that. At base level they recognize that racism is dehumanizing, and that if they are racist they are human in all the worst ways. Unfortunately, this has not led to a change in behavior, so much as a stalwart campaign to get racist behaviors branded as anything but. Still, what should be clear to us is that we all desire recognition as human beings and not monsters. The problem is that only one group has the power to force their desires on the rest of us.

Marcus Smart’s dignity was assaulted when Jeff Orr called him the N-word, and a “piece of crap.” Really, in this context, they are the same thing. A white man reducing a black man who is going about his work to mere waste performs the same kind of labor that the N-word does, whether it was used or not.

The responses to Cooper's sharp argument about how white privilege still enables overt white racism--while black and brown victims are always suspect and made to apologize for their being accosted and imposed upon--followed a predictable script.

The comments in response to Cooper's essay feature common white racist deflections. Predictably, how calling attention to the extreme likelihood that Smart was called a racial slur by Orr is in fact an example of "reverse racism" against white people.

The latter point is absurd; white racism is demonstrated once more to be a type of mental pathology and distorted thinking.

To my eyes, perhaps it is linked fate, shared experience, or just common sense, but Marcus Smart was clearly called something profoundly offensive by Jeff Orr. The latter's mouth uttered something more than "a piece of crap". Just as a woman knows when she was called a "bitch", a black man or woman knows when they were called a "nigger".

In all, this episode of public hate speech by a white man against a young black man on national television leads us to a basic question: how should Marcus Smart have reacted? More generally, what should parents and other mentors teach young people of color, black folks in particular, regarding how best to respond to racial hate speech when it is directed to them by white people?

Should black youth be taught, along with the obligatory "how not to get killed by cops when being racially profiled for 'driving while black' moment", Booker T. Washington's life mantra that: “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him”?

Or should black youth read the The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette for guidance on how to manage racial invective and other insults?

Alternatively, should young black men like Marcus Smart be given a copy of the American iconoclast and genius Richard Wright's The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, and told to meditate on his observations about how to survive the humiliations of white supremacy (which so many African-Americans still navigate today, albeit in an altered and "colorblind" fashion)?

One night, just as I was about to go home, I met one of the Negro maids. She lived in my direction, and we fell in to walk part of the way home together. As we passed the white nightwatchman, he slapped the maid on her buttock. I turned around amazed. The watchman looked at me with a long, hard, fixed under stare. Suddenly he pulled his gun, and asked:

"Nigger, don't yuh like it?"
I hesitated.
"I asked yuh don't yuh like it?" he asked again, stepping forward.
"Yes, sir," I mumbled.
"Talk like it, them"
"Oh, yes, sir!" I said with as much heartiness as I could muster.
Outside, I walked ahead of the girl, ashamed to face her. She caught up with me and said:
"Don't be a fool; yuh couldn't help it!"
This watchman boasted of having killed two Negroes in self defense.
Yet, in spite of all this, the life of the hotel ran with an amazing smoothness. It would have been impossible for a stranger to detect anything. The maids, the hall-boys, and the bell-boys were all smiles.
They had to be.

If you are not white in America you will need to learn how to navigate white hate speech.

I was first called a "nigger" in elementary school. Many years later, I was called a "nigger" to my face by my direct supervisor.

I made sure that my elementary school hate monger suffered vicious blows at my hand.

As an adult, I fantasized about stripping my bigoted boss down to his underwear and punishing him with my belt--the blows delivered with the heavy buckle--and then laughing while he cried. Of course, I did not do such a thing. Adulthood often requires swallowing one's insults and pain as we pursue other solutions.

These are the war stories of those black and brown folks born in post civil rights America. We are not in the midst of the high intensity conflict experienced by our parents and grandparents who survived Jim and Jane Crow. The battle still goes on; the dangers remain real...albeit transformed and different in many ways.

The case of Marcus Smart, and the instinctive defense of Jeff Orr's racial slur by some in the white public, is an example of how white supremacy works in a colorblind age. The experiences of black and brown folks with white racism are made suspect--even when empirical reality demonstrates that white racism is not an anachronism or an outlier. As such, the reasonable assumption should be that white racism is operative until proven otherwise. The opposite is taken as a given because the benefit of the doubt should always be given to white folks when charges of racism are involved.

The assumption of white benevolence, and how white supremacy is an outlier fiction, anachronism, and fantasy by people of color, leads to grotesque conclusions on the part of those who view life through the white racial frame.

For the White Gaze, Trayvon Martin should have naturally submitted to George Zimmerman; the former has no right to "stand his ground".

Jonathan Ferrell was in a car accident and seeking help from the police. Of course, he was a "giant negro" and the police, armed with guns and all variety of other weapons, were "logically" afraid and within their rights to shoot an unarmed man dead 10 times.

Renisha McBride was knocking on a stranger's door for help after she suffered a car accident one late evening. For McBride, it is given that she was a burglar. What reasonable person would not shoot her in the head with a shotgun for the "crime" of seeking help?

Jordan Davis and his friends were listening to music in their car. They offended Michael Dunn. He was upset because they were not sufficiently deferent to his complaints. Thus, Dunn shot Jordan dead because he had to "stand his ground".

Looking back on my childhood, I am not sure if I would tell my children to beat without mercy a white person who called them a "nigger". My parents taught me that lesson. I remain gratified for their wisdom.

But, given the zero-tolerance policies of public schools, and the documented racism and classism against young black and brown youth by school teachers and administrators, I would not want my children's futures to be ruined because of my, perhaps dated, advice.

They may have acted honorably in the moment, however, such actions could doom their futures.

Yet, I remain troubled by a public norm for the survival of young black youth that tells them to submit to white racism and white hate speech because resisting acts of verbal and premeditated violence by whatever means reasonably necessary will see them punished unfairly.

In a perfect world, white bigots such as Jeff Orr would be fed their teeth by young men like Marcus Smart.

We live in this world. It is unfair and unjust. Consequently, Smart has to apologize. Orr is a victim.

I do not know what to do in terms of making sure that young black and brown youth like Marcus Smart do not sacrifice their futures by doing what is the right and honorable thing in the short-term, but which may hurt them in the years to come.

 Navigating the colorline has never been easy. What to do? What advice to give them?

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