Over the last eighteen months of nonstop activism and exhausting levels of advocacy, I’ve noticed a trend rearing its butt ugly head pretty consistently whenever tough subjects come up. Maybe you have too. It involves lobbing the word divisive into the middle of a conversation like a flash bomb so you can make a quick getaway while attention is focused on the fire you started. And, honestly, it’s the new way to tell someone you don’t agree with to STFU, only it gives you the added bonus of taking the high road when you were actually the one out of line.
What exactly does this look like?
I mostly notice it in conversations about extremely uncomfortable subjects, like racism or sexism. My interlocutor and I can be grooving along, exchanging words and ideas as we work around every side of an issue, but if I throw a monkey wrench into the smoothly working gears of their casual racism, all of a sudden, I’m the problem, not their original behavior or ignorant comments.
Still not picking up what I’m putting down? Here’s a case in point:
Person of color: can you believe that a black man was shot 20 times the other day and all he had on him was a cell phone?
White person: I’m not saying he deserved to be shot and killed, but he probably shouldn’t have been out at that time of night vandalizing property.
POC: Seriously? A white kid can walk into a church, kill 9 people, and the cops somehow manage to bring him in without firing a single shot. But a black kid can’t have a cellphone, or a hoodie and a pack of Skittles, or ‘name anything else’ without getting gunned down.
WP: Why does everything have to be about race?
POC: Are you really unable to see the way race plays into large scale inequities in the criminal justice system, starting with how people of color are treated by the police?
WP: Why are you being so divisive? I’m on your side and you’re attacking me.
To onlookers, it appears as though the POC is the one out of line, and her poor interlocutor, who is on her side, is being verbally brutalized for no good reason. Black people are always so angry!