Already the Racist Tweets are…Trickling? ~ Michelle Marchildon

Via on Sep 16, 2013

Here she is, Miss America
Here she is: Miss America.

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It’s only been a few hours since the first Miss America of Indian descent was crowned, and already the racist tweets are flowing.

Well, actually, if anyone cares to dig deeper, the racist tweets are trickling.

I used the word “trickling” because it had alliteration. I’ve just spent the last five minutes reading more than 5,000 tweets and I could only find two that were questionably racist. Those were from someone named “Princess” in Kansas, who was upset that her friend, Miss Kansas, did not win.

The tweet I read said something like America was afraid to elect a “real Miss America” who, you know, shoots arrows and guns, and has the serenity prayer tattooed on her torso.

So, just to be clear, I don’t care at all about the color of a person’s skin. But as a mom, I’m hoping that the person my son brings home to marry someday does not come from Kansas. Not that there’s anything wrong with Kansas…. but we happen to believe in evolution.

Kansas has made some very real progress lately. In June, 2013, Kansas legally allowed schools to teach the theory of evolution. Because up til now, the only science allowed to be taught in Kansas of how humans came into existence was the big non-bang theory, and that would be Adam and Eve.

Since Kansas barely recognizes evolution, don’t even bother to search its history on LGBT Rights.

So, if a racist tweet came out of Kansas, I’m of the mind to forgive it. “Princess” is having a very bad day. She will probably go out and shoot a deer or a duck or a chipmunk to let off steam.

Her reaction in turn, and the reaction of a few others who thought Miss America was not “American,” showed that thousands more Twitterers are supportive of the new Miss America. There are probably millions more who support her who did not tweet about it, if there are still a million people not on Twitter.

I am actually encouraged by this whole tempest in a pageant, because I think it will galvanize Americans into accepting that we come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

So you go, Nina Davuluri, Miss America, and when you visit I will cheer you on, even though you robbed Miss Colorado of the crown.

Like elephant journal on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.

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19 Responses to “Already the Racist Tweets are…Trickling? ~ Michelle Marchildon”

  1. patti says:

    Okay Michelle, you have a friend in Kansas so make sure you let others know that we aren't all crazy creationist, racist, uber-conservative nut jobs. Most of us are, but not all. We have gay people and people of color in Kansas and while we are home to the Westboro Baptist church, the nuttiest of the the nut jobs, and are not so progressive on things like women's rights, support of public education and, well, pretty much everything, we have lots of citizens who would happily change all that if there was even a ghost of a chance to elect an official that wasn't bat shit crazy. Luckily we are next to Missouri and Oklahoma, so from where we sit we don't feel so alone. I mean, don't even get me started on Oklahoma… :-)

  2. amissamiller says:

    I very rarely comment on blogs, but I feel compelled to leave this here:

    Michelle, the next time you encounter a situation in which a person or group of people is called out for racism, I lovingly request that you do the following: listen. Listen to people who experience or call out racism, instead of going out of your way to dismiss their voices. Maybe ask them some clarifying questions. Maybe imagine putting yourself in their shoes. Maybe try to consider how your experience of race, coming from a place of white privilege, could be vastly different from someone else's.

    Can you honestly say that none of these tweets are even "questionably racist?" http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/a-lot-of-pe

    They are undoubtedly racist and xenophobic. That there were many other tweets that were supportive of Ms. Davuluri does not take away from the fact that many tweets were racist and xenophobic. Dismissing this, or derailing the conversation by making it about one person in Kansas, undermines the good that could come from a genuine discussion about how we define what is and isn't "American" in this country.

    If it seems that this is coming out of nowhere, it's because I'm processing your reading of this event in light of your recent piece about Miley Cyrus, which dismissed the very notion that there was anything to discuss about the VMA performance that had anything to do with race. Just because something doesn't meet your definition of racism, or you don't immediately see it as such, doesn't mean that it isn't racist. It may mean that you have something to learn by listening to the voices and experiences of others. Try Tressie McMillan Cottom's piece for a perspective that differs from your own. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/20

    What you're doing in both of these pieces is known as minimization. Please read Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva for a nuanced discussion of this. When you can't allow people who experience or call out racism the right to a voice without responding with condescension, or shutting down a conversation because it brings up race at all, or assuming that there is only one narrow definition of racism that must pass your litmus test, or that whatever it is isn't really that bad, it undermines a meaningful and progressive dialogue. And it is an additional microaggression against people who already deal with microaggressions every day. As a woman of color, one of the hardest parts about speaking my truth when it comes to racism is being met with responses like yours. They pour salt on our wounds. They do harm.

    Even well-intentioned, anti-racist people can be wrong on these things. Even people who have nonwhite friends, family members, and romantic partners, even people of color ourselves, we can be wrong about these things. We've all been wounded and impacted by a culture of white supremacy, often in ways that we don't identify or understand until we have the courage to truly listen to someone speaking their truth.

    I promise you, you'll learn something if you allow yourself to step outside of your own experience and perspective.

    I'm leaving this rambling comment because I care deeply about cultivating inclusive, actively anti-racist yoga communities. I know that you want the same thing. And I believe that one of the ways for us to get there is to not be afraid to have difficult conversations about race in spaces like this.

  3. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I know there is racism in America. I’m only saying that it is blown out of proportion by the media. I do believe that for every racist remark twittered, there are many who support our new Miss America who do not engage in social media. I have faith that many of us, regardless of how we are raised, know the difference between right and wrong. And your assumptions, based on the color of my skin, are racist. If you doubt me, look it up.

    • Monique says:

      Hi Michelle. I know your article was well-intentioned (as, it seems, did Amissa). But calling her remarks racist kind of belies your lack of understanding of racial dynamics and micro-aggressions. It is simply not possible for a white person to be discriminated against in the same way as a person of color, since membership in the dominant group precludes the same kind of systematic oppression experienced by those of color. Your white appearance (even if you are not 100% Caucasian) makes you a member of the dominant group for all intents and purposes. And you are, in fact, dismissing the perception of racism by those who are the most likely to perceive it in the event that it is present. So, while it is clear that your article was meant to be optimistic and encouraging, I think Amissa's sentiment is worth repeating: It's always a good idea to listen with an open mind when others share their perceptions and experiences. Calling her remarks racist makes you appear unnecessarily defensive as well as uninformed.

  4. Michelle Marchildon says:

    On the topic of Miley Cyrus, I stand behind my statement that she is not smart enough to have choreographed and produced that number. The inherent racist overtones were created and approved by a network, advertisers and producers. She was a pawn.

  5. Michelle Marchildon says:

    And by the way, back in the 1980's I was a reporter for the Birmingham Post Herald. I lived in Alabama for five years and reported on the Civil Rights Movement. I was there. I didn't earn a huge wage. I took my fancy, Ivy League degree and went into the trenches to do something for my country, and for people of all colors, races and religions. I stayed because I was deeply committed to making a difference in our world. And believe me, I was the first Jew many had ever seen.

    So before you judge me, based on my color, or my religion, or your perception of my background, or how I was raised, or how much money I have, or whatever else you think about me know this: Not many people have done what I have done for civil rights. Many people do the talk, and point fingers. But I walked that walk.

    In this case, however, I did the work. I counted the tweets. Yes, there are racist people. Yes there were racist tweets — as I said. But no, they were not the majority. The majority were outraged people who were sickened by what they read. I didn't ask them what color they were. I just listened and knew that finally, true compassion was happening in America.

  6. Michelle Marchildon says:

    One last thing, because you really touched a nerve MIss Amissamiller, when I discussed this piece with the Elephant Editor, she asked that we emphasize the fact that it appears that many were MORE outraged by the racism, than vice versa. And I said, that there was "less" racism in America today, not "none." You can verify that with her if you like. But I am fully, FULLY aware of racism today and I continue to write about it.__If you feel that one must be a certain color to write about race, then that's exactly the same argument once given to keep blacks and other races out of white corporate America for years. Think about it. I was in Alabama. I've been to Montgomery. I've been to the Black Belt (named for the soil before you go jumping on me). I care deeply about injustice and inequality, and I put up with comments like yours because I care deeply about keeping the conversation going — except when you start pointing the finger at me.__Lastly, I don't know if Miley Cyrus is or isn't a racist. I do know she did a very stupid thing. But declaring she's a racist because she acted in a white man's game, is not a fair assessment. __

  7. Michelle Marchildon says:

    My point, isn't that racism does not exist. My point, is that the outrage over the small number of tweets was widespread, and it restores my faith in the good people of America.

  8. amissamiller says:

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for your response. A few things:

    You stated in your piece that you found only two tweets that were "questionably racist." So, if you're saying now that there were, in fact, racist tweets, that's different from what you said earlier. And it was this "questionably racist" statement that stung. It implied that you felt it was your call to determine what is or isn't sufficiently racist based on your lens, rather than listening to the voices of those who actually did find these comments incredibly racist and xenophobic and want to call them out.

    If you think that racism is something that is "blown out of proportion" by the media, I would love to know exactly why you feel this way. Is talking about racism in the media equivalent to blowing it out of proportion? Should we not talk about racism because some people aren't racist? The truth is that most people don't intentionally harbor racist views. That doesn't mean that people don't sometimes do or say racist things, even if they have the best of intentions. We have to talk openly about this if we're ever going to move forward, and we have to do it from a place of humility and not a defensive stance. Most people (note that I said most people, not most white people) get defensive when it comes to race. Blogger and DJ Jay Smooth has an excellent TED talk about this, and I try to take it to heart when I'm called out. I hope you'll watch it and take it to heart: http://youtu.be/MbdxeFcQtaU.

    In it, he posits that we often think that racism is something you either have or don't have, but it's much more nuanced than that. Because we are all bombarded with racist messages and imagery, it takes work to be actively anti-racist. He says that it's more like dental hygiene. I can't say that I'm a clean person, therefore I don't have to brush my teeth every day. And if someone tells me that I have something in my teeth, I shouldn't respond by saying, "No, I'm a clean person, that's not possible!" Racism is like this. Even clean people need to brush their teeth every day, and be willing to take a look if someone points out something in their teeth. Even anti-racist people like you and I need to be vigilant about calling it out when we see it, rather than dismissing it or saying that conversations about it are out of proportion, and be willing to look in the mirror when someone points it out to us. This is the case for sexism, religious discrimination, homophobia and trans-phobia, classism, ageism, ableism, and all other systems of oppression, as well.

    Did anything in my previous comment judge you? Did you read the parts of my comment that stated that I know you come from the same place that I do, an anti-racist perspective? Or the part when I said that all people, even well-intentioned people, even people of color, can be wrong about these things? Did anything in my comment reference your upbringing, class, religion, or state that I didn't believe that you want all people to be happy and free?

    If you feel that I'm coming from a place of judgment and not from a place of wanting to engage, I think you should reread what I wrote.

    If you think that I'm racist because I asked you to consider digging deeper, listening harder, and because I offered up my perspective and the perspectives of others for you to consider, that is a deeper issue. Because that implies that my disagreement with you is tantamount to racism. It is a fact that your experience of the world as someone who carries white privilege is different than the experience of someone who does not. To point that out and interrogate that from a foundation of love is not, in fact, racist.

    I agree that many people are outraged and sickened by displays of racism like those tweets. I don't mean to discount that. I just don't think that this fact means that we shouldn't talk about the racist tweets, call them out for what they are, and seek to spark dialogue that ultimately elevates all of us instead of shutting down the conversation.

    One more thing: Does Miley Cyrus' intellect have anything to do with that discussion? Do you think that it requires a formidable intellect in order to traffic in racially charged tropes, or be unknowingly impacted by (and, in turn, serve up variations of) the racist tropes that permeate our culture?

    Whatever your thoughts are about my response, I'm grateful for the opportunity to engage. I actually have one of your books on my shelf, and I appreciate your perspective and voice in the yoga community.

  9. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Racism isn’t blown out of proportion by the media. Just the number of tweets in this case. I am encouraged by the number of tweets that came to miss americas defense. i am not going to argue with you. I have said my piece, and 30 years of reporting and a body of work states my case. If you want to hang on every word and look for wrong, have at it. Be my guest.

  10. Catherine Beekmans Cat B says:

    What kills me is that so many of those complaining are European anyway!

    They may all have different skin colors, but only Native Americans can truly lay claim to being "real" Americans, if anyone wanted to travel down that road (and they shouldn't, because come on people!)

  11. GreatNorthSky says:

    Classic Michelle!!!!!! Lovely, Somehow I Missed This, No BBC Coverage!!!! Hummmm ♡ ♡ ♡

  12. Michelle Marchildon says:

    The exact number is in: Of the 400 million tweets per day, 705 connected Miss America to racism. Of those, some were protesting that she was not a racist. I take hope that the other 399,992,295 tweets that day were from people who had better things to do or at least, did not think this lovely young woman is a terrorist, etc. I still believe we are, for the most part, better than this. I am not minimizing the extent of racism in America. I know it is very real. But 705 tweets out of 400 million is not a majority of Americans by any stretch. I got this data from CNN.

    • Name says:

      The more informative statistic that would be relevant to your post would what proportion of tweets *about Miss America* were racist. Therefore, you would need to know how many tweets there were about Miss America, and of those, how many were racist.

      Not, of course, that statistics diminish the fact that there is some serious racism surrounding this situation. 705 tweets is a LOT when it only takes one comment to make someone feel unsafe and unwelcome and marginalized.

  13. Mercy Agyepong says:

    Well said @amissamiller.

  14. Wow, Amissa, just wow and yes. I'm not a yogi at all, and i smoke cigarettes and i hold a phd in african american studies (from harvard since michelle dropped the ivy-league card). i say all that because i, like you, michelle, don't actually want to express any investment in others' (read: your) feelings.

    its clear you wanted to engage in some handwringing and used some iffy, suspect language when doing so and amissa rightly called you on it and did so from a place of love and acceptance (which is more than anyone can say for you since dismissing others is very much *not* about acceptance). good for her.

    but here's where i'm coming from: when you have to cite some slumming BS you did some 30-odd years ago to say "hey guys, i'm not a racist because, civil rights, because, the south" you're actually shouting to the world that you are very much a bigoted woman who, thankfully, hopefully, is not in a space that directly oppresses others.

    frankly, the moment i read "i dont care about color" i was already primed because that's usually code for "i don't care/want/know how to approach color and its deeper societal meanings."

  15. Thank you for commenting @amissamiller. I have definitely learned something from your words.

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