Op-ed: Black Lives Matter; nuance matters too

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Wayne Dawkins is a writer, and a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.

By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the AFRO

A radio panelist and I were unintentionally amused last week by a caller’s scold. 

“Why are you being nuanced?” asked the caller during “Another View” on NPR affiliate station WHRV-FM Norfolk. 

I was invited to opine about the siege of Washington’s Capitol and address this double standard: Black Lives Matter protestors were overwhelmingly nonviolent. Some White supporters joined their marches in solidarity. Yet, peaceful protest was answered with club-swinging and tear gas-spraying police near the White House last summer. 

Compare last summer to last week. White domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol, broke into elected official’s offices, vandalized or stole their property, made said Congressional members and staff cower under their desks in real fear because people were killed, including a Capitol police officer and woman Air Force veteran who misguidedly drank election-conspiracy Kool Aid.

These marauders were treated with deference. After the fact, the worst of them are now being rounded up for prosecution now that the true extent of their treachery is becoming clear. 

Praises to hero Eugene Goodman, the outflanked Capitol cop who steered the violent mob way from several hundred politicians, armed with only a slim stick.

So why the double standard? The circumstances had an obvious racial prism. Discernment would be whether the bias was unconscious, or, conscious.

I had a difference of opinion among us three panelists plus a moderator. I said these Trump loyalists were a small, un-convincible group of aggrieved Americans who once prospered during the 20th Century, but have been left behind in the 21st Century tech economy. These aggrieved, low-educated White males, resent skilled, higher-educated White women, and women and men of color. 

A contrarian colleague said the “deplorable” sample was much bigger. “What do you say to 70 million people who just voted for Trump?” was the pointed question to me. 

My answer: that mass was a mile wide and an inch deep. Many of those people can change attitudes, if they get better information and not propaganda. 

There will however still be a minority of haters. When I moved to southern Virginia 22 years ago, I recognized that there were un-reconstructed Confederates among us. However, their numbers were small. 

Nuance I say. Don’t assume the majority of White Americans are enemies.

We’re living in multicultural, multiracial, biracial, intersectional [that new phrase I learned from my students] America. We’re not living our lives any more in Blaxploitation movies in which “The Man” is trying to keep us Black folk down. Our lives are much more complex and far less oppressed than our ancestor’s. 

Just watch an hour of TV and note the commercials that depict American families and who’s loving who. It’s clear we’re not stuck in the 1950s, for that matter even the 1970s, that age of Blaxploitation culture. Yes, nuance.

And yet we will still endure aggressions that make us want to holler. Exhibit A is Miya Ponsetto, the 22-year-old “White” girl, who tackled a 14-year-old Black boy recently after falsely accusing the lad of stealing her cell phone. The New York hotel that was the venue for Ponsetto’s assault recovered the phone. 

In a churlish non-apology during an interview with CBS News’ Gayle King, Ponsetto made matters worse by self-identifying as a Puerto Rican with Italian and Greek heritage. She couldn’t possibly be racist for singling out the Black boy, she pleaded. 

Oh, but a century ago her slightly olive skin would have made Ponsetto’s Whiteness suspect to the Anglo and Protestant establishment who were blocking certain kinds of White immigrants from entering the United States.

Based on the disgusted look on Ponsetto’s lawyer’s face, who tried but failed to protect her client, the young woman was clueless about nuance. Girlfriend thought light skin entitled her to oppress dark-skinned people. Insult them too. Middle age- to elder- Black women will know what I mean when they see video of the 22-year-old’s gesture at the end of the interview with King.

No doubt, in this complex 21st century, Black Lives Matter. So does nuance in constantly measuring the content of each American’s character. 

The writer is a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.

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