“It is coercion of the strongest kind, because it appears in the guise of a self-evident necessity and is thus not even recognized as a coercive force.”
Ludwik Fleck, “Genesis & Development of a Scientific Fact”
I started 2017 with a post about making this a “no bullshit” year. Seing it out with a post about being a racist in recovery might be as “no bullshit” as it gets.
Attorney, mom, and all-around powerhouse Sandy Broadus introduced me to the term when, during a particularly heated social media discussion, she referred to some of the posters as “racists in recovery.” I may have been included in that group, I may not have. I don’t know.
What I did know was that it was a total hand-meet-glove moment and mine was in the air, waving wildly while yelling, “YES! THANK YOU!!!! THAT’S EXACTLY THE RIGHT TERM FOR IT!!!!”
In my mind, I saw the hashtag (#racistinrecovery). I saw myself wearing the T-shirt. Then I saw myself trying to explain to an angry mob that I had never worn a white sheet, pointy hat, set a cross on fire or dropped the “n-bomb” in casual conversation.
That’s racist behavior. Racist in recovery behavior is something else altogether.
Racist in recovery behavior is what happens upon realizing that the result of growing up majority culture means you have absorbed some default prejudicial beliefs you don’t even know you’ve absorbed. But knowing they’re there bothers you enough to try to undo the damage, at least as much as you can and more if possible. Which is tricky, because you don’t even know where it all is or when or how it’s gonna crop up.
I explained to someone this way: It’s like you’re a tea bag, and you live in a cup full of water. Everything around you is tea. Why would you think there was anything else? How does a tea bag know that there’s a whole different kind of world outside a teacup? (I realize that this assumes sentience on the part of the tea bag. For purposes of this analogy, that assumption is correct.)
Being a Racist in Recovery means stepping far enough out of your comfort zone to trust someone else’s view of how what you are saying comes across. It means being willing to let go of notions you took for granted. It means taking the word of people’s experiences as people of color at their word, not challenging, minimizing, apologizing or denying those experiences. It means standing quietly and listening, and it means speaking up in situations where you hear someone who might want to be a racist in recovery or who is just a straight-up racist say something racist.
I’m not a big New Years resolver. I want to get more exercise and drop a few pounds, clean my house, write more, play my instruments more and waste less time 12 months of the year. But I would love to see #racistinrecovery become a thing in 2018.
Consider this my “Help Wanted” ad.