Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Erased By Whiteness


It disappeared.

I went to the Facebook page to find the photograph of the racist vandalism at Glenwood Middle School and, as I was looking at it, a message popped up:

This photo is no longer available.

And, just like that, the photo disappeared.


That was weird.

Howard County police investigating racist vandalism at Glenwood Middle School, Jacob  Calvin Meyer, Baltimore Sun

If you went to Glenwood Middle School today, you wouldn’t see that same scene either, as the white spray paint has been washed away and everything returned to normal.  Normal here isn’t the absence of racism.  It’s the normal that produces people who are so uncomfortable seeing a public statement that Black Lives Matter at school that they won’t rest until they “white it out.” 

The continuing examples in Howard County make it clear that at any moment racism is either lurking under the surface, rearing its ugly head, or just plain out there in the open. It makes itself known in a variety of ways. Some look like puzzled politeness, others like righteous indignation. Only a few show the crudeness of hate crimes and graffiti. But they are all related; all are a part of the same family. 

In an online parent group one person sought to justify the action. Of course vandalism is wrong, they allowed, but weren’t they making the sign more inclusive? (Implied: wasn’t that a good thing?)

When you feel it necessary to make the word “Black” disappear on a school sign, and, especially, if you feel it necessary to obliterate it with white paint, no, you are not making it more inclusive. You are spraying your whiteness all over a public place. You are actively hurting all the Black students who go to the school, Black teachers and members of staff, and all who drive by and witness the defaced sign who are Black. You are making that space less safe for all of them.

Let’s face it. Whoever did this in secret wanted an audience. For as long as it lasted, that vandalized sign asserted the supremacy of their whiteness over anyone who might wish to challenge it. Like animals mark territory, this was a public signal: if you are not like me, you can be erased.

Facebook can make the ugly photo disappear. School employees can make the ugly vandalism disappear. Who will make the ugliness of deeply entrenched racism disappear? 


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