Rinse and Repeat Racism
I was always perplexed when a dear friend of mine, a well-known social justice advocate, would become angry and upset with the racism she clearly saw that I did not. Back in those days when we had just elected our first Black president, there was a clear expectation that our country would move forward and race relationships would simply get better.
What I saw from a superficial perspective, my friend saw as the naked truth. You see, racism merely turned the corner and became less obvious to most who were still celebrating the triumphant success of Barack Obama. Now I fast forward some 15 years later and have new insights that my friend had seen years ago.
Racism, sadly, is alive and well in 2023 and, in some respects, has graduated to a new insidious level. If you don't believe me, let's go through just a few incidents that happened in 2023.
A Black man is tortured and killed slowly in the South, compliments of the Memphis Tennessee Police Department. They even videotaped part of their execution. The incident happened on January 7, 2023, and the police department released the video while I was on a cruise. I made the following remarks on my social media pages following the death of Tyre Nichols:
"This was extremely difficult to watch because of the inhumanity and brutality of these evil individuals who call themselves police officers and EMT workers. They have now stained the reputations of this innocent young man, his family, and their families alike. Sadly, these incidences will continue unless there is massive federal and state reform to curb the power of the police. Tragic and only verifies the vulnerability of young Black men everywhere. The fact that the police officers were Black makes it doubly difficult and tragic."
I'm calling it "Rinse and Repeat Racism."
It didn't take long for Tennessee to affirm its Rinse and Repeat Racism. A few weeks ago, we witnessed the removal of Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two brilliant Black state representatives who were expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives because of their peaceful activism for gun reform following the Christian school massacre in Nashville. There have been so many shootings this year; let me refresh your memory. This shooting was the school where the 28-year-old killed three children and three adults in Nashville. Students, educators, parents, and three legislators protested in the Tennessee State House, demanding gun reform laws be adopted to keep citizens safe.
Instead of the GOP lead leaders responding to the protesters as a group, they turned their attention to the three Democratic legislators who were peacefully a part of the protest. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both eloquent and charismatic speakers, were expelled from the State Legislature. Their White counterpart, Gloria Johnson, was saved from expulsion by one vote.
If it looks like racism and smells like racism, it probably is racism. Even Representative Gloria Johnson suggested that fact during one of her interviews.
The public outcry about the expulsion of these two Black leaders was so loud it shook the giant redwood trees in California. The hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness of the GOP house speaker, Cameron Sexton, were on full display. Fortunately, it didn't last more than a few days with endless television and web interviews.
Within days, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were reinstated to the State Legislature. The outside voices prevailed. The practice of Rinse and Repeat Racism, at least in this case in the State Legislature in Tennessee, was thwarted.
And as if these two cases were not bad enough, we come to the ultimate case of racism in Kansas City, Missouri, when an honest mistake could have cost a teenager his life.
We're talking about 16-year-old Ralph Yarl, who followed his mother's instructions. She told him to pick up his younger twin brothers and bring them back home. He did so but unfortunately made a mistake and went to the wrong house. He rang the doorbell and was immediately shot in the head by an older white man who took one look at his black face and assumed the worst. The homeowner shot him through the screen door, never even asking what the young man was doing on his doorstep.
To make matters worse, after young Ralph fell to the ground, this racist homeowner shot him again. By the grace of God, neither bullet ended Ralph's life. Young Ralph had enough strength to run for help. He didn't run to one house. Institutional racism caused him to knock on three doors before one homeowner would help him. And that homeowner made him lie on the ground while they called for help.
I'm not making this up. This is how rinse and repeat racism works in America.
Ralph Yarl was unarmed. He was an honor student. Played multiple instruments and led his band section at school. You couldn't ask for a more model student, regardless of his skin color. But because one old White guy was stuck in the past and only saw Black people as worthless creatures, he intended to kill this brilliant young black man in "self-defense." How pathetic! A disgusting representation of believing stereotypes and using unwarranted fear as justification for shooting a 16-year-old in the head. PATHETIC!
Ralph's Aunt, Faith Spoonmore, immediately came to the defense of her nephew. She started a Go Fund Me campaign that quickly became a blockbuster success. She successfully raised over $3.5 million in a matter of days. And yes, I gave to the cause. (https://gofund.me/b68601b2)
Ralph has had surgery to remove the bullets from his body and is recovering at home. He is alive but has a long way to go. He has been traumatized, as well as his family, his classmates, and his community. The white homeowner was finally arrested on two felony counts. He needs to serve a long prison sentence.
Rinse and repeat racism knows no boundaries. I referenced two of our 50 states: however, these outrageous acts of death, expulsion, and wrong doorbell shootings can happen anywhere at any time and any place in this country.
This is why my dear friend was so mad years ago. And the anger is now justified by the outrageous acts of racism that become breaking news every 25 minutes.
Gun violence is completely out of control in the United States. Racism is out of control in our country. And too many elected officials are either silent on these injustices or moving closer to fascism.
I am recommitting my efforts to call out these injustices and to make it plain that our country still has much work to do. Rinse and Repeat Racism needs to be silenced and ended for good. If we say nothing, we normalize these injustices, and they will most certainly continue. If we stand up and speak out like the citizens of Nashville who took their protest to the State Capital, we may have a chance for legal changes that will get guns off the streets and force White homeowners to stop and think before they shoot.
We can do better. We must do better. And if we don't, some senseless act of violence or legislative hypocritical theatrics will come to your town in the not-too-distant future.
Stand up. Speak out. And let's extinguish Rinse and Repeat Racism for good!
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.