Thursday, January 14, 2010

Truth Is Truth: Do White People Care About Haiti?

Guest Blogger today! My boy, Rameer Green. I had to hit him up yesterday based on what happened on his Facebook page...check it out:

I'm a Facebook junkie.

I fully admit it. Like millions of people worldwide, I can't get enough of it. I connect with people, engage in online conversations...hell, I sometimes get news faster on Facebook than I do in real life. One thing is constant - regardless whether it be serious or jovial, I always have some stimulating online convos.

But yesterday, I caused a pretty significant stir.

One thing should be known about me - I'm pretty blunt. I say what's on my mind, straight with no chaser. I'm also brutally honest...I rarely lie about ANYTHING. Some people love this about me, some hate it. People say they want honesty; I find most really don't want someone who is ALWAYS honest.

This honesty upset A LOT of people on Facebook.

See, I took notice of something I found very peculiar. When the earthquake hit Haiti Tuesday night, my Facebook feed was lit up with reaction. People expressed shock, dismay, sadness, worry, offered prayers - everything you would expect to see in reaction to a horrible tragedy. I saw this all night, and saw it continue Wednesday morning when I logged on to my computer at work. That wasn't the peculiar part.

The peculiar part was that not a single white person on my friends list had typed a single word in reference to it.

I have over 500+ people in my friends list. And I don't add due to trying to take part in a popularity contest; I have some real connection with every person in that list. Out of the 500+, I'd say a bit more than 200 are white.

Not one had anything to say about the loss of possibly 100,000 human lives?!?

So I posted a link to the AP news story Wednesday morning, and I pointed this fact out. And inevitably, the reaction started to pour in: I was horrible to point this out, why do I have to make this about race, Facebook isn't always for serious stuff, etc.

But no one could answer why none of them had posted any reference or reaction to the situation in Haiti. And my responses were consistent - truth is TRUTH. The reality didn't change that none of them had posted ANYTHING.

I should point out that out of the 250+ people of color in my list, well over 50% posted *something*. A link, a reaction, prayers...something acknowledging the story dominating national news. I didn't do the math, but I'd say somewhere like 75% of all people of color posted something. And, as I stated on the thread, this wasn't the first time I have noticed a story or subject that resonates with people of color that whites seem to have no reaction or opinion on. This was simply the first
time I called this crap out on Facebook.

In my opinion, it comes down to this - the value of human lives is very different in some people's eyes. A single white kid missing in Iowa can make national news and illicit the attention and sympathy of many whites; a good, promising young Black student getting killed as an innocent in the crossfire of gang violence in Chicago doesn't. Mexico facing it's worst violence to start a new year in over 50 years catches few whites' attention, but violence in a European country is "terrible".

I have concluded many years ago, and had it reaffirmed with years of research by experts much smarter and more knowledgeable than me - that this occurs at a subconscious level. It's the result of attitudes that go back to the dawn of this country - that whites are somehow more important and substantiative as opposed to the brown, red and yellow people of this Earth. And this is propagated in the education we receive, the entertainment we watch, and the how things a represented in the media.

As we debated throughout the day, here's the funny thing...I noticed many of my white peers did start acknowledging what had happened. Many copied and pasted statuses I had put up regarding donations and help. Others brought attention to their white friends on their lists. And in the most impactful instance, three people who work in media were spurred to give better coverage and attention to it than they had been. This LITERALLY resulted in newscasts being changed at THREE stations in my
market, and feature stories being done on the topic.

No one was ever able to give a semblance of a good excuse for the disparity. There was one guy who was actually honest...he said "Wow. Way to make us feel guilty." But he wasn't being condescending, he was sincere. He DID feel guilty, as he told me - because he knew he was one of those that post things daily about things of substance that effect white people...and that there really wasn't a good excuse why he was apathetic to this situation. And I appreciate his honesty. Many others simply got
defensive and tried to turn it into a different type of debate. I didn't really fight too much, I just pointed out the numbers don't lie - truth is truth.

None of them either cared to post something or thought to when they do so for a number of other things. And that I don't know for sure why that is...they'd have to look within themselves and determine why this had occurred. 200+, and NO REACTION?!?

Scratch that. One white woman I know DID post something that I missed. I gave her kudos. 1 out of 200. Less than 1%.

What started out as a convo actually made a much bigger impact than I could've imagined by the end of the day. And I'd like to think I gave my white friends and peers some real food for thought as to how they think and how they subconsciously view and value the lives of some people over others. I'm not making the argument that any of these people are blatant, hateful racists; as I've stated - I believe this was a subconscious thing much deeper than that, but still rooted in racism.
Like many things, we've all been indoctrinated with certain things in relation to whites being of a higher value than those involving people of color. I should note - I work in media. I see subconscious decisions as to who and what is important daily...and there's a huge difference when the people behind the scenes are all white as opposed to when there is diversity.

Someone told me I was being negative. I think I made an observation that made a whole lot of white people feel uneasy. But like I said in my responses - a negative reality is STILL reality.

Truth is truth. I just happened to be the one who pointed it out on that particular day.


Anthony Otero said...

I was really caught up on this Facebook conversation. I had to go home and think about it. I literally looked at my newsfeeds.

See, I separate all my facebook friends in different groups, so I check each group that I know have white people and I was really shocked to find that Rameer was right.

I didn't see one white person say anything about this tragedy. I mean, it is what it is. I will make me more aware of what people really value in this world.

Brooke said...

After I read this post today, I rewound my mental playback of FB statuses of white friends and found that I could only think of 2 who had posted something about Haiti- a prayer, a helpline, something. I thought to myself, "nah, it can't be just two" - so I did the same thing that Ant did, and typed in their names, went to their profile pages, and read back thru 48 hours of status updates, links, posts, etc. I was right. Two.

I reposted this blog on my FB page - and no reaction from them. I thought I'd see some of them post SOMEHING after reading Rameer's post...nothing.

I'm sure they're watching the news thinking "how terrible"...and then turned to something "less depressing." It simply doesn't affect them, or so they think. It's sad that some of us don't think of the world as a global community. It's not until something affects them or "their kind" directly that they care or are up in arms.

Not one post about Haiti, but 100 posts about Jersey Shore and what an abomination it is. Something seems really wrong with that picture.

Efrainortizjr said...

Very interesting post. I can conclude the same at my work location. I have yet to hear any talk about the devastation in Haiti from any white people except for these few words...
1)setting... two white males mentioning the devastation in Haiti while a Puerto Rican stands within hearing distance. Q: Are there any Hatians that work here? A: Yea, too many!
2) Same setting as above.. Comment: They say the deaths are in the thousands;they'll need a lot of relief. Response: We have enough f%$king problems right here; let them handle their own... said...

Interesting.. I hadn't noticed this as I've been pretty quiet on FB since I discovered twitter. My twitter friends are mostly people of color that I interact with day to day. But I did notice the timelines of the white followers that were conspicuous in their lack of anything about Haiti.

Oddly, I didn't post much about it either though. The first day I was working late and didn't really have an appreciation for the magnitude of it all. I did subsequently retweet the instructions to donate to the red cross, etc. and reaction to Pat Robertson - but I've got some people I've yet to see anything from at all.


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