I love it when white people get more upset than black people do over racist comments.
It shows that they are good human beings who believe that all people should be treated justly. They can't fathom how anyone could be so insensitive, so cruel.
Clearly, they don't know what it means to be African-American.
The evidence of systemic racism that was revealed recently within the Chicago water department genuinely appalled many white people. Like African-Americans, they were deeply offended by the series of emails from ousted district water Superintendent Paul Hansen that referred to blacks as "animals" and poked fun at the neighborhood violence that has claimed the lives of so many black children.
It's heartbreaking and it's frightening. But for many African-Americans, it is not surprising.
To the white people who were shocked, I can only say, "Welcome to our world."
In this era of political correctness, it isn't often that we get to see such blatant racism, especially in the workplace. Sometimes, it takes a white person like Hansen to remind other whites that unbridled racism still exists.
That's not the kind of racism that weighs heavily on the minds of many African-Americans, though. What many find most troubling is the subtle racism of exclusion and other inequities that blacks deal with every day - things those in the majority don't always see.
Still, we shouldn't take those racist emails that circulated within the water department lightly. They show a depth of institutional racism that we don't often get to view up close. According to the emails quoted in Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's quarterly report issued Monday, this is how a district superintendent apparently viewed African-Americans.
During one previous Fourth of July holiday, a period when dozens of African-Americans in Chicago are either injured or killed in shootings, Hansen sent an email to multiple high-ranking officials in the department titled, "Chicago Safari Tickets."
The email included an image of four white people in safari gear taking pictures of black people trying to break into a car, according to the report.
"If you didn't book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend this is what you missed," the report quoted the email as saying.
"Remember all Chicago Safari packages include 3 deluxe 'Harold's Chicken' meals a day," the report quoted Hansen's email.
"We guarantee that you will see at least one kill and five crime scenes per three day tour. You'll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat. Call and book your Chicago Safari today."
There are problems here on every level. Imagine being an African-American who worked in the water department during Hansen's tenure. Or what about those who worked under the "high-ranking officials" who received the emails and did nothing?
The emails by Hansen and others in the department were discovered during the course of an unrelated investigation.
Hansen, in my opinion, is a racist. He apparently didn't care who knew it. But he isn't the type African-Americans are most concerned with. Nor is he the type that always does the most harm.
Unfortunately, it takes this type of imagery for even racially conscientious whites to get up in arms. But it's the more subtle things that eat away at blacks every day - things that might seem insignificant to others.
The lack of advancement opportunities in the workplace, not having people of color at the decision-making table and low expectations for blacks to succeed, these are the kinds of things that cause the most pain.
But more than that, such microinequities have the most damaging impact on the quality of life and the economic advancement of black folks. Too often, when African-Americans point out these inequities, they are ignored or accused of overreacting.
We can imagine what kinds of decisions were being made about black people who came into contact with Hansen and others responsible for the emails. But what were the high-ranking officials who received the emails thinking?
All we know is that their silence made them complicit. Those are the type of people who are just as dangerous - the ones who sit back and allow racism to flourish.
So if anyone wonders why African-Americans aren't distraught over emails that joked about the violence in Chicago, it's because blacks already knew that people in the city's poorest neighborhoods often are deemed dispensable.
And why aren't blacks marching in the streets because a former superintendent in the water department emailed a picture depicting a black swimming pool as a small African-American boy sitting in a bucket of water while holding a slice of watermelon?
It's because African-Americans already knew that black kids aren't always considered to be as important as white kids.
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