The white sheet has a long, horrific history in America.
During the heart of the 20th century, members of the Ku Klux Klan used it to cowardly hide their identities while committing their acts of violence against black people. It’s been a sad, enduring symbol of racism.
But there’s a second type of bed linen that is arguably just as dangerous — albeit more subtle — when it comes to race relations here in the United States.
Blankets — the metaphorical kind, anyway — have been used to foster hatred for a lot longer than sheets. Indeed, it could be said that blankets are what gave rise to white sheets. We humans have used these blankets throughout history to carelessly toss them over entire groups of people in order to label them according to our own hurtful and harmful stereotypes. Stupid. Lazy. Dirty. Evil. Violent. Hateful. Racist.
Lex Scott, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in Utah, has been using blankets to great effect the last few months. She threw one of those blankets in an online post a week ago on a story written by Standard-Examiner education reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán.
• RELATED: Layton High, schools across Northern Utah struggling with handling of racism
Teague Casper, a 17-year-old black student at Layton High School, says he was pushed, spit on and called a racial slur during an altercation at a Feb. 10 dance at the school. When he hit the alleged aggressor, a white student from Clearfield High, Casper was punished by the school.
Family and friends of Casper felt the response to the two students was unequal, and based solely on the color of their skin.
Allegations of racism are serious and should be treated as such. Scott and the Black Lives Matter movement are absolutely justified in their pushback to make certain Casper’s treatment wasn’t racially motivated.
But Scott had to take it one step further and blanket the whole issue with her comment addressed to “Dear White parents in Utah ...” She then proceeded to lecture me — I’m a white parent and grandparent — with broad statements like:
- “We will take action against you and your racist kids. …We will hold your children responsible.”
- “Do not expect your violence to be met with peace.”
- “Do not expect us to walk on egg shells for your white fragility.”
- “Have a talk with your kids who learned their racism from you.”
- “There is a new sheriff in town. Don’t let us hear about your racism or we will protest against your school too.”
Wow, Ms. Scott. Hyperbole much?
If this were just a one-off remark, I might attribute Scott’s blanket assumptions to simply blowing off steam. But her shotgun approach to issues of race is part of a regrettable pattern. Scott threw out another blanket on the Black Lives Matter Utah Facebook page — and this time she covered the entire state, not just those with children.
Starting off with the explosive “Utah weaponizes our blackness,” Scott filled her post with divisive us-vs-them statements, raising the specter of slavery and Jim Crow with references to “shuck and jive,” reporting back to “massa,” and refusing to dance for white people.
This wasn’t Scott’s first foray into these indiscriminate blanket-tossing statements. At Ogden’s first Black Lives Matter meeting back on Oct. 27, Scott was quoted in the newspaper saying: “If you’re a white person growing up in Utah, you don’t think very highly of black people because you don’t know any.”
First of all, it’s pretty silly to imply an entire group of people doesn’t think very highly of another entire group of people just because they don’t know each other. To the best of my knowledge I don’t know anybody from Rhode Island, but that doesn’t mean I think any less of people from the Ocean State than everywhere else in America.
And secondly, here’s a handy little life hack for you: If someone tries to imply they actually know what you’re thinking — for example, “You don’t think very highly of black people” — there’s a greater than 50-50 chance they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. Racism is very real, and it continues in America. But issuing broad, sweeping blanket statements about race — whichever direction it’s going — is helpful not in the least.
Black lives do matter. The BLM movement is an important one, and the rest of us need to sit up and pay close attention to the pent-up pain, anger and frustration being released by black members of our community.
But just a little friendly advice — to all of us — if we’re truly interested in solving our country’s problem with race: 1) Treat others the way you want to be treated. 2) Talk about others the way you want to be talked about. 3) Think about others the way you want them to imagine you.
Hiding beneath a white sheet and trying to look out through those little eyeholes makes it awfully difficult for anyone to see clearly. But it’s not the only way we’ve been blinded in our quest for liberty, justice and equality for all.
Because throwing blankets over each others’ heads won’t make seeing our way through this any easier, either.