• 61°

My Turn: Language, tone and race

By Whitney Peckman

Recently Ms. Carolyn Logan spoke at City Council’s open comment session, as she frequently has in the past several months, about the unchecked violence in our community. She also spoke about something else: about language.
Ms. Logan related a short conversation she had had with Mayor Alexander following a council meeting where Ms. Logan (and many others) had spoken out about the recent senseless murder of 7-year-old A’Yanna Allen.  According to Ms. Logan, after that council meeting, Mayor Alexander asked Ms. Logan a question: “Who do you think council is more apt to help —  people who scream at them or people who just come in here …?”
Aside from the fact that the question is loaded with implications about who and why council will or will not help individuals, it screams of the cultural, racial, social chasm that exists in this city. It screams of a not-so-long-ago history of blacks having to keep their heads (and their voices) low, don’t offend, don’t get out of your place. The subliminal message in that question — “Who do you think council is more apt to help…” — is a threat. Nothing less.
I have no doubt that Mayor Alexander did not intend that to be the message. I don’t think she is mean-spirited. I do think the question shows an implicit bias. But did she, did others on the council, do we, consider the affects that our language, our tone has on people of color, or of other ethnic backgrounds, or religions other than the dominant white Christian culture? Mayor Alexander certainly thought about how Ms. Logan’s language and tone affected her — that’s clear from her response.
“You people” is a trigger. “Boy” is a trigger. Such loaded language alerts black people. If you are conscious you will see tension in eyes and body. You, as a white person, may not understand that your careless words are heard as intent to subjugate, to show that you are the alpha dog, that the black person is less than. I say this with experience. At a recent City Council meeting where I spoke about the fear that is felt in the black community when police show up in riot gear, I said (not wanting to use “guys” which seemed disrespectful to me in this situation), “….what do you think those boys feel when …”…and from the back I heard someone say, “men.” In that moment I knew what I had done, and despite the fact that I am deeply engaged in racial justice and equity, I had offended my friends.
Ms. Logan doesn’t go about her daily life “screaming” at people. She goes about her life, as do I and most other people, without raising her voice. But when one reaches the point of frustration many of us are now at, we tend to raise our voices. But why would Ms. Logan’s be called “screaming,” when I, myself, have raised my voice at council meetings and I get FB messages thanking me for my “passion.” Councilman Hardin is often derided for his direct speech. He is “heard” as “loud.” Mr Hardin, himself, has spoken well and often about the level of frustration he feels at not being heard.
What does “not being heard” mean? It means we are not seeing anything but an apparently superficial declaration of interdependence, which, in fact, leaves a very open door for “private” conversations and decisions outside of the legal constrictions of government..
What we do hear, literally, is a mayor asking the question referenced above, and a police chief stating that he is “tired of you people talking about being afraid of police.” Both of these statements were not “screamed,” but what, exactly, do you think they imply?
 I would put forth that Kenny Hardin and Ms. Logan (and many others) are “heard” by way too many in the white community as “screaming,” “bullying” and demanding …. after all, “What do THEY want now?” “What do you people want now?”
If your response, at this moment, is something like … “Oh, for Pete’s sake, now we can’t say ‘they’?” or “Get over it!” or “What does she think? That this violence doesn’t affect us?”— if any of those are close to your response, I suggest that you are so detached from other races, ethnicities and religions, that you are incapable of seeing that what your culture has embedded in you is exactly the method of subjugation and subsequent oppression. Do not say, “I didn’t have slaves!” If you cannot, or will not, acknowledge that culturally imposed language and history makes you the slave master, you may never understand what you (like those quiescent Germans before you) are capable of.
Whitney Peckman lives in Salisbury.

 

Comments

Crime

Man faces drug charges after breaking and entering call

Lifestyle

Waterworks schedules 2021 Summer ARTventures

Crime

Blotter: Man faces drug charges after being found passed out in vehicle

Ask Us

Ask Us: What programs exist for litter cleanup?

Business

County begins accepting restaurant grant applications

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with nine more felony sex offenses

Nation/World

Biden team readies wider economic package after virus relief

Nation/World

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings

Nation/World

Cuomo sorry for remarks aide ‘misinterpreted’ as harassment

Nation/World

Trump calls for GOP unity, repeats lies about election loss

Education

Rowan County administers 700 vaccines, with majority going to local educators

Crime

Shoplifting at Walmart presents challenge for Salisbury police

Local

Commissioners will hear details about changes to solar energy policies

Business

After overcoming obstacles, local barber Daniel King earns registered status

Lifestyle

39th annual K12 student exhibitions go virtual

Business

Biz Roundup: Chamber of Commerce to host ‘Salute to Agri-Business’ at March Power in Partnership

Local

Local legislators back bills ranging from new restrictions on sex offenders to Holocaust education

News

After surviving COVID-19 scare, Lois Willard set to celebrate 100th birthday

High School

Carson rolls over South 41-0 as about 600 allowed in to see season opener for both

Education

East Spencer after-school program looks toward opening, nonprofit status

Lifestyle

Frank Ramsey inducted into the NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame

College

Livingstone’s Stoutamire inducted into 2021 CIAA Hall of Fame

Nation/World

J&J’s 1-dose shot cleared, giving US 3rd COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus

13 deaths reported in Rowan, county stresses need to receive second dose