Mike Cross-Barnet’s editorial in today’s Baltimore Sun decries a social media incident in which a Halloween Party black-face depiction of Whitney Houston by a white person was posted on the Cafe Hon facebook page. Mike expresses outrage at this insult, an insult responded to with lukewarm apology of the “sorry if someone took offense” sort. This by the owner of a restaurant that has been through severe public relations problems over the appropriation of the Baltimore term of affection “Hon” by trademark. It took the owner of Cafe Hon concerted effort to apologize to Baltimoreans. Now a new public relations nightmare emerges.
White racism in this culture is not a public relations problem. It is a pervasive set of activities that reinforces a generalized belief and resulting behaviors that allow people like to me to assume that we are a superior people because of our skin coloration. White racism is invisible to most of us; part and parcel of the way we are in the world, almost as if in the air we breathe, white racism permeates our culture. It is up to white people like me to examine our own attitudes and behaviors and be about the work of dismantlng the racism in our culture.
One way that I do “the work” is to be in relationship with people affected by white racism. Through congregation-based community organizing, I have developed significant public relationships with Black churches, their clergy and members, that have allowed me to examine my own “stuff.” Building relationships of accountability and trust, being willing to hear hard assessments of my own behaviors and speech, and having the trust in our capacity as resilient and resourceful learners, I have faith that I am growing as a dependable ally of Black folk and other people of color.
I’m pleased that Mike wrote his editorial for the Sunpaper. I’m proud that he’s a member of First Unitarian Church of Baltimore.