This Black History Month, Let’s Agree to Stop Giving ‘Racist Hall Passes’ to White People
Kellee Knighten Hough
February 6, 2019

Dear America: when will y’all start giving everyone else the same amount of credit/benefit of the doubt/empathy and/or sympathy you give racist white boys? Before you reply “Well, whatsoever do you MEAN?!?”, take into consideration the latest egregious examples of freely issued RHP™ (Racist Hall Passes™) white boys have gotten so far in the year of our Lord, two thousand and nineteen.

P.S. It’s only February.

First, we have the MAGA hat wearing, cocky sneer projecting, destined to grow up and be a mediocre white boy failing forward Nick Sandmann; the Kentucky high-schooler who alleges the viral video of him in a confident Caucasian confrontation with a Native American elder was misinterpreted by everyone who saw it. Sandmann claims he was “trying to diffuse the situation” through “silent prayer,” and that he and his friends did absolutely nothing to provoke anyone out there on the mall (insert picture of White Jesus with halo here). It was also widely claimed that video of an encounter with Black Hebrew Israelites proves that the teen and his group of future klansman comrades were attacked FIRST, therefore rightfully deserved to counter-attack the Native Americans…who had absolutely nothing to do with the Black Hebrew Israelites. *blank stare*

Now, if you don’t live in a major metropolitan area where public transportation is the main mode of travel, you’re probably wondering “WTF is a Black Hebrew Israelite”? Basically, they’re the Westboro Baptist of Black religion without the professionally printed signs (Seriously, they need to step their signage game up. Crooked letters taped to flimsy poster board is not a very convincing argument that you are *the* chosen people). They are usually dressed in costumes made with shiny lame fabric (yes, it looks lame but it’s pronounced lah-may), or in traditional-ish Middle Eastern garb, or padded breastplates and kneepads looking like they just finished laser tag, or in regular clothes…there’s really no consistency in their attire. BHI’s stand near the entrances of subways or in public gathering spots (like the National Mall), yelling their insanity beliefs into a karaoke machine and hurling insults at just about anyone that confusingly looks their way—especially white people.

Seriously, WHO AMONGST US has not been verbally assaulted by Black Hebrew Israelites, no matter our race? If anything, they should be lauded as Equal Opportunity Offenders. With a surface level google search, you will find numerous accounts of BLACK people detailing their aggressive and abusive encounters with BHI’s. In Sandmann’s case, according to the video at least, the level of harassment they experienced was like a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. (You haven’t experienced real harassment of the BHI until you’re standing at the Chinatown train station in DC, waiting at the crosswalk for the light to change, and that speaker is blowing your eardrum out calling lighter skinned Black women demon possessed mongrels, yo.) Being called “dusty crackers” from 10 yards away pales in comparison to their regularly employed insults.

Even still, Sandmann (and his PR team) decided to blame BHI’s for the disrespectful standoff with elder Nathan Phillips, and not Sandmann’s own inherent racism, as demonstrated by his choice to purchase and wear a bright red hat emblazoned with the official slogan of Trumpian bigots. Rather than examining the racist irony of a white kid smugly staring down a NATIVE American in a “Make America Great Again” hat, the media decided to give him a chance to “explain himself”. Folks like Savannah Guthrie of NBC’s Today Show offered Sandmann a huge platform to create a scapegoat, disingenuously portray his actions as an innocent attempt to heal the racial divide, and actually scold people for “jumping to conclusions.” (White women can always be counted on to uplift, protect, and preserve the virtue of white boys and men, can’t they? *eye roll*) As soon as Sandmann and his mendacious, mouth breathing countenance hit the airwaves? Boom. America gave him a RHP™.

Next up we have Tom Brokaw who, for decades, was a respected journalist on NBC Nightly News (Wait…NBC again? What kind of conversations are happening in y’alls breakroom?!?). Recently, good ol’ Thomas was pontificating on immigration and allowed his true feelings on the matter to slip through his seemingly objective, thin-lipped visage. He stated: “And a lot of this, we don’t want to talk about. But the fact is, on the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinary, important, new constituent in American politics, Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats. Also, I hear, when I push people a little harder, “Well, I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies.” I mean, that’s also a part of it. It’s the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other. I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. That’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time. You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities. And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”

Ooof. Tell ‘em why you mad, Tom, TELL ‘EM WHY YOU MAD!!! But, like…only in English, I guess? Brokaw has since apologized for this colossal gaffe, and since his track record doesn’t lend itself to racism, one could argue he earned his RHP™. But let’s be clear: the incident is going into his file, permanently (alongside this). NBC has also offered a statement saying Brokaw’s comments were inaccurate and inappropriate and they are glad he apologized. (Maybe y’all need to hold a cultural sensitivity workshop over at 30 Rock…just saying.)

Most recently, Virginia’s Moonwalking Governor Ralph Northam was accused of appearing in a very racist yearbook picture unearthed from his Medical School days. There are only two people in the picture—one in a shit-ton of offensive blackface paint, the other in a hooded KKK uniform. The picture appears on a personal, “about me”-type page in the 1984 yearbook, alongside other fully recognizable photos of the Governor, with his full name emblazoned across the top. When the pic hit the media on Friday night, he immediately apologized for his actions, and numerous legislators called for his resignation. But in a privilege peppered PLOT TWIST: Northam called a press conference Saturday afternoon to say “J/K you guise!! That actually wasn’t me in that picture I took responsibility for yesterday and yes this is ABSOLUTELY the truth.” While denouncing one blackface incident, Northam strangely confesses to participating in a DIFFERENT blackface incident—a dance contest where he imitated Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk in just a tiny bit of blackface (because shoe polish is hard to get off, he only used a tiny bit. Yes this was the explanation he gave.)

For around 45 minutes, everyone not only entertained his earnest and seemingly sincere switcharoo, the press mostly softballed him on the question front. I was waiting for someone to ask “Governor, are you high? Well, were you high yesterday? Was your yearbook editor high? Sir, do you think we are high?” As of the time of this writing, Northam is still refusing to resign, but a staff meeting was called Sunday night to discuss the future of his administration. That there is a possibility he will remain Governor of Virginia beyond Monday morning shows that he already has a temporary RHP™, and the probability is high that his permanent one soon come; This “unfortunate incident” will be considered an attack on him rather than exposing his past wrongdoings and bad judgment. He will be victimized and called a victim of political correctness. Never mind that he literally admitted to wearing blackface before.

If these same courtesies and allowances were offered toward minorities, maybe they wouldn’t feel so racist. If Black and Brown people got the chance to explain themselves when they were innocent, let alone when they are caught in questionable situations, maybe the world would feel a little fairer. If someone took the time to offer them a platform to maintain their humanity, minorities might actually trust that justice exists. As it stands, the only people given a pass in matters of race are the ones who offend minorities.


Kellee Knighten Hough is a contributing writer for Citizen Education. She blogs at The Belle Kurve, and you can find her on Twitter @KHough09

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