The other day my brother and I got into an argument. This, itself, isn’t surprising. Earlier in the week, we found a way to argue about the price of avocado toast at our hypothetical restaurant.
After a week of sitting around my parents’ house with little to do, I ventured into their local Starbucks to get some writing done and also just to remind myself that humanity exists. Upon logging in to their wifi network, you’re directed to a Starbucks landing page, that includes a poll.
This was mine:
I posted the photo on Twitter with a snarky comment and a few minutes later, got an IM from my brother wanting me to explain why this was, in any way, racist. I said a few things, the conversation got a bit tense and I bowed out. Essentially because I didn’t feel like engaging.
There is plenty written online about the cultural appropriation of traditional black hair styles. There’s even plenty written about why the word dreadlocks is problematic. You don’t need me (or even your black friend) to discuss the implications of Starbucks question.
But, all too often, when something is said to be racist (or sexist or homophobic), the follow up question about “Why?” don’t come from a genuine desire to learn about the long and troubling history of, for example, white appropriation of black hair styles. The questioning comes from a place of interrogation. From a desire to prove the assertion wrong. And, mostly I think, from the desire to demonstrate that you aren’t a racist for disagreeing or even being unaware.
The problem, as it is with so many things, isn’t the first time this argument happens. It’s the 80th time. And it is the potential for these discussions to go so off the rails that make them stressful to engage in.
So, you pick your battles. But really, everyone loses.