“You go out into the world and see people and they smile, but what is really in their heads?”

This is horrific. Lyz Lenz writes about a small town and its conversations on Facebook.

It’s a nice Iowa town. In a way that many Iowa towns are nice, and they don’t like being called racist. So, when people called them racist, all hell broke loose.

…Screenshots of comments sent to me by people in Marion show conversations about over policing and racism in the community devolving into cries that Black people are being too political, making everything about race and not working hard enough. A few commenters insisted they “go back to Chicago” — which is a racist insinuation that presumes only people of color come from the big city. If you speak Iowa, “from Chicago” is racist for Black.

Black people who posted about racism and white privilege had their posts removed by frantic page administrators who just wanted everything to be “nice again.” Or as one person who texted me screenshots of a racist diatribe targeted to one of her comments about a protest said, “They don’t want it to be nice again, they want it to be white again.”

As Lenz notes, this isn’t just the usual online hatred of and by strangers. These are neighbours, local shop owners, the “clown who makes balloon animals at the farmers market. It’s personal.”

…the feeling is claustrophobic. You go out into the world and see people and they smile, but what is really in their heads? I don’t have to guess, I can go to Facebook.

It’s death by a thousand comments.

…It’s easy to think you are nice when you keep all your ugliness hidden in Facebook comments and emails sent from fake accounts. It’s easy to think you are nice when delivering cookies to a new neighbor or filling sandbags to protect a local business from flooding, but the words, the jokes, they mean something.

There’s a power dynamic at play here. White people don’t need to worry that if they offend someone who’s Black, they’ll be visited by racist cops looking for an excuse to hurt a white person.

The freedom to make comments that defend racism, those aren’t nothing in a world where Black men get killed by the police just for the crime of going to the store or walking down the middle of the street.

Studies show that the microaggressions of casually-used slurs or devil’s advocate positions can have lasting traumatic effects.

It’s not nothing.

Thinking it’s nothing is a privilege.

And telling someone that the words they say and the ideas they espouse are hurting you, that’s not cancel culture. That’s a person advocating for their humanity.