Facebook update reveals problem of race and emergency work

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 13:08 EDT
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So this happened:

That’s a Facebook post from a captain in the Miami-Dade fire department. In case you’re one of those idiots who believes that the proof for racism should be held so high that even lynchings don’t qualify, let me contrast this post with the fact that Martin’s mother is a program coordinator at the Miami-Dade Housing Authority, and his dad is a truck driver. Not only are they not on assistance, but they’re pretty solidly middle class. Sounds like Martin’s mother’s job is about the equivalent of Beckmann’s here, in fact: mid-level government job. Not that saying these things about people on assistance is any more true, but the point is that this guy is so racist he didn’t even bother to pause for a moment to check the easily Google-able facts. 

This sort of thing is upsetting for a plethora of reasons, but I want to point out two right now. One is that, as an atheist, you constantly get asked what’s to stop you from running around gunning people down in the streets if you don’t believe that god is going to spank your naughty ass. Well, I have to point out that it’s conservatives, who are much more likely to not only be religious but to think that religion should be pushed on people for their own good, who are currently supporting a legal right to run around in the streets gunning people down for no other reason than you find their skin color to be darker than what you prefer around these parts.

Second of all, these kinds of attitudes are, unfortunately, not uncommon amongst emergency workers like Beckmann. This attitude doesn’t evaporate when folks like Beckmann get off Facebook and go to work. Which means overt racists who believe that black people are worthless and don’t deserve help are tasked with going out there and helping all people of every race. I don’t know about you, but the idea of having an emergency worker who hates me just because of who I am tasked with the job of caring for me? That’s fucking scary. (Which is why the number of anti-choice politicians who used to be gynecologists freaks me the fuck out.) This is one reason why I’m a little averse to the liberal eagerness to write off individual racism and try to refocus on structural issues, because that oversimplifies the issue. Individual racism is a major contributing factor to structural racism. Yes, people of color are right to be wary of emergency help because it’s often under-funded and structurally unsound, but also because you run a high chance of pulling a worker who hates you for who you are. It’s important not to underrate that. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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