Lawsuits Remains A Firm Weapon of Whiteness
I thought that I was the only one when this happened to me with a different person.
I thought my experience was so unique that I would be the only one threatened with a lawsuit from a person who I called “racist”. I knew P.M. from a mutual friend. If I’m honest, I’d say he always gave me the creeps the way he leered at my friend and her sisters obsessed about their European heritage. (Gigantic red flag if I’ve ever seen one).
Today if someone made such weird statements around me, I’d stop it dead in it’s tracks and dissect it to pieces. But I was in my twenties, I didn’t have the vocabulary to point out what was wrong and I had really poor self esteem and felt lucky to be included in the circle. For the most part I just ignored the creepy dude and his weird obtuse statements. His friend would later refer to him as a “provocateur” (while trying to talk me down from the ledge of “burn it all to the ground”) which isn’t that ALWAYS the phrase people use for obnoxious, offensive, white dudes?
Anyway one day a few years ago he pushed my buttons too much. The conversation had turned to Trayvon Martin and he had drunkenly said some ugly shit that was the last straw for me. I immediately cut him off, removed him from social networks and decided we’d no longer hang out even in the company of mutual friends. I was done. And this person didn’t notice I was done for AT LEAST a year (a true testament to the closeness we had). But when he noticed, he was mad. He wasn’t at first of course. His first response was cunning,
“You unfriended me? That’s silly”. Sure. Because talking down to someone is a sure fire way to get them to be your friend. I guess in his white boy mind he thought negging me would be effective and I’d go “you’re right, how silly of me, of course we should be friends especially since you finally noticed I was gone after a year!” It didn’t go down that way. I ignored him. He got mad. He sent me a litany of abuse calling me names, telling me I was lonely and miserable (that’s so funny, for a lonely person I was doing alright without you in my inbox). Oh and he called me divisive! Never forget divisive. We are ALWAYS divisive if we ask a white person to do better. Because scraps should be good enough for us thank you very much. I snapped back. Because I didn’t ask for this abuse, I ignored him and he persisted … I just wanted to be left the f*ck alone. I don’t appreciate people busting up in my inbox like the Kool-Aid man because they’ve shown their ass, I’ve pointed it out and people they didn’t think would take notice are noticing (that’s what hurt him the most, not that a person of color called him racist). I basically explained that he had gotten too comfortable with me (clearly by his racist outbursts). Then I blocked his account (which I should have done from the start). Only to receive this from his “gaming account”. That’s right a gaming account, no one’s surprised by that:
If you ever post libelous material or attribute false statements to me again by name, I will spend the resources to sue you for defamation of character out of principle. I take this very seriously.
PM (via Vera’s account)”
Now this is coming from someone who I first unfriended, then blocked and then he contacted me again from yet another account. Did he not realize that this behavior walked the fine line of harassment? Nah. He didn’t care. That’s how whiteness works you see. You can harass anyone but as long as you throw in the word “sue” or “lawsuit” you know you’ll be okay because in the past the law has always had the side of whiteness, privilege and power when whiteness is very much in the wrong. Both the judge and juror.
I’ll admit PM’s behavior shook me up, but now I know, it’s nothing unusual at all.
Someone, is still acting like a damn fool. After publicly screwing up, threatening, name calling and gaslighting anyone who tried to tell her about her bad behavior, she’s now threatening some with lawsuits.
Why? Because she’s rich and white.
In the words of a very wise Instagram friend,
“I’ve even seen a white woman threaten to sue another white woman for calling her out. White folks are more concerned about losing their power than losing their humanity”.
Trigger warning here for some ableist language …
Bingo. Is a lack of power in certain circles so threatening to some that the only solution is to lash out and threaten to hurt others with resources you KNOW they don’t have the same amount of access to? Yes. My inbox is full of stories like these.
“I have not been threatened by a lawsuit yet … BUT I remember when I was younger my parents being immigrants always felt they had to be careful of things they did because white people distrusted us and would want to sue.”
Why do white upper middle class people exercise their right to sue in the same way other white people call the police on people of color for minor offenses? Well for one thing, it’s easy to hide from the world that way. Another friend broke it down to me in my inbox,
“I’ve heard lots of white people threaten lawsuits seriously and also as a joke like it’s become a part of some ‘white slang’. The way I hear it, sounds like it’s meant to be a threat and honestly I don’t hear people of color use the same language seriously or jokingly. I’ve talked to people of color about how ‘sue happy’ people who live in my area are mostly white and very privileged financially and in safety and that’s how it’s a risk to those with less resources and therefore less power.”
It’s once again power being used to maintain the status quo and because there aren’t viral videos of the act and hashtags like #PermitPatty and #PoolPatrolPaula it’s hard to point a finger to why it’s messed up and wrong. But it stops now white people. Just like you should think about it fifty times (and then sit with yourself) before you call the police on some unsuspecting person of color who is trying to just live their life … maybe just maybe rethink your need to use the phrase “lawsuit”. Because what we’re all hearing is “you hurt my feelings so I’m going to try and jail you and make you pay money” and that is pathetic. Once again your no one’s friend or ally if this is your way of thinking.
Maybe that marginalized person who has called attention to your crappy behavior isn’t the one in the wrong. Maybe it’s you. Maybe your behavior is actually crappy and problematic. Maybe the calls are coming from inside the house.
“Defamation of character” is a catch all term for any statement that hurts someone’s reputation. Written defamation is called ‘libel’, while spoken defamation is called ‘slander’. Defamation is not a crime, but it is a ‘tort’ (a civil wrong, rather than a criminal wrong,” according to Wikipedia.
In order to sue someone for defamation of character you need some sort of proof that the things they’re saying about you are patently untrue. But if they have screenshots of you saying those things … as well busting up into their inbox calling names, threatening and then when they block you … you hop on another screen name to continue the harassment… good luck winning that in a court of law.
So stop throwing the word “lawsuit” around racists. It’s not cute and it’s not funny. And it doesn’t change the fact that you’ve still engaged in some gross racism and the whole world has seen it. Because nothing ever dies on the internet.
No matter how rich and white you are.