We have to talk about MISAs for a quick moment (because I have a job interview later, and I need to distract myself from it so I won’t be nervous).
I think most of us — especially those of us who have ever worked in retail — are most familiar with MISA Susan, she of the classic Speak to the Manager Haircut. MISA Susan doesn’t understand why she can’t use a coupon that’s expired, when an expiration date means something is no longer of use. MISA Susan doesn’t understand why something without a sale sticker can’t magically be assigned a random price just because she found it in the sale section. MISA Susan was told by Applecare.
And MISA Susan will try to get you fired because she was mildly inconvenienced. To her, the customer is always right and the employee must always be subservient. Nevermind that oftentimes the customer is dead wrong and that you have not LOST any money if you have not BOUGHT anything because it wasn’t the price you wanted. MISA Susan wants you to kiss her ass for her minor inconvenience, and if you do not, she has no problem trying to affect your life in such a way that you may not be able to buy groceries or keep a roof over your head.
Some of us have worked with one or a few MISA Karens. No matter the situation, MISA Karen can find a way to turn a minor inconvenience into “why am I being attacked?” complete with tears and possibly a trip to HR so she can — common thread! — attempt to ruin your life by taking away your ability to support yourself. MISA Karen is especially dangerous to Black co-workers because her many microaggressions that we ignore everyday finally reach a point where we have to tell her about herself. And then she cries, because she’s now the victim of the Angry Colored Person’s Rage aka the recipient of Mild Criticism From An Exhausted Non-White Co-Worker. MISA Karen can’t tell the difference between criticism and violent rebuke, so she cries. The mild inconvenience of being forced to reckon with her own actions has led her to tell HR that you were yelling at her and she felt threatened.
Bret Stephens is of the MISA Chad variety, the white man of some position or stature (or imagined stature) who takes any mild action against him as an act of war that should be responded with — take a guess!– by trying to ruin someones life by getting them fired. MISA Chad can take any negative comment (or imagined negative slight) toward him and compare it to the actual struggles faced by disenfranchised communities. If you call MISA Chad “white boy” he says it’s like you called him the n-word. If you tell MISA Chad that Marvel is going to have more female superheroes, it’s an attack on his entire gender. And if you compare MISA Chad to an insect in a tweet that only 14 people even cared enough to interact with, he compares it to language used by totalitarian regimes to diminish people and he tries to get you fired.
Bret Stephens got dragged up one side of Twitter and down the other, and he could have cut his losses, ignored it, and let the news cycle wash it away in less than 24 hours. But MISA Chads can’t do that. There’s no such thing as taking an L gracefully, let alone reflecting on your actions and how you could have gone a bit overboard. They’re not even capable of disengaging from the issue. Just after Bret Stephens said he was deleting his Twitter, he went on national television to justify himself.
MISA Karen and MISA Susan are annoying, but MISA Chad is actually dangerous because he holds more power. MISA Karen can get you fired, but MISA Chad can get you killed because those are the ones who open fire in public spaces because they were mildly inconvenienced by being turned down for a date or a job. Those are the ones who become cops and then beat or kill innocent people for not being deferential enough for their liking.
Bret Stephens got on national television to lie about his reasons for copying a man’s boss on a tweet where he was mildly inconvenienced the same way the police get on the stand in front a jury to lie about how they were afraid for their life. The fragility of white people not only leads them to Cry & Lie when faced with the truth about themselves, but it’s that fragility that turns any mild inconvenience into the apocalypse. When you have spent most of your life basking in the sunshine, the first drop of rain feels like the end of the world. The rest of us are used to inclement weather and we’ve packed an umbrella. MISAs don’t understand why the sun would ever stop shining.
Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.
I have a master’s degree, and I failed on the first question.
I know what a literacy test is, but sadly, I’d never looked one up to see what the questions were like. During Jim Crow, they were used to keep Black people from voting. Some poor and illiterate whites got caught in the net as well, and that makes sense for a country who, when founded, only gave voting rights to landowning whites, but the purpose was to keep Black people from being heard. Former congressional candidate Gary Chambers Jr. posted a literacy test today, and you can’t pass it. I can’t pass it. No one can pass it.
This particular test from Louisiana in 1964 was to be administered to anyone who could not prove they had finished 5th grade or higher, which would overwhelmingly apply to more Black people. We had less access to education and were more likely to quit school in order to work the land and help our parents keep a meager roof over the family’s head back when so many Black people were sharecroppers.
And there’s no uniform key for this test. The white registrar reads the answers and decides whether you answered correctly or not. I’m sure this test, on the rare occasion it was given to white people at all, was graded more leniently when the hand turning it in wasn’t colored.
So. Take it and see if you would be able to vote in Louisiana in 1964, less than 60 years ago.
Ten minutes to complete 30 questions is about twenty seconds per question, and you have to get every single one correct. If this was an actual literacy test, I would pass with flying colors, because I can read well enough to know that some of these questions are unanswerable, but it’s not about literacy. It’s about creating a standard that no one can meet and then applying it unfairly to Black people. It’s giving Black people additional burdens to be perfect that white people don’t have. It’s disparaging Michelle Obama for showing her arms in her White House portrait even though Melania has nude photoshoots online. It’s arresting Black people for marijuana at 3 times the rate of white people, even though the same percentage of Black people smoke weed as white people. (x) It’s Black college students being just as likely to find employment as white people who didn’t even finish high school. (x) It’s cops shooting unarmed Black people and taking a white mass shooter to Burger King. (x)
A lot of Black kids heard this refrain from our parents growing up: You have to be twice as good as the white folks to get half as far. However. When the judge and jury of your achievement is White America, you can still fail the test they never even have to take.
A moment for Gwen Berry
It’s so funny to me that Conservatives think we care what they have to say about Gwen Berry being unpatriotic when those same people don’t care that the Capitol was stormed and vandalized.
One of these is a protest.
The other is a crime.
**Black lady turns away from the flag.**
WHAT A DISGRACE TO AMERICA!
**White people break into the Capitol and erect a gallows to hang elected officials.**
awwww economic anxiety
France is giving the United States another Statue of Liberty.
Another symbol of liberty to a country that’s still oppressing its people.
NYC has another Statue of Liberty on the way. France is sending us a smaller version to be placed on Ellis Island just across the water from Liberty Island where the original stands as a beacon to freedom…or something.
This new bronze statue, nicknamed the “little sister,” is one-sixteenth the size of the world-famous one that stands on Liberty Island.
“The statue symbolizes freedom and the light around all the world,” said Olivier Faron, general administrator of the CNAM [National Museum of Arts and Crafts]. “We want to send a very simple message: Our friendship with the United States is very important, particularly at this moment. We have to conserve and defend our friendship.”
If you want to put a symbol of “freedom and light” anywhere, it shouldn’t be in the United States.
If you want to give the Statue of Liberty to the United States all over again anyway, give it in the spirit with which it was originally intended in the first place — as a gift to celebrate Black Americans.
I grew up with the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of hope and freedom for immigrants. “Give us your tired, your poor…” and all that, but Lady Liberty had been there for twenty years before those lines by Emma Lazarus were inscribed onto a plaque and installed at the pedestal. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of immigration (the voluntary kind, not the shackled and chained way most Black people got here) for two reasons. One, immigrants latched onto the massive sculpture, which is understandable because she was the first image of New York for most European immigrants arriving by boat on the way to be processed at nearby Ellis Island. Two, the creator, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, pitched the idea to raise funding from Americans in the most general terms of “liberty” without specifically referencing Black Americans. His plan worked since the United States did indeed agree to pay for the pedestal if France paid for the actual statue, but it was a pivot away from the original idea.
Édouard de Laboulaye was a French abolitionist and it was he, along with his social circle of abolitionists, who conceived of a massive gift to present to the United States after the Civil War — once slavery was outlawed. The proposal of Lady Liberty initially held broken and shackles to signify the broken chains of slavery instead of the tablet she holds today. The chains eventually made their way into the final version down around her feet, the original significance lost to most people and barely noticed.
The years immediately following the Civil War were filled with promise for Black Americans and de Laboulaye wanted to recognize that. We made great strides in education, civic engagement, and politics, but the South regained its footing and struck a compromise in the 1876 Presidential Election that saw federal troops removed from the Old Confederacy. Black people were back in chains, invisible shackles placed on our communities through coalitions built between lawmakers and law enforcement, private businesses and private citizens. When Bartholdi finished Lady Liberty, there was no way to “sell” the idea to the United States as a celebration of slavery’s end. Black America hated the idea, because we were being oppressed, terrorized, and murdered, and White America would’ve scoffed, because they were doing the terrorizing. She was pitched as a symbol of liberty, immigrants saw her as the first welcoming image of the United States, and then the government solidified that feeling by using words from Emma Lazarus.
Today, it’s more important than ever to remember why the Statue of Liberty was conceived in the first place, not a symbol of general liberty and freedom, but as a symbol of Black liberty and freedom. We are still fighting to have our history accurately taught in schools. We are still fighting to be the country de Laboulaye thought we were becoming when slavery ended. And we are still fighting to live up to the promise Lady Liberty has symbolized to millions of immigrants. This little sister will probably be all over the news as we get closer to July 4th, so whenever you see her, make sure you remind somebody that the Statue of Liberty was supposed to be a gift to celebrate the end of slavery, but the US put Black people back in chains too quickly for her to actually symbolize liberty and freedom for us.
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