The Empty Praise of Grace

aamita lagun

The praise of grace /or forgiveness in the face of vitriolic racism perpetuates the idea that anger is not a valid response. Anger is a valid response to racism. I reject the idea that someone has to turn the other cheek or hold someone’s hand while experiencing the pain inflicted by that same person in order to be seen as sympathetic. The people who perpetuate that idea are insecure with their own conduct, racism or otherwise, and want that same evenhanded approach to their misdeeds. This is a tactic to continue the status quo. This is a way to make consequences not that bad and I’m not here for it. This brings me to Ugandan model Aamito Lagum and something I saw on glamour.com.

To closing @zacposen , Thankyou so much for the opportunity.💗 an amazing show it was. 😘

A post shared by Aamito Lagum (@aamito_lagum) on

To recap @maccosmetics posted a gorgeous close-up photo of Lagum’s lips on their IG and racist jerks proceeded to negatively comment. At this point MAC Cosmetics is deleting the hateful comments and Lagum responded on her IG with a screenshot of an article from Black Girl With Long Hair about the racism with the caption: “My lips giving you sleepless nights. On @maccosmetics IG. Thank you @maccosmetics for this killer color and to that makeup artist .ama get me 3 of these.” Glamour.com covered this and this is the final line in their article about the whole situation: It’s not easy to face bullies and bigots head on, but she did it with grace.” While this is in reference to another model, Maryse Kye, initially thought to be the owner of the lips in the photo, it still rubs me the wrong way.  

Actually, it makes me angry. From the heinous act of murder to racist internet comments black people are expected to handle it with grace. Just last week a group of black high school students touring Texas A&M in College Station, Texas were met with racist slurs, racist symbols and told to “Go back where they came from” by white students. They too were praised for handling it with grace. However, that praise of grace does not serve them any more than it serves Kyelem or Lagum. It is a warm blanket for the victimizers and those who benefit from the victimization of others, past, present and future, so they can sleep at night without the threat of retribution. It is a hope that it will blunt justified anger enough so life can continue as it has. I loathe that praise of grace.

There will be no evenhanded words here for the people who fix their mouths or fingers to be hateful or the people who feel they should be coddled. What’s here is support for people like Kye, Lagum, and those Texas high school students because it’s worth more than empty praise. And while they may be full of grace today they may not be later on and that’s fine with me because they are human.    

What was your reaction to the racism and ugliness on MAC Cosmetic’s photo of Aamito Lagum’s lips?

     

2 thoughts on “The Empty Praise of Grace

  1. I know my comment is super late but I’ve been slacking majorly on my blog reading and I’m just catching up. Anyway, I have nothing but hearty applause for this post! I followed this whole debacle on Instagram when it blew up and I’m sad to say that all the hatred I saw directed at Black people did not surprise me. I’ve come to just expect that people will let their racist flags fly like hell on the Internet and they almost always prove me right.

    I hate the word “grace” when it is used in this context but you’ve articulated far better than I could precisely why it is so bothersome. I despise the implication that the only appropriate response to acts of racial hatred and violence is a peaceful/calm/graceful one. Black people have been silenced, killed, disenfranchised and discriminated against for so long in this country, yet we’re supposed to greet each new act of racial assault with “grace”??! GTFOH with that nonsense.

    I think a lot of people, especially white people, PREFER a graceful response because it is less threatening to them, less confrontational. It’s why they can tolerate and celebrate activists like Rosa Parks and M.L.K. – and rightly so – but people like Malcolm X are much harder to digest. Like you said, “…it’s is a warm blanket for the victimizers and those who benefit from the victimization of others, past, present and future, so they can sleep at night without the threat of retribution. It is a hope that it will blunt justified anger enough so life can continue as it has.” You are dead-on with this statement, chica!

    Ok, this is getting long but let me also add that I grew up in Nigeria and so, didn’t experience being “Black” until I moved to the U.S. and it quickly became my identity. Previously, I’d never thought of myself as Black and neither did most people I knew, not because we were ashamed of our Blackness but because in a country that is homogeneously Black, it becomes less of an identifier than other things like culture, ethnic group, etc. I say all this because after nearly 20 years of being “Black in America,” I have already grown weary of all that it entails and the constant struggle to be valued in a society that tells us we have none. I don’t understand how people, knowing that African-Americans have had to deal with this for generations, can expect us to react with anything OTHER than anger.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Whenever these people expect controlled responses to terrible things you know they don’t have your best interests at heart and probably wouldn’t be controlled if the roles were switched. I really appreciate your perspective on identity. It totally makes sense that identifying as Black isn’t that high up on the list of identifiers in a country that is homogenously black. I’m so glad you liked this post. 🙂

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