The first time I blogged about “racial gaslighting” it was in the context of an ad hominem attack on me on Facebook for daring to point out a racial issue connected with the planned opening of the Oakland version of the Battery SF Club in the old Bellevue Club at Lake Merritt.
After that post, I happened to search for the term “racial gaslighting” and noticed that the online results on Bing were far more extensive than on Google: 3.7 million results on Bing versus just 681,000 results on Google. What the Bing results show is that “racial gaslighting” is really a much larger problem than I realized, even as it’s happened to me, and many times over my life. Let’s look at some of the content Bing presents.
Racial Gaslighting -The Red Flags of Racial Intolerance
That title Racial Gaslighting -The Red Flags of Racial Intolerance comes from the website URIMRecovery.com, by New York City psychotherapist Meira Greenfeld. She writes:
Racial gaslighting denies people their experience of racism
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a tactic whereby a person tries to throw another’s reality into doubt. The term originated from a 1928 play in which a husband tried to manipulate his wife into thinking she was mad. (Gaslighting was also a great movie made in 1944 starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman). Who knew that the term would become popular almost 80 years later to describe a process of systematically denying oppressive or abusive experiences associated with racism.
Why do People Engage in Gaslighting?
One of the reasons people engage in such behavior when it comes to racism is because they don’t believe it exists. This might happen if a person is privileged not to have experienced discrimination. For some people of color, this is hard to believe. Some of them live in daily fear of everyday activities such as shopping or jogging that others take for granted. The neighborhoods they live in might be battle zones or they fear being arrested at random on account of mistaken identity or because of harassment.
Discussions of Race are Uncomfortable
Another reason that people may gaslight another’s experience with racism is to avoid talking about it. They may believe that it exists, but dialogue about race-based issues is difficult for some people to engage in because it’s hard to talk about race without also discussing power, privilege, oppression and abuse from norms that may harm some and benefit others. Guilt may keep some people invested in not discussing race or racism.
It might also be difficult to discuss racism because of uncertainty around such a topic. Not talking about racial trauma is as about as damaging as not discussing other traumas with which people may be more familiar such as domestic violence, child abuse, death or severe injuries.
Not discussing issues associated with strong emotions is a recipe for dysfunctional behavior, stress and a host of other issues that may limit resilience and create hardship in relationships. Microaggressions are statements or behaviors that may not appear to be intentionally harmful, but that inflict some mental injury.
Racial microaggressions are brief interactions, (but can also be environmental), that communicate insults or negative slights towards people of color. Not talking about microaggressions and other incidents of racism is also a catalyst for resentment and cumulative stress.
Racial microaggressions are experienced as assaults to one’s racial identity. The fact that they might not be intentional can sometimes make it harder to prepare oneself against such attacks or to resolve them later.
There’s more on her page, but the simple fact a licensed New York City psychotherapist would devote part of her website to the subject of racial gaslighting says a lot about how serious and widespread the problem is.
This Woman’s Post About Racial Gaslighting Blew Up Online — Here’s Why It’s Important
That title comes from Buzzfeed and the author Liz Richardson profiled Jacquelyn Ogorchukwu Iyamah, and writes:
As a writer and designer, Jacquelyn sheds light on the multifaceted impact of racism and provides resources for BIPOC communities affected by it. Just last week, she made a post about identifying racial gaslighting — and it’s being shared widely across the web.
View this post on Instagram
“Gaslighting is when someone manipulates information to make the victim question their own experience, memory, or reality. People are able to recognize gaslighting when it comes to relationships, friendships, work settings, and issues like sexism. But when it comes to racial gaslighting, there is an immense disconnect,” Jacquelyn said.
“I have noticed that in general, people are able to acknowledge abusive behaviors such as narcissism, manipulation, and gaslighting. However, it is difficult for people to see how these forms of abuse are ever-present in conversations about racism.”
For many BIPOC, racial gaslighting has been a longtime reality, especially as they share their experiences with racism online and in real life. Instead of building understanding and allyship, racial gaslighting deflects important conversations about race and silences BIPOC voices that need to be heard.
That’s what Susan Stever tried to do to me and on the social media website Facebook.
In all of the entries I read, one common thread became evident: the lack of any content by the main news organizations like The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, or San Francisco Chronicle. Indeed, Bing had far more results from blogs, websites, and even social media sites like Reddit, than did Google.
Are some mainstream media outlets trying to, well, racially gaslight the subject of racial gaslighting? It would seem so to me, and I’m happy to be proven wrong. But the fact that subject of racial gaslighting isn’t something normally found in the local news might point to one reason some on Facebook (who are not friends) have said that, in so many words, that journalism does not include a black point of view. That was one point of contention of how an education rally was reported on by Davey D Cook, and for an entry Zennie62Media’s Oakland News Now. An Oakland woman, again on Facebook, openly wrote that she did not want to see a “black point of view” going on to add that true journalism was “objective”. That opens the door to what really drives some people to certain news sources, and not others.
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