We wear the mask that lies (Sept. 5)


Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem about wearing a mask that grinned and lied. This grinning mask was the public face of the oppressed. It concealed the pain, the suffering, and the rage on the actual faces of the people that wore the disguise.
That’s how they coped.
Dunbar wrote that psychological contrast in 1896. Today, a different mask is worn. It doesn’t grin. It just lies.
Check it out.
My daughter’s a junior in college. Over the past two years she’s told me about “racial incidents” on campus that led to informal discussions about microaggressions among the student body. But here’s what’s interesting.
She began each story with a private confession.
She’d say, “I know I’m supposed to be offended by this, but I’m really not.” Then she’d describe a “racial incident” so minor that a fifth grader taught about “sticks and stones” would have ignored. But my daughter went along with being offended, like she felt she was supposed to do.
Now, here’s where I dropped the ball.
I was looking for the devil in the details of each story and when the devil didn’t appear I dismissed the incidents along with my daughter’s dilemma (kid stuff). But it recently dawned on me that the devil was in her confession. What she was really confessing and asking simultaneously was, I know I’m supposed to wear this mask that lies about being offended by microaggressions, but what’s the point of this public performance?
Her confession doubled as a plea for clarity.
I was either supposed to explain the merits of wearing the mask or explain why this mask that lied shouldn’t be worn at all, but I did neither, and this was worse than misguidance because I left her mind open for the wrong influence. I thought however she reacted would be just as harmless as the incidents she described, but I was wrong, because wearing this modern mask isn’t a coping mechanism, it’s a masquerade of collective victimhood, and her participation is detrimental for her development.
But where is she getting this from?
I didn’t have an answer. Then I saw a recent news story about Florida’s gubernatorial election. This contest is between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, Gillum would be the first Black governor of Florida if elected.
Apparently, on the first day of the general election campaign, DeSantis described his opponent as a far-left socialist and told Florida voters, “Let’s build off the success we’ve had with Governor Scott. The last thing we need to do is monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state. That’s not going to work.”
Afterwards, DeSantis was lambasted for blowing racist dog whistles and calling his opponent a monkey. Once again, this “racial incident” was so minor that a fifth grader taught about “sticks and stones” would have ignored.
Now, I can imagine the Black Democratic candidate privately confessing to his campaign manager, that he knows he’s supposed to be offended by this, but he’s really not, and the campaign manager encouraging the Black candidate to wear the mask that lies.
So much for the content of our character.
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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