As we’re finding out on their new reality show, Chad Loves Michelle, Chad Johnson and Michelle Williams may not be a match made in Heaven, after all.
By now, most of us have seen the clip of the pair having an online counseling session where they spoke about one of their most recent fights. The fact that the couple had a fight is not a shocker. What did raise our collective eyebrows is how these two are fighting. In short: Michelle brought up race, and Chad took a dig at her mental health, neither of which is okay. However, Chad’s response to his fiancée was especially troubling.
Chad let his privilege get in the way of hearing what Michelle had to say about race. Worse yet, he hit back by suggesting that she might not have been in her right mind when she brought up a fact. Chad used an age-old tactic to avoid talking about race and when people show you who they are, believe them.
Regardless of what sparked their argument, stating that white people do not know how Black people communicate, as Michelle did, is not offensive. It’s a fact. This would have been the perfect opportunity for Chad to consider that Michelle might have a valid point because the difference in their experiences have shaped them in a number of ways–up to, including, and beyond how they interact with others from their community.
However, like many white people, Chad felt attacked when race was brought into the conversation. He was way more wrapped up in his being offended than in hearing what Michelle had to say. And he insisted that she correct it before he could move on. As I see it, a lot of that stance seems to come from White privilege because Chad believed his feelings are more important than facts.
His insistence that he doesn’t care what race a person happens to be is ignorant. It ignores the fact that race changes experiences across the board. People of color don’t get to go through life without the issue of race touching their existence. Chad should have taken a moment to consider that he might have been misinterpreting Michelle. Communication issues are a huge problem that many couples need to work on, and it takes both putting in their best effort to correct those problems. That’s not what Chad did.
Chad fired back by asking if Michelle took her meds. It was a slick way of calling her crazy. Michelle has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Neither of those things suggest that she is mentally incapable of seeing racial dynamics for what they are. Neither of those things suggest that she is insane or suffering hallucinations. That’s what he suggested, though. Meeting a discussion about race by questioning her mental stability is not an appropriate response. In fact, it looks a lot like gas lighting, which is old tactic to shut people up.
When people of color bring up an important issue that disproportionately affects them, or when we point out blatant instances of discrimination (e.g., rampant voter suppression in the midterm elections), we’re often told that we’re seeing things or that we’re pulling the race card. We’re told that we’re crazy. Those who aren’t ready to consider the reality of racism and inequality–and how they benefit from those things–often lean on this tactic to invalidate real concerns.
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