Over the past year, I personally have dealt with racism on a daily basis, in the form of an alcoholic flat-mate that, whenever he saw a person who was non-white—be it on the street or in the house—gleefully referred to them as a terrible ethnic slur of some sort, whether he was drunk or not. But that’s Oklahoma, I thought.
In the effort of keeping a peaceful house, many times, it would be overlooked until, one day, his egregious words and demeanor couldn’t be overlooked anymore and, thankfully, he was booted out. He might be long gone now, but the lacerations of his words and actions will always remain, deepening and hardening in me.
So I know the pain that former KOCO reporter Porsha Riley is dealing with. The only difference is she bravely has the guts to talk about it while it is still recent. One of KOCO’s most popular reporters, Riley recently resigned from the news station after reports of racism, among other things, were reported and ignored. Here’s the full video of her reasoning:
The silence and gaslighting around racism in Oklahoma is astounding, though not surprising. Though I have a Latino mother and an Indigenous father, both with noticeably ethnic skin, my skin has always been lighter than the rest of my family—though darker than many of my friends—often placing me in a weird dynamic where many white people, when the obviously non-white people leave the room, would spout off a racist remark or two.
Sometimes I took it, sometimes I didn’t. It was always easier to write about then deal with it personally, I suppose.
But, as I watched the above, what truly floors me about Riley’s accusations are the sheer cojones these people have to make these remarks right to a minority’s face. In the video, she talks about how a photographer would say the n-word, how she had to deal with racist security guards—especially the ones at Trump rallies—and the investigations into her social media when she posted about these racial accounts, many of which were met with “dry threats.”
When a non-white person speaks out about racism at most jobs, there is a non-diverse collective that will come out against you if you open your mouth about them. Many minorities have been there—I’ve been there—with enough force to make sure you keep your trap shut and play by their rules. After all, they give you a paycheck, right?
Riley, however, is going beyond the typical “goodbye” social media posting we’ve come to accept from reporters and anchors and delves deep into the toxic atmosphere of KOCO, something that I’m willing to bet goes on at many of the other white-owned businesses around town, the state and the country. It’s a coming out that will probably be met with one of two paths: quietly sweeping it under the rug or donating a few dollars to a Black charity while the same thing continues.
While I would like to hope for a third path—the one where things change for the better—like many minorities, I don’t believe it and, honestly, don’t think it will happen, at least in our lifetimes, at least in Oklahoma.
Still, I’m proud of Riley for having the fortitude to confront these demons and, honestly, it gives me hope and inspiration to do the same from now on; I’ll do the same in my personal life as I do when I write about the public ones. I know I waited too long on outing my former flat-mate but, through Riley’s bravery, I will be silent no more when racism like this rears its white head around me or, for that matter, you.
I have a voice, whether you like it or not, and I need to use it.
Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.