Thursday, October 02, 2014

'Dear White Racists' is One of the Best Explanations of White Privilege You Will Likely Ever Read

More on the topic of white privilege. (See earlier post.)   I know that this conversation touches a nerve, but it's a healthy and salient one to touch when race is such a clear, defining aspect of our existence—yes, everybody's.


Wed Oct 01, 2014 at 10:28 AM PDT

'Dear White Racists' is One of the Best Explanations of White Privilege You Will Likely Ever Read

My last essay "Dear White Folks, Please Stop Being So 'Surprised' When White Cops Shoot Unarmed Black People" has received quite a bit of attention from the readers of the Daily Kos.

During the last few years, several of my pieces here at the Daily Kos, my own site We Are Respectable Negroes, as well over at Alternet and Salon have gone viral.
Some of them have been shared tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of times on Facebook and other social media sites.
However, none of my online work has ever received 750 comments (as of the time of this post). The reactions to "Dear White Folks, Please Stop Being So 'Surprised' When White Cops Shoot Unarmed Black People" here at the Daily Kos include the typical white liberal racist dogma...and of course, there are a few trolls conducting a clinic in aversive and cyber racism.
But, among those 750 comments are some real gems of insightful and sharp thinking about the nature of "colorblind" white racism and its relationship to white racial innocence in the post civil rights era.
One of those comments--written in the form of an open letter--may be one of the smartest, direct, funny, and authentic discussions of white privilege that I have ever read.
Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege Unpacking the Invisible Backpack is a light treat and appetizer of a work about racial ideologies and oppression (she never intended it to be more than that; I worry how for too many people, especially undergraduates, it functions as a type of professional certification in "anti-racism" when it should just be the equivalent of a prize ticket won in a game of Skee Ball at Chuck E. Cheese).
Eodells's "Dear White Racists" is and should be a real threat to the prominence of McIntosh's primer.
Eodell did something special here. I hope that his targeted audience--white racists and those others invested in defending white privilege--do process, digest, and reflect on their own behavior after reading his open letter.
Dear white racists and your fragile fee-fees:
Relax, I'm white, too. Look, I can do the secret handshake and nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Lemme whitesplain something to you, fellow white men: no one buys your bullshit.
That's because your bullshit runs like this: For historically- and presently-oppressed black people to be treated decently, they must carefully avoid doing anything that could be remotely twisted into behaving like a white racist, even if you're squinting and looking at it from five hundred meters away in a thick fog. Because that would be racist, and therefore hypocritical, and if that's the case, they deserve to continue to be oppressed.
Here's the thing you thick-headed assholes totally fail to get: NO ONE DESERVES TO BE OPPRESSED, PERIOD. You can talk all you want about how it's okay for black people to be mistreated if--- but get this, there is no "if". It's not okay, ever. That's why we call it mistreatment. Your error is to think that it's ever justified, and your active misdeed is to constantly search for a justification. Black people, collectively, are not guilty of anything. In fact, a basic principle of civil society is that we reject the notion of collective guilt.
Some individual black people, like individual white people, have done bad things, and in those cases, may deserve judicial punishments. But even those people don't deserve mistreatment from some random white guy on the street. And black people in general don't owe anyone anything as a prerequisite for being treated decently. No one does.
Now I know there are a bunch of you in the back of the room waving your hand and getting ready to launch the argument that it's racist to complain about white privilege. No, it is not. Complaining about white privilege is not the same as assigning collective guilt to white people. White privilege is a pervasive feature of our society and our legal system. It's hard to see if you're white (and you're not looking or actively trying not to look), but it is real, it is powerfully destructive, and if global warming had the kind of statistical support that evidence of white privilege has, Bill O'Reilly would be haranguing FOX News viewers to install solar panels.
And here's the subtle point that you folks either can't or won't grasp. White privilege is especially the responsibility of white people to fix, not because we're all racist schlubs like you are, but because white privilege itself means that we're the ones who have the power to change it. Black people don't have that power, again because of white privilege, and not because they aren't sufficiently careful in the way they phrase their complaints about being mistreated. It's our problem and our responsibility as white people to fix not because whites are collectively guilty, but because it is the responsibility of ALL PEOPLE to fight for decent treatment for ALL PEOPLE. It just happens that, because of our shithead ancestors and a helping handful of historical accident, we white people are the ones who can do something about it. When the finger on the trigger is white, it's pointless to ask a black guy to lower the gun.
And quite frankly, given all the shit that our black fellow citizens have put up with, and all the shit they have to deal with every. fucking. day., if some of them lose their tempers and say things that aren't carefully calibrated to kiss your privileged, hypersensitive asses, well, is that actually surprising? You lose your minds when black people just complain verbally about being kicked. Imagine how tough it would be for you to keep your cool if someone was actually doing something to you instead of just talking.
Finally, yes, I know this is pointless. You want to be offended to fluff your fragile egos, and you want black people to please shut the fuck up and stop harshing your mellow. I hate to break it to you, but as long as people are being murdered by the state, given draconian sentences for crimes that in many cases they haven't even committed, and being held in poverty and privation and a constant state of fear, those of us who actually give a shit about our fellow citizens are going, at the very least, to make some noise about it.
In the meantime, if you can't be bothered to do your duty as an American to protect your fellow Americans with the considerable power at your disposal, at least shut the fuck up and stop making an ass of yourself.
Your fellow privileged white guy

No comments:

Post a Comment