Thursday, March 5, 2009

Come All Ye Unwashed Masses and Confess Your Secret Shames at the Church of White Liberal Guilt


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I had a vision, a shimmering image which came to me in the twilight of my waking hours. As Saint James Brown departed us, he sent a messenger. I did not know HIS name, but his energy was powerful--yet it possessed a great sadness. HE, the great White ambassador, spoke to me and the Earth shook. This messenger sent by Saint James communicated in the most clear and melodic voice: What of your White allies? What of the White masses? We too have great guilt...especially the most "liberal" and "progressive" of us. You, Chauncey, must build us a temple, a place where we can confess our guilt and shame. I looked to Brother James and he said go forth and help our White allies, for it is the special burden We Respectable Negroes must at times suffer as an act of love.

I awoke. I went to class and encountered a young white student who was emphatically recounting the events of the previous weekend to his friend. Curious, I listened. It seems that this young, naive, white soul had loaned his cell phone to a stranger in need. This stranger was black. They were on "the wrong side of town." Our naive white liberal did not want to "prejudge" this "homeless" and "rough" looking black man. "That would be wrong," he told his sympathetic friend. The black stranger implored to our white liberal student of kind comportment that he needed to "borrow" the phone, in order to call some friends so that he could find shelter for the evening.

As I heard this story, I shook my head--we respectable negroes all know how this story ends.

In great shock and pain our young white friend explained how the black lumpen walked off with his cell phone. Our young white liberal ran after the brigand. The black tough then told our progressive young friend, that "the phone is mine." Our noble youth further protested at which point the black ign't threatened to shoot him. So sad, so very sad.

Our pink cheeked, ivory hued protagonist shrugged his shoulders and told his friend, "I didn't want to fight him or complain because given that I am white in a black neighborhood somehow it would be my fault if something went wrong."

I sighed.

Come one, come all, be you either anonymous White folk or our white allies. Unburden yourselves, share your pain.

Do you pretend to like rap music because you don't want to be perceived as "racist?" All the while hating it?

Do you pretend to like "ethnic food" because you want to look tolerant, but you really can't stomach it?"

Do you not lock your doors in high crime areas as a "progressive" act against racism because the 'hood happens to be predominantly black and brown?

Did you pretend to support Barack Obama when in fact you actually find his politics deeply troubling, yet, you wanted to do the "right" thing?

When in line at the ATM do you tell yourself that it is wrong to be scared when the hard looking brother, with the prison muscles and tattoos, who is also wearing a hoodie with a scarf wrapped around his face, is standing behind you at 3am?

Come to us, one an all...share your secret White liberal shames--those hidden thoughts--for you will find salvation here.

And let it never be said that We Respectable Negroes are guilty of reverse discrimination! As we gave gifts to the parishioners of the Church of James Brown, we shall give the best 2 confessionals in the Church of White Liberal Guilt a free copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates's great book, The Beautiful Struggle, courtesy of Spiegel & Grau publishers. Do you have the courage to lay bare your souls?



***Come forth my White folks! The shimmering spirit has come to me again--this time with a musical accompaniment that HE tells me will encourage all you to come forth. HE calls it "blue eyed soul." What is this that HE speaks of? I don't understand its mysteries, but I do think I understand its power***:

17 comments:

macon d said...

When I'm in groups with mostly white people and one or two black people, I work harder than I do with the white people to learn and remember right away the names of the black people. Which used to seem like a good thing.

marci said...

hey macon...
i feel your pain.. it will only get worse as all the made up name owners come of age...
i am black and recently i found myself repeating a name back to it's owner like she was deaf or foreign.. i found myself over enunciating and trying to get the consonants in the right order... all the while thinking 'who the hell named this child??' it must have taken the poor child years to spell her name correctly...

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

(I’m going to do this Catholic style. Nobody does guilt like us Catholics.)

St. James of the Perpetual Funk, I have sinned, and I beg you to intercede on my behalf. I have expressed white guilt in thought and deed and beg for your forgiveness.

When I teach American history I often refer to MLK as “Dr. King” and accord him a measure of hero worship that I do not allow for other important historical figures.

I often tell people that I prefer the Big Mama Thornton version of “Hound Dog” when I know deep down in my bones that I like Elvis’ better.

And St. James, there is an old sin of hypocrisy that weighs heavy on my heart from years ago that I have not yet confessed. Please let me touch the hem of your mighty cape so that I may be forgiven! As a college student I took part in a march in North Omaha honoring Martin Luther King on the thirtieth anniversary of his death. Once the march and speeches were over, I walked out of the ghetto and back to my campus as briskly as I could go without looking like I was running.

white liberal said...

I felt a sigh of relief when I saw that I have never done any of the things mentioned. whew!

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

Wernor that is one of the funniest things I have read in a long time!

cd

Macon D said...

Sidenote, if that's okay:

white liberal said, "I felt a sigh of relief when I saw that I have never done any of the things mentioned. whew!"

Fantastic!

Win,

win,

win.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff.
In a smart and light-hearted way, you respectable negroes have started the "honest conversations on race" that Eric Holder et. al. can only give "we need to" speeches about. Keep it up.

Lorraine said...

Do you not lock your doors in high crime areas as a "progressive" act against racism because the 'hood happens to be predominantly black and brown?

I TOTALLY DO THIS! Except I make a point not to clutch my purse as a black man walks by. Sometimes I fail. EPIC FAIL.

I bet I would do that ATM thing too if I ever used one at 3am.

Mindy said...

My first ever college course was: African American Experience in the 20th Century. It was taught in an old movie theatre the campus had purchased.

I sat at the end of the row against the wall, and watched several white students attempt to sit in the aisle seat, only to notice it was broken. I never said anything to any of them - amused by their struggle.

A black man approached and looked interested in the seat, and I made sure to point out to him that it was broken. He then sat in the seat next to it - in my row. I vaguely wondered why I had done this at the time, but looking back, it was obviously white guilt.

Can I have a cookie now? ;)

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

Oh Brother James has come to me. He is impressed with your sharing! Keep forth, keep sharing, we love you all!

chauncey devega

Merlin said...

I smile at people of color on campus...

And I try to be really nice to one of my friends who is black because she gets a lot of subliminal/subtle shit from the other white people around us... I feel like we have a bit of shared experience because I'm trans and get shit from non-transgender people too. I don't know what else to do, because I think confronting them about their racism might make them just feel guilty around her, thus making her life more difficult. Or maybe I'm just wussing out... Pretty sure she suspects me of patronizing her sometimes... damn. Sometimes when I feel like I'm being white guilty/trying not to be racist I have to take five minutes and chill... and realize I'm hating myself but taking it out on other people.

Also I want to people of color in my webcomic but feel like I'd just end up being a racist chump and don't want to represent people...

*crosses self*

Anonymous said...

Aha! Not guilty! I can't stand rap music, but I'm not racist because ... I can't stand country music either. Oh the joy of being free of sin.

Anonymous said...

Do you pretend to like rap music because you don't want to be perceived as "racist?" All the while hating it?

No, I liked rap music before it was hip for white folks to like rap music. Surely, I get extra points for that or something.

Do you pretend to like "ethnic food" because you want to look tolerant, but you really can't stomach it?"

No.

Did you pretend to support Barack Obama when in fact you actually find his politics deeply troubling, yet, you wanted to do the "right" thing?

Nuh-uh. I wish Obama were more progressive. *sigh*

Do you not lock your doors in high crime areas as a "progressive" act against racism because the 'hood happens to be predominantly black and brown?

No, I lock them anyway. But I do feel really bad because of it. Does that count?

When in line at the ATM do you tell yourself that it is wrong to be scared when the hard looking brother, with the prison muscles and tattoos, who is also wearing a hoodie with a scarf wrapped around his face, is standing behind you at 3am?

Guilty as charged!

Anonymous said...

These were hilarioius!

Especially the Werner guy. As a Black College professor, I am usually teaching classes where there are, in any given class 1-3 black students. I am used to teaching in all white classes, but when I have the one or two black students, or even Mexican students, I make certain to learn their names, call on them/or not call on them, and smile at them when I catch their gaze.

Or, when I am out and about, riding public transportation, t5ain etc. I make certain to give a 'soul' smile at black folk. I live in a predominalty white/hispanic city, and there are not many black folk. I even engage with 'suspicious' looking brethern/sistern, as well as homeless black folk, when I would really rather not.

So, does that mean I have, black(white) liberal guilt?

Frances said...

I was walking home uphill one day with about four bags of groceries, exhausted and staggering a bit under the weight, and a Maori (Polynesian) man came up and offered to help me carry my bags. He was massive and bulky and covered in tattoos, and my scared-white-girl brain was not exactly comfortable with this.

So I said no, pointed out all the side streets I was about to take and said I was fine, and he went. And I wobbled up the hill thinking to myself, oh my GOD, I should have said yes, these are far too heavy. And the worst part was less than a minute later, realising that he was probably a complete sweetheart and genuinely wanted to help me carry my groceries.

Freaky Jay said...

I don't know that my particular form of white guilt is as funny as some of these, but I would like to share anyway.
My white guilt comes from the knee jerk reaction of racism. The initial judgement that has been given to me by generations of white skin that must be forced out of my head.
My white guilt comes from the demon inside myself that I must fight, every day.
But I guess on the bright side, I havn't come to terms with myself enough to make special acception for anyone else regardless of ancestial origin. I've got my own demon to face in my own way.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

Almost time to announce our winners!

1 more day to go.

good stuff.

chauncey devega