Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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

I occasionally share some of the work I post here on We Are Respectable Negroes at sites such as the Daily Kos when I feel that the topic is appropriate and suitable for that audience.

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

During the last few years, several of my pieces here on WARN, 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" over 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. 

Do share your thoughts on Eodells's open letter. Am I too easily impressed? Or is there something special here?
.
.
.
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.
Regards,
Your fellow privileged white guy

42 comments:

Learning Is Eternal... said...

Nice.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

very nice.

I was listening to NPR's "On Point" last night talking about the continuing frustration, protests, obfuscation of justice in Ferguson. They had a similar panel to the PBS show you discussed yesterday. The topic was more about police brutality against black people and other people of color in America.

"Is there a rise in police violence against black people, or are there more cameras?"

The host was talking with one of the guests, I think police, who said police violence is down from the 80's and 90's. He also said, "No one likes the police. No one likes to be stopped by them or deal with them, even police." To which the host responded, "There is a difference between not liking being stopped by police and being afraid the police are going to kill you."

The guest said, "I don't understand."

The host then turned to another guest who stated period, "Police and other violence against black people is a long continuous thread in American history from the post-Civil Rights era through Jim Crow and the post-Civil Rights movement." etc... she had a great explanation.

There was also another guest who compared police violence to the violence against black people during the Civil Rights movement, "Police were there to uphold these strict codes of black behavior. And the same is true today."

The host didn't understand the comparison.

I didn't hear the entire segment, but I hope they would have talked about anti-black affect.

http://restructure.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/white-people-lack-empathy-for-brown-people-brain-research-shows/

Yastreblyansky said...

Solid.

DanF said...

Spot on.


This morning Josh Marshall highlighted a Politico piece where the author essentially blames Obama for his own assassination should that happen: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/really-politico


Why is it ALWAYS the black person's fault - even if you're President - for his or her own death?!? Insanity. This shit has to end.

Buddy H said...

Saw this great tweet by John Fugelsang:

"The White House breach proves that when a black family's house is broken into help will show up. Eventually."

CaitieCat said...

Excellent. Thanks for highlighting it.

joe manning said...

The writer correctly points out that white folks own the problem of racism and its there's to change. There's no excuse for perpetuating the socioeconomic imbalance.

chauncey devega said...

I loved his part about justice and rights as given and non-negotiable.

chauncey devega said...

It really is very good. I hope it gets around and receives due and merited attention.

chauncey devega said...

Sick isn't it? White racism damages the minds of too many white people.

chauncey devega said...

Damn. Smart. Makes me think of how Tracy Morgan would talk about this issue. I do hope he recovers.

chauncey devega said...

Dark matter dense and solid.

chauncey devega said...

I have that link from NPR at your suggestion--I don't want to listen because I will just get annoyed.

chauncey devega said...

It is, isn't it? What do you like about it?

Plantsmantx said...

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.../blockquote>


Actually, according to the people this person is addressing, in order to be treated decently, black people do have to behave like white racists. In other words, they think we should bow to, accept, and even practice white supremacy.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Give it a shot if you have the time.


I was listening on my way home from work last night, a very short trip. As I pulled into my driveway, a man had called in to say he had been slammed onto a police cruiser when he was 9 and he thinks he has always been treated harshly by police because he is black.


I made a mistake in my comment above. The guest had cited black codes of the post Civil War era, not post Civil Rights. She also referred to a conference on police conduct attended by AG Holder recently.

Gable1111 said...

Which explains the bowing and scraping of black conservatives.

Michael Varian Daly said...

American White folks in general are desperately clinging to White Privilege because it is becoming more and more apparent that The Rulers regard them largely in the same manner as non-Whites*.


*I used the PC term, but the N-Word really applies here.

Gable1111 said...

It's the best I've ever read in capturing the issue.

I especially like how he makes the valid point in a very straightforward way that if things are to change whites cannot pretend benign innocence; that they have to take responsibility. And all these pathological "tests" that are applied to blacks as a prerequisite for racism to end (crime!) are nothing more than doubling down on the same shop worn stereotypes to ultimately absolves themselves and continue reaping the benefits of white supremacy. They fool no one but themselves, and maybe so$me black conservatives with that.

Learning Is Eternal said...

When instances like this go viral.

It isn't anything we haven't heard or sung repeatedly like a hook on a song but anytime truth is served to them by one of their own they can't pretend not having heard.

This chips away at ignorance.

Miles_Ellison said...

So it's Obama's fault that an armed ex-con was in an elevator with him and nobody noticed? It's Obama's fault that a knife-wielding crazy person took his own personal White House tour? It's Obama's fault that people are showing up at town meetings about healthcare with guns and violent slogans? This isn't the Secret Service being inept. These seem like the actions of people who want a dead black President.

Tak said...

Talk about hitting the nail right on the head....

Fred Ceely said...

True that, but wouldn't it be better if we embraced diversity and used it to get ourselves off the hook for the many excesses that white people have been guilty of over the course of time? The only thing special about white people anymore is the length of our rap sheet.

drspittle said...

Tim Levinson at Balloon Juice posted two articles yesterday about Kessler's article at Politco and Hobart's cartoon. I would say 98-99% of the commenters agreed with Levinson (including John Cole, who posted his own piece), and pointed out these were continuations of the racist patterns and tropes President Obama has endured since he began running for office ("not real American, lazy, teleprompter, not fit for the job, incompetent, blah blah blah"). A couple of commenters said that while Kessler's article was poorly written he shouldn't be automatically construed as a racist (though as one commenter pointed out he works at Newsmax). Those commenters got lots of push back.


As Dan F said, "This shit has to end" and I totally agree. Any ideas on how those of us who support PBO and are sickened by his treatment by the media (both right and "mainslime", though any more I don't think there's much difference) can fight back?


Also, how the media treats white people vs how African Americans or other minorities needs to be addressed (white kids "celebrate" college team victories or "protest" early bar closings, black kids "riot". That shit has to end, too, because it creates the fetid swamps that support the slime that begets malicious lies.


I'm the the point I'm mad as hell and I don't want to take this anymore! (n/t Network)

James D. Watkinson said...

Interesting . . .

balitwilight said...

The sad thing is that I think these three things can interact simultaneously: 1) The Rulers (our neo-feudal oligarchy) will regard everyone else as peasants. 2) At the same time, the peasants (formerly American citizens) enthusiastically enforce the caste system of "Whiteness". After all, every Race-Barrel has a bottom. 3) At the same time, oligarchy also promotes this caste system because, after all they ARE Americans, and also because it gives them leverage to enact more feudalism.
There will NEVER be solidarity between the "peasants" until ALL the peasants recognise that the original sin is racism. No, not "class" as many fashionably declare - but pure ugly distasteful don't-mention-in-polite-company racism.

balitwilight said...

I have heard that the headquarters of the Secret Service kept George Bush's portrait on the walls for 6 months after Obama's inauguration - until forced to replace it with the actual president's portrait. The Secret Service, the Police, and the US Military all attract "Authoritarian Personality" types - who are classic racist material. You won't hear this on uniform-worshipping NPR/CNN/MSNBC, but the majority of people in these organisations all despise Obama because he is "black". Secret Service, Police, US Military believe the president's authority over "white" organisations (as many see it) is uppity and illegitimate. They may be poor economically - but damn it they have their "whiteness".

Michael Varian Daly said...

Yes, 'the original sin IS racism'...which grew out of Tribalism, which is a natural human trait, 'fear of the Other' being an ancient survival skill. But The Rulers carefully mixed that up with Classism and created American Racism, which being such a slippery semi-organic hybrid creature makes it very hard to sort out and expunge.

balitwilight said...

Good points. "Us" and "Not Us" is a natural human trait inherited from our animal ancestors. Every wolf pack has this. If you look carefully at a pack of wolves, you will notice though that they have many colours - and the wolves (who surely NOTICE the different shades) do not organise by colour.
Same goes for human children. Racism is COMPLETELY man-made and unnatural. A tall red-haired person is "different" from a short black-haired person, but you would recognise the psychosis if one of them felt "the natural human trait" of fear because of the other's "difference". You are TAUGHT to see Race. It is not a natural thing. Wolf packs and chickens of different colors don't have "races". Only demented humans do.

MargaretRobin said...

White people are afraid of black people for good reason. If we were treated as they are we would be ANGRY. And if we were kept desperate with nothing to lose, what would stop us? The fear is the proof that tremendous injustice is being done. Fix the injustice - don't build walls.

balitwilight said...

I wouldn't call it "good reason". Even "white" people rationally know that most human beings when oppressed are not Charles Bronson revenge-maniacs, but will simply endure the worst injustice as they try to live their daily lives. The fear that "white" people have of "black" people is just the irrational projection that every abuser imposes on their victim to further justify the abuse. It's the self-nourishing spiral of racism. It is also in the interest of "white" people (who are so inclined) to be afraid of "black" people, because it furthers all the means and ends of White Supremacy and apartheid. So they are afraid.

balitwilight said...

Here is some White Privilege in the wild, for all to see:
http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/02/us/sperm-bank-race-lawsuit/

An Ohio lesbian couple is suing a sperm bank $50,000 for "Wrongful Birth(!)" because their baby was born "black". Apparently, this lesbian couple (who were somehow previously comfortable living in their "white" neighbourhood) now feel an urgent need to move to a more "culturally diverse" neighbourhood. Because - as everyone knows - a human baby comes out born with a DIFFERENT CULTURE because of the shade of her skin and texture of her hair. Apparently, this lesbian couple (who are themselves so very traumatised to have a "black" baby) now foresee a concrete multitude of obstacles facing this child - obstacles which a "white" child would not have faced. I am all but certain that before this experience, they might have been the same kind of polite "white" people denying the existence of "White Privilege".

Just consider the poor baby, and all this says about this nightmare-apartheid society that we have constructed. Consider when she is 18 and discovers that her parents considered her a "Wrongful Birth". Some have claimed that a "black" woman would do the same thing if she had a "white" baby. But I ask you... when in the history of these United States has a "black" woman ever had a "white" baby (Exhibit A: Barack Obama)?. The laws of hypodescent (which we still so happily use today) state that only "white" women can have "white" babies - but the White Magic is so strong they can also have "black" babies. Yet still, people (White Supremacists and "black" people alike) cling to this incredibly vicious and pernicious construct of "race".

KissedByTheSun said...

I read that story and man oh man was it a laugh riot to me. Maybe I shouldn't have laughed at their "tragedy" but this thing sounds like a skit on "in living color".

joe manning said...

How to get past ethnocentric moral absolutism to universal ethics?

wreckinball said...

White privledge is in an invisible nap sack because like most invisible things eg tooth fairy Santa Claus it doesn't exist

It's just an excuse for bad outcomes caused by poor choices

Maike Hudson said...

To the author of the Politico article: it is vile to even go there.

ChristineIam said...

Wow! This fellow white privileged woman is impressed, and bowing down. Kudos to you, and thank you! Wish I could have come up with something as wonderful, and spot on as that!

tarajunky said...

When people like Senator Elizabeth Warren go out of their way to self-identify as a minority, you know that being white is not advantageous. I have been looking for an academic job for the last 6 months, and every single job posting includes text like "Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply". Some have gone so far as to say "This position is supported by a grant for applicants of Latino heritage". Let me whitesplain that to you, "White men need not apply".

The push for diversity in society has created a very hostile atmosphere for white men trying to get a foothold in careers today. White men do occupy many of the established positions today, and they aren't going away anytime soon. There are two ways to "fix" this. One would be to say "we're going to make sure that all new hires are representative of society". That would be perfectly fair, BUT the perceived inequality would persist for another generation or two until the old guard all retire. The other approach (which is the one being pursued) is to say "we demand diversity NOW". To balance out all the established white men, that means that essentially ALL new hires must be minorities and/or women. You can't hire a white man, because that would not get you any closer to diversity NOW.

When I was in professional school, our department was devoted to "diversity", and made sure to accept at least one token black applicant (out of 3 or 4 total) each year. The first three times that person flunked out within the first 6 months. So, they fourth year they accepted 2 black applicants, who made it through. We routinely turned away qualified white applicants, who never got a chance to succeed.

I worked for 12 years in my career path before I started receiving recognition and awards for my work. I work with a young trainee woman of Cuban descent, who won a "diversity" award at her very first career meeting, when she literally had ZERO achievements to show anyone. The system is heavily slanted in favor of minorities, anyone that thinks otherwise must not be in a competitive career path.

Citizen314 said...

Well said. Another white guy who cares about justice for all citizens.

D_from_Tennessee said...

That is the best take on the subject I have read yet.

Ronin said...

By renouncing their whiteness they would eliminate the psychological edge that they have enjoyed for so many years. If you are playing poker wouldn't you at least bluff to win. I am not siding with the doctrine of White Supremacy at all. But let look at this issue through a pragmatic lens. In the game we play on this planet, we use every tactic to survive, regardless of how we look. Spend some time in an Asian country. Or Southern California for that matter, where the American race dynamic is different and whites are not in the majority. In So Cal, Its really not about race, but power and influence. While we grapple with Black/White issues on the East coast and the mid-west, a silent but extensive cultural change is occuring in our Western States right under our very noses. More and more jobs require Spanish speakers. The Chinese own more and more real property and, since we are in debt up to our ears to the Chinese, will buy more of American assets for their own purposes. In the very near future, for Whites, it will be about survival, not racial superiority.

Diane Bliss said...

Outstanding! A real tour de force. Thank you for trying to help racists understand the privileges they take for granted.