My white kids are home from school today with their white parents to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. day.
The word celebrate has been used a lot today, mostly on the news. But is that the right word to use? I don’t think so. Perhaps commemorate would be a better word.
I see precious little to celebrate, myself.
What? What does a middle-aged white guy have to say about MLK and race relations? Why am I sticking my hand up? Well, I’ll tell you.
Because I’m middle-aged and white, other white people say shit to me or around me that they wouldn’t say around black people. I’m not talking about offensive humor. Whether in person or on social media, white people are a little defensive about the very valid complaints of black people.
I suppose I get that, in a way. Nobody wants to take a hard look at themselves, adjust their attitudes, or give up their hard-won *koff* white privilege. Too damn bad. Quit your whining fellow white people.
I’m going to go ahead and out my fellow white people, and tell on myself a little too. Because we’re a long, long way from where MLK hoped we would get. In fact, I’ll bet he would say that the bus left the station and stalled halfway across the bridge, and somehow, most of the black people are still being made to ride in the back.
So, without further ado (because that was plenty of ado already) here is stupid shit white people say about black people and race relations.
– The U.S. is a post-racial society:
I kid you not. Some white people believe that. They believe that MLK and co. marched, a few laws were passed by LBJ, we suffered through some Affirmative Action that was really unnecessary, and we’ve gotten through that. They believe that the ongoing racial conflict is a media portrayal that is stoked by public advocates for black interests such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
The fact of the matter is that we are only post-totally-f***ing-blatant-signs-over-the-water-fountain-racial. Pretty much all we’ve done is successfully eradicated institutionalized racism (ed.: Did I really write that. We have done no such thing. We’ve just successfully lied to ourselves about it because we don’t put signs up anymore. Cheers.) And it’s true we’ve managed to raise younger generations that are increasingly less tolerant of racism and other forms of inequality.
But don’t be fooled. This country is rife with the kind of racism that’s harder to root out. The subtle kind that’s hard to see among individuals, but is writ large on a national scale when one examines racial disparity in income/poverty, education, crime and incarceration, drug use/abuse, teen pregnancy, and so many other indicators of economic hardship.
This leads us to another sh*tty thing white people say:
Their inner-city culture/mentality keeps them from succeeding:
This is white victim blaming at it’s best. It’s their culture that keeps them down, that puts them in prison, that gets them into gangs.
They’re just asking to be raped by wearing that slinky dress.
They’re just asking to go to jail by being black. (More on this below, of course)
The beautiful thing is they will often post this sh*t on Facebook or Twitter with what they think is intent to promote genuine discussion seeking a solution. What they’re really seeking is absolution. They want people to agree with their defensive reaction that black peoples’ problems are their problems and not everyone’s problems. They go on to about fairness in the college admissions arena, the job market, the trade contracting market, etc., afraid they won’t get their fair shake.
We white people should not be going on about what’s fair. And if we want to complain about what’s fair, we shouldn’t be complaining about black people getting unfair consideration. No, we should be complaining about our white ancestors leaving this cesspool for today’s blacks to live in and for all of us, white/black/brown/etc. to clean up. Yeah, most of them are dead and can’t answer to it, but it is we who are today’s white people who are living off the wealth and privilege they built for us. And it’s today’s white people to whom it falls to do some real work rectifying the massive divide that still exists.
If they would just do what the cops say, they wouldn’t get shot/Just follow instructions:
I’m opposed to the use of violence at all, but I find myself sorely tempted to take a badminton racket to the next white person that says this to or around me.
In light of the events of the past year, I think a number of black people would have been happy to have the option of jail. If anyone truly thinks that all blacks have to do is obey authority, some attention really needs to be paid.
Each of these events, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others, are double crimes. First, these unarmed men, even if they were engaged in criminal conduct, should not have lost their lives because a white cop was afraid of a black man. Period. EOFS.
These incidents understandably evoke fear and deep distrust of law enforcement among blacks. As a white person, I have virtually zero fear that the next cop who pulls me over or talks to me is going to overreact to something I do or say, or the way I do or say, and pop a cap into my ass. Black citizens who have to interact with a white cop have a very different viewpoint. The fact that these crimes are doubled by the officers involved not facing indictment simply cheapens the lives of our black citizens.
Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a cop. It can be a piece-of-sh*t vigilante like Zimmerman. As long as the victim is black, nobody has to pay.
We haven’t even mentioned profiling, have we?
The real proof of the massive disconnect and patent unfairness in these issues can be found in to different incidents that happened recently – one before and one after the tragic killings of Brown and Garner.
Post Brown/Garner, Julia Shields, a 45 year-old woman in Chattanooga, TN, dresses up in body armor, drives around town shooting from her car, stops, points her gun at police, and is still apprehended without injury.
How does this happen? How does Michael Brown get shot, hands up; how does Eric Garner get choked to death, while this crazy woman in body armor, who had already shot at several other people, points her gun at police without one officer being “afraid for his life?” (Afraid for my life is shit white cops say to get away with killing unarmed black people, in case you were wondering.) Instead, “Shields was taken into custody without incident or injury and charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, seven counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, felony evading arrest, and felony reckless endangerment.”
I believe Garner would have been charged with selling illegal or stolen cigarettes.
The second item happened before, at the Nevada Ranch of Teabilly hero Clive Bundy, himself a pretty much open racist. These nutjobs blocked roadways and pointed their assault weapons at law enforcement officers a number of times during the extended standoff while ol’ Clive fought for his right to steal from the Federal Government, ipso facto, from you and I, the American taxpayer.
As far as I know, not only are all of those lawbreakers not the victims of law-enforcement bullets, not one of them has even gone to jail.
Why is that?
Unarmed black people – dead. Armed white people (and not armed with a pellet gun – armed with assault weapons) still alive and most of them still walking free. Sorry, it’s not a matter of obeying authority. Give black people authority they know they can trust, then maybe they’ll be in a mood to cooperate.
Speaking of which…
They shouldn’t be protesting and blocking traffic, they’re only pissing people off:
No, really – please, black people, stop inconveniencing us with your problems and demands for equality and shit. If us blaming you, killing you, and impoverishing you wasn’t enough, then maybe you can just sit over there and wait for us to get around to giving up some of our privilege so you can experience some equality. I mean, we’ve got shit to do, like get rich and send our kids to schools yours can’t get into and you can’t afford.
Seriously, what makes us white people think that somehow, unlike all of the other movements where oppressed people grasped for their rights, that this time, if they just stay home, white dominated society will just sort it out for those silly black people who shouldn’t be tiring themselves out walking?
Sorry. It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t work that way. Women’s suffrage, the first Civil Rights movement, Gay Rights, Marriage Equality – it does not get done without people hitting the streets.
Do you need more on this particular sh*t white people say? Rather than my own stumbling words, I refer you back to the Doctor whose birthday we’re commemorating today:
I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will.
Let’s have us white people stop telling the oppressed to wait on the largesse of the elite, when the elite have clearly been less than forthcoming. Dr. King got things moving, but things are slowly sliding backwards. Maybe we can forgive them for hitting the streets to get them going in the right direction again.
I’m not racist – I’m colorblind:
No, you’re not. Neither am I.
On the other hand, colorblindness is a liability, not a boon.
White people who claim colorblindness are really just trying to rehash the “unfairness” argument above. They don’t want to acknowledge the deeply material differences in the American experience for black people.
They don’t want to give up their white privilege, so they ignore it on the grounds of being colorblind.
Furthermore, I don’t think I want to ever be colorblind. I like having some idea of who I am, where I came from, and who I came from. I’d like to think that black people feel the same way. I don’t know for sure, because I can never fully understand, but I would think they want to be black and have that be a thing to appreciate and celebrate with everyone in their lives of every color – not just pretend we’re all cut from the same cloth.
And speaking of understanding, here’s another shitty thing we white people say…
Help me understand what it’s like to be Black:
No. Just no.
Fellow white people, we can’t understand. We are so far removed from what it is to be black in America that we have zero perspective. We cannot begin to comprehend.
And why the f*** do you think we need to really understand where they’re coming from? Do we really need that to get off our asses and become part of the solution.
Here’s the secret. We aren’t asking this because we want to understand. We aren’t.
We’re asking so that black people think we’re on their side. We want to be able to say we’re already part of the solution so that we don’t have to ask too much of ourselves when black people are marching down our streets.
Help us understand = Please validate me and tell me I’m not racist so that I don’t have to face the fact that I still harbor prejudice in my own heart.
Dear fellow white people: Let’s stop saying stupid shit.
Let’s start being part of the solution.
Let’s start insisting that our law enforcement officers earn the trust of the black community rather than pretending that if black people trust, somehow cops will start behaving better. And let’s insist that being afraid of unarmed black people isn’t an excuse to kill them.
Let’s insist on real initiatives that provide the same educational and employment opportunities that we white people have. Let’s insist that things aren’t right until the same percentage of black populations are graduating college. Let’s insist that things aren’t right until black workers are making the same wages as white workers.
Let’s insist that things aren’t right until the protests stop not because we can’t be bothered, but because they are no longer needed.
And let’s insist that things aren’t right until we white people stop saying so much stupid shit.