In a time when white people are slowly waking up to racial injustice and disparities, and starting to climb through the mountain of white privilege and blindness that we’ve been laying in the valley of for so long, how might we deal with it? What is appropriate and not and where is the line we need not cross? For most people of color, this line is pretty blatant and if a white person is addressing their race as well as racial disparities, they should be following step one which is to actively listen to people of color and follow the guidelines that have been laid out by the majority, which have been:
-Listen without trying to find ways to respond
-Listen when you’re told you’re doing something wrong
-Accept that you cannot and will not be able to relate completely.
We whites seem to have such a hard time just actively listening without trying to interject our opinions, experiences, thoughts and feelings. We get so incredulous when corrected and forget that we are new here. We will fuck up. It is so crucial that we stop and sit back and listen to what is said to us when we do. All too often, I see my fellow whites rocking their Forest Whitaker eye when they think they’re Steve Buscemi eyes woke, get kicked back, dismissed and blocked because they are not checking their whiteness.
It is all a very precarious balance, but there are support bars all along the way if you just listen to the directions on where to find them. It can get overwhelming to sort through your whiteness, through your privilege and all the uncomfortable truths that are so in your face when you begin the journey of exploring and affirming our race. In America, we’ve been stripped of our actual lineage and cultures and all stamped as just white. This is where we need to keep focused when delving into race in our country, and our race’s big, fat role in where we were, where we have been and where we are. Think of yourself as part of White America, because you are part of White America.
We’ve spent so long decrying and attempting to erase other races for the subconscious reason that if other races claim their race, we have to then claim ours. Of course, white supremacy as an ingrained fallacy would rather we not. After spending 27 years a white woman in America, I can say without doubt that the number of blatant, proud-to be-white supremacists are vastly overshadowed by the number of casually racist, still need woke, whites. Growing up, I was taught that I was not racist because I was not affiliated with the KKK and had black friends. We are taught this nonsense. In the house I grew up in, we were to recognize race and taught it was what we did after acknowledging race that mattered. Most of my white friends were taught to deny any race exists and that ignoring or “not seeing” race was the best way to not be racist. We then subconsciously exhibit racism. We therefore support the white structure and supremacy in our country.
The subtleties then unequivocally contribute to the racial disparities and ultimately, black erasure and oppression.
So much has happened over time in our country, yet so damn little.
The subtleties are everywhere; they are jokes in our movies/TV shows and around the dinner table about black people on welfare/being impoverished, being violent or heard towards crime. These things reinforce very dangerous stereotypes. They build up to rear their ugly head in policing and housing and job discrimination. These dangerous stereotypes need stopped. So when Uncle Chad is cackling these jokes like he’s the funniest person in the family, you need to stand up at the table and tell him how not funny he is and that continuing those tired ass jokes passed down from Great Grandpa Master Wizard of the KKK (that have only slightly been watered down) is further perpetuating racism and adds to the oppression of black people in our country. Uncle Chad, would you like to continue supporting white supremacy or do you care at all about all two of your black friends, their children and relatives? And please pass the pepper, your mayonnaise casserole is weak.
When he says you have no sense of humor, be sure to remind him he’s still using tired ass racist jokes like it’s something new, let him know when he gets some new material then he can consider himself a comedian and have a seat cause your tea is getting cold.
Another subtlety is the oversexualization of black women. Essentially, for us white folk, if it is on TV it is likely true. I often wonder why black women are portrayed as very sexual, and generally angry women while most white women are portrayed as sweet, innocent and coveted, but then I remember Emmett Till and I see exactly why that is. So, when Aunt Sally is in the kitchen appropriating “getting turnt” hollering some honky tonk badonkadonk, make sure you let her know why it is not acceptable. Speak up against your white feminist family members because you know they decry any race related sexism black women face, while calling black women “sassy”, “bitter”, and commenting about “big booties” and hips. You ain’t funny OR cute, Aunt Sally, have a seat.
The reinforcement that “well, we were slaves, too.” Yeah, well, we are not still rattling from the effects of it; Black slave descendants are the only ones in America, next to Natives, of course, still suffering these effects.
So when, while facing all these heinous atrocities, are we allowed to vent? To voice our upset? It is new to a lot of us. When are we “allowed” to voice our disgust?
In my white ass opinion ass opinion, we aren’t. Think about how many years you spent not having to hear about it. Not having to look at it. Not being told about your whiteness and what that means. That shit sucks and dealing with your white feelings on your own will only make you understand more. In my white ass opinion ass opinion, no, we should not have “safe havens” right now-we had them for too many years now. Some have cried that this is me “oppressing white people.” No the fuck it isn’t. You still have a choice. There are any number of spaces and venues and platforms available to your white ass that will coddle, sugar coat and protect you. You can choose to utilize that or you can choose to stew in your white discomfort, really delve into your white feelings and come through with a better sense of what has happened and is happening. You can and will come out still privileged and not oppressed. Your world will shake but the white structure will still remain strong by your side when you are done. (You’re never really done.)
Yes, you need to learn how to educate yourself. There are so many books, poems, articles, blogs by people of color on this topic. If you are actively listening you will not have a problem getting educated. You need not ask people of color to coax you along, hold your hand while you wade through the sea of your white tears. Go to another white person, sure. You better be willing to hear the truth and not expect coddling. Someone who can relate and someone who is coddling are two very different people.
On the flip side, you need to do the same to other whites. To not coddle is not to demean, but to not sugar coat. To center on facts and not that person’s feelings or opinions. This is not a debate. Let me say it louder, THIS IS NOT A DEBATE. These are very real facts, very real history. And it is our duty as white Americans to keep white feelings and opinions out of this. Commit to your civic and moral duty as a white person. And keep those white tears in pitchers to send to Flint.