Friends, I know my blog isn't the place you turn to for antiracism; however, speaking about almost anything else right now feels blind and insensitive. This post might ruffle some feathers, and if you're a white person and you find yourself offended or angry at this post, I ask that you to sit with that feeling and reflect on why before coming at me with flamethrowers. In the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the issue of racism in America has once again come to a head. Coupled with the recent incident in Central Park of 911 being called for a black man daring to exist in a public space, and we are all once again acutely aware that America is NOT a postracial utopia, though many of us white people prefer to believe that. It is more comfortable for us. We elected a black president, we're cool now, right? Obviously not.
I want to begin by establishing a few basic premises. First, racism is a white problem. It is our problem, and therefore ours to fix. We need to talk about it, we need to educate ourselves, we need to seek to understand. We may not have created the current situation, but we can work to fix it. Second, racism can be defined as prejudice plus power. That definition comes from Joseph Barndt's Dismantling Racism: The Continuing Challenge to White America. Prejudice PLUS power. Nearly everyone has some prejudices; however, without power, your prejudice is just an ill formed opinion, you can't use it to oppress or subjugate anyone. Add power to the equation, and now you can use your prejudice to actively harm people. From Barndt, "Racial prejudice is transformed into racism when one racial group becomes so powerful and dominant that it is able to control another group and to enforce the controlling group's biases."
To an overwhelming majority of people, overt racism is clearly abhorrent. We can nearly all agree that the KKK is bullshit, that slavery was wrong, that skinheads should STFU. However, the thing that most white people prefer to ignore is the more subtle and insidious racism that most of us harbor. Most white people freak the eff out if you suggest that they are at least a little bit racist. For the record, I am not exempting myself from this. Most of us are not trying to go burning crosses on our black neighbors lawns, but do you feel a little on edge if you're the only white person in a group of black people? Have you ever made incorrect assumptions about a person based on race? I know people who will claim to be nonracist, but still tell so-called "dead n-word" jokes. BuT i HaVe BlAcK fRiEnDs. Please stop. Seriously, just stop.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most of the white people who have victimized black people recently don't think of themselves as racist. Shoot, Amy Cooper released a statement claiming not to be racist. Thing is, we all have this deep internalized bias, and couple that with power, specifically the power of being white, and boom! Racism. We need to stop denying it, acknowledge our internalized biases, and work on them. THIS IS ON US, you guys. We need to be willing to face this within ourselves, and work to root it out.
Some things we can all just knock the hell off, right now, forever:
Using the n-word. "But they use it all the time!" No. It is a word with a long, painful, fraught history, and some black people have tried to reclaim it. Some don't agree with that and don't use it. Either way, it is not up to us, white people, to decide. Just don't use it. I don't care if that was what you grew up calling that candy, find a new word. Learn, change, grow; I believe in you.
Claiming that use of the word "cracker" is equivalent to use of the n-word. Nope. Let's go back to the idea of prejudice plus power. Use of the word cracker was a petty, meaningless rebellion against profound oppression. Use of the n-word was coupled with power, and the power to inflict death.
Insisting you can't be racist because you have black friends/spouse/kids/whatever. Look, maybe you aren't, but it is worth a little introspection.
Denying that white privilege exists. When I was younger, I had a hard time accepting the idea that I was "privileged." I had a bit of a tough upbringing, and so to come at me and say that I had privilege seemed absurd. However, to say that you have privilege doesn't mean that you have not struggled in your life; it just means that your race (or gender or sexual orientation or any other thing) didn't make it HARDER. In my teens, I was a bit...out of control. I was pulled over by local police many times, sometimes my car was searched, sometimes I got tickets, sometimes nothing happened and they let me go. One time, I was in the car with my Puerto Rican friend, and we ended up having to get out of the car, sit on the sidewalk while they searched, then they pulled him aside "to ask some questions." When they finally cut us loose, he was terrified, really so shook up. And I just didn't get it. Couldn't understand. THAT is my privilege.
While we're at it, please also STFU about the looting/rioting anywhere. And also about the dog. Please for the love of all this is good in the world, shut up about the dog. You watched a white woman calling the police on a black man and blatantly lie that he was threatening her life, and that is clearly uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable because as a white woman, I see a little bit of me in her, and I wonder, would I have done the same? Could I have? And I have to witness her internalized racism, and simultaneously confront my own, and so it is waaaaaayyyyyy more comfortable to focus on the dog. But stop it. Sit with that uncomfortable feeling. Feel the shame, feel the angst, and then frickin do something with it besides just wringing your hands.
We have got to do better. People's lives literally depend on it.