Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dear Angry White People

Dear Angry White People,

Have you ever read about Emmet Till? Way back in the middle of the 20th century, a group of Angry White Men lynch Till, a 14-year old black boy, because he supposedly whistled at a white woman. The law tried to hide the lynching, but his mom made sure that did not happen.

When I teach that story, I want to peel my skin off my body right in front of the class because that boy was killed by people who look like me and over a body that looked like mine. I want to peel off my skin right now.

Peeling off my skin would do nothing to help anything, reduce racism, or address my own white privilege. Instead, I try to delve into my own past, my own history with people like you, and understand your rationale so that I can explain to you, in terms that you will understand, just how you are wrong headed. So, let me see if I understand you correctly by repeating back to you what I seem to hear you say.

1)  It's not about race. It's never about race. The only people who make it about race are the people who have race, which is to say non-white people, and that is because they like playing the victim, something white people never do. In which case, you and your kids and your family and your friends and your neighbors -- all of you "correct" or "right" and untouchable people -- should be very afraid because you are just as much a mark as those "undesirables" who you find undesirable for everything except, of course, their race.

2) It is about race, but that is o.k. Because some black men wear hoodies, and because some of those men who wear hoodies commit crimes, then you should be able to gun down all black men wearing hoodies. It's much the way that enslaving only black people devalued the lives of all black people, even free people (but, of course, that wasn't about race, either, was it?) Or maybe it is more like saying that women in short skirts are "asking for it" when they get raped? In any case, that's all o.k. because we need to sort people out into the good and the bad. In which case, maybe you ought to investigate the profile for domestic terrorism, "white collar" crime, serial killers, child molesters, and domestic violence . You might be surprised at the picture looking back at you.

3) It is about race, but it's about the white race. White people's lives are cheaper because the black president said that a young black man, the victim of a vigilante's gun, could have been his son. Or, is it that white people have to be protected from those undesirables and it isn't white people's fault that most of those undesirables are not white? Or something like that. I don't really get this one, but it seems to be along the lines of "reverse racism." (If racism were reversed, wouldn't that actually mean there is no racism?)

Whatever the case, the final message that I hear from this is that you think that your body is of greater human value, your property is of greater human value, and your fear (wherever it comes from) is of greater human value, than another actual human. (Do you know those guys who think that their morality or the morality of an institution that protects serial child molesters is more important than women's bodily autonomy? You two seem to have a lot in common. I can't talk to them at all because they just look at me as if I am not quite human or have only half  brain, and a soft one at that.)

But, you see, I don't think I can show you that this is about race, and that the racism is so embedded in the society that teasing it out and putting it on display might cause the whole society to shift, like a kaleidoscope.  I don't think I can show this to you in any concrete way aside from some sort of science fiction, body-switch in which I put you into a black body that retains the memories of growing up in that black body. So, I become frustrated and angry at the futility of asking you to empathize.

I'll keep trying. I will use the privlege of my white skin, of my non-hoodie dress, of my patriarchally-approved appearance, to sneak under your radar and point out what I can. You hardcore types may not be the ones who will listen, but maybe some who aren't honestly narcissists will.

Clio Bluestocking, the Bitter


Notorious Ph.D. said...

Well said, Clio.

Ink said...

Yes, well done indeed!


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