To my aunt, the suggestion that “people in The North are racist” is an attack on her as a racist. She is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.
The result of this is an incessantly repeating argument where a Black person says “Racism still exists. It is real,” and a white person argues “You’re wrong, I’m not racist at all. I don’t even see any racism.” My aunt’s immediate response is not “that is wrong, we should do better.” No, her response is self-protection: “That’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything. You are wrong.”
From: I, Racist
Read the whole thing. Please. This article sums up everything I didn’t understand until relatively recently about black/white relations in America. Especially black/white relationships in the supposedly enlightened North.
It sums up why every discussion of of structural racism online quickly stops being about race and starts being about some white person’s hurt feelings and wounded pride. Why polite black people are ignored, and angry black people are shushed for their “tone”.
This is also why I’m suddenly an “angry white person” about this stuff lately. Because once you start seeing this stuff, you can’t un-see it. It’s everywhere, and it’s infuriating.
I mean, just as an example: nobody taught me about redlining. As far as I can tell, most white people my age in American never heard about it. Hell, as far as I know, most black people my age probably never learned about it, even the ones for whom it is the direct cause of their being barred from the secure suburban dream that is supposedly every American’s birthright. And yet white people sit around on Facebook talking about “thugs”, and wondering what’s up with inner-city kids— kids whose parents and grandparents were systematically prevented from securing loans that would have enabled them to leave bad neighborhoods and give their kids a better life. And then 9 people are killed in a black church, and more black churches start burning, but nobody asks “why are white people so violent?”
I exist in a racist system. You exist in a racist system. There is no shame in looking around and acknowledging this truth. You want something to be proud of? Be proud of being honest. Be proud of the ability to learn and improve. Be proud of caring more about your neighbor than you care about clinging to a particular interpretation of American history.
word. it infuriates me too when people refuse to examine history to understand the context of the racist reality we still find ourselves in. that’s how history perpetuates itself, when people are in denial. when they say, that was then, and i wasn’t a part of it, so it’s not happening and i’m not part of the problem, racism is alive and well.
i grew up in a time and place where blacks and jews were not allowed to live in certain sections of our town, and it was a big deal for my parents to welcome the one token black family to the area we could own homes in. i hated when jews who should know better, having been slaves and then holocaust survivors, turned a blind eye to their fellow victims of bigotry. otoh, some jews were in the forefront of the civil rights movement alongside dr. MLK,jr. still, cities like NYC, newark, and philly were just as segregated and unequal as some places in the south, to all intents and purposes.
white people need to wake up and grow up and quit whining about things of which they have no clue. the first step is to acknowledge our ignorance, become informed, own our collective responsibility for all the injustices,and teach our children to be civilized and civil. all of which i’m proud to see you are doing. it’s never too late.
That’s a story I don’t think I’ve heard, I’ll have to ask you more about it sometime.
Your “some white person’s hurt feelings” reminded my of the “White Fragility” paper I read a few months ago. Highly recommended: https://libjournal.uncg.edu/index.php/ijcp/article/view/249. She does an exceptional job explaining why discussions about race are so hard with white people.
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