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.