I consider myself a level-headed person. I really do. But there are certain things that make me question whether I’m proud to be a human being (for example, animal abuse), and other things that sometimes make me, at the very least, downright embarrassed to be a white person.
As I mentioned in my Florida-promoting article, I experienced a fairly huge culture shock when I moved to Florida because there were virtually no black people in Daytona Beach (at least, not when compared to Mid-City New Orleans). I live in a more diverse area of the state now, but what shocks me the most is that when I go back to visit New Orleans, I find the most racist attitudes –- in a city where you would think diversity would be praised even more so than usual. It’s not as bad in the city, but drive 15 minutes outside and people use the N word like it’s oxygen.
And with recent buzz surrounding Paula Deen and the Trayvon Martin case, I’ve all but imploded due to the levels of bullshit and delusion I’ve seen posted on my Facebook news feed. Here are a few of my favorite gems, along with things I try and point out in the comments I leave.
1. “Why can’t white people use the N word if black people can use it? If you don’t want me saying it, don’t say it! DOUBLE STANDARDS!”
History 101: White people used the N word to refer to slaves that they often worked to death. And while you, personally, haven’t done anything to promote that, maybe you can have the common sense and human decency to let that one go. It’s not hurting you –- really, it isn’t. You’re not going to die if you don’t get to throw out the N word on a casual basis. And if your life is that negatively affected because you can’t do that, you really need to reevaluate your goals. Just because something is “just a word” to you doesn’t mean it is for someone else.
2. But what about being called a cracker!?
Good point. I mean, your ancestors were totally Ritz rounds and saltines that were made into little peanut-butter sandwiches and/or broken to be spread over casseroles against their will, right? So it totally holds the same weight because, as a race, you have dealt with oppression.
I know the slang comes from someone who cracked a whip – and even if it’s unfair to be called that, it doesn’t hold the same weight as when we use a word that described someone who was abused to the extent people originally called the N word were. Being blamed for something that wasn’t your fault is not the same as being ridiculed in that way. It just isn’t.
Let me be clear to say I don’t think it’s ever OK for ANYONE to hurl slurs –- period. And no one should endure that. But people who argue that cracker is as offensive as the N word are severely deluded. Cracker doesn’t mean anything worse than jerk, asshole, bitch, etc. and we know it.
3. This Trayvon Martin case is bullshit. I bet if he was white and the plaintiff was black, we’d NEVER hear about it.
Let’s take a time machine back to 1995. If you ask anyone what the most famous court case of the 20th century was, many of them would say the O.J. Simpson trial –- a trial in which he was accused of killing a white woman. Have we forgotten that?
4. I wasn’t born with privilege!
This argument doesn’t piss me off as much as some of the others do, because I really do feel like people don’t really get what I mean by “privilege”. Lesley explores this really well in an article she posted last year, but really, I’ve spoken to many minority people who tell me they automatically get looked at/treated/spoken to differently than their white friends. As a white person, I do not know how that feels, so of course I don’t understand it. But who am I to pretend like I do or argue with someone who lives it?
It’s not a secret (unless you turn a blind eye which, sadly, many people do) that most CEOs of major companies are white. People will say, “I worked hard to get where I am!” No one is saying you didn’t. I get it -– I’m the first in my family to go to college and get a corporate job, and I had to put myself through school and work hard for it. But being white made it easier. If I said it didn’t, I’d be lying –- even if I didn’t see it and no one said LOL YOU’RE WHITE, HERE’S A JOB.
5. Where are White History Month and White Entertainment Television?
This is one of my favorite cards people play because I envision a toddler who has an entire room of toys to choose from, but throws a fit when his friend picks up ONE of the toys -– because that was TOTALLY THE ONE HE WAS ABOUT TO PICK UP.
Open a history book. Turn on the TV. Every other month is White History Month, and every other channel is White Entertainment Television. God forbid people of a racial minority have a channel representing people of their own race as a majority, or a month in which people of their race are lauded for their amazing accomplishments (many related to promoting racial equality).
As fucked up as it is, I’ll never pretend I’m not somewhat inherently wary of black men. I can't help my internalized racism, but I can take steps to understand why it’s wrong, continue to try curbing it, not let it affect my actions, and hopefully as a result, my children will be a little better than I am (and their children better than them, and so on). Because as easy as it is as a white person for me to say, “I’m sick of racism, it doesn’t exist anymore, minorities have the same rights as I do,” etc., it’s not true.
As a race, white people haven’t experienced oppression the way most minorities have -– period. We have the luxury of turning on our TVs, looking to our leaders, and opening our history books to a sea of white heroes. We didn't wake up when Obama won the presidency and find racism magically gone.
Am I really ashamed to be white? No, I’m not. But the least I can do is take a seat and trust people who know what it feels like to be part of a racial minority instead of making it about me.