Black Progress Does Not Come At White Expense

People of different races hold hands as they gather on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge in Charleston

 

Relax, white people.

 

Take a breath.

 

It’s okay.

 

America survived its first black President.

 

You didn’t have to freak out and elect a neo-authoritarian-pseudo-populist!

 

Holy Crap!

 

Donald Fucking Trump!

 

Talk about an over-reaction!

 

But I get it.

 

You’re scared.

 

You’re used to the faces of authority being white and male. Yet for eight whole years you had to endure Barack Obama – a far from perfect neoliberal politician, who none-the-less gave the U.S. the most stable two terms in decades.

 

And then you were asked to vote for a white face (sigh!) that unfortunately was attached to breasts and a vagina! Oh the horror!

 

Seriously, white people. Sit the fuck down and listen to some sense.

 

You don’t need white supremacy.

 

You don’t need male supremacy.

 

You can function just fine in a world where people of color and women have the same rights as you and yours.

 

I know. Sounds crazy! But it’s true.

 

Think about it.

 

Let’s say unarmed black people were no longer killed by police at a higher rate than white people.

 

Would that hurt you?

 

I don’t think so. In fact, it might actually help, because then we could focus on the fact that police in this country kill far too many unarmed people – of any race – than they should. In most countries, they make lots of arrests but kill almost no one. Here, they kill hundreds – thousands!

 

We need to demilitarize law enforcement. We need new training programs that emphasize de-escalation of violence – not a shoot-first-ask questions-later mentality.

 

And it’s hard to focus on that when racism and prejudice get in the way. We need to fix racism first. Only then can we address the root issue.

 

Here’s another example.

 

Let’s say we had truly integrated public schools.

 

No run down under-resourced schools that just happen to serve mostly students of color and yet across town we’ve got the Taj Mahal with marble columns and a broad curriculum that just happens to serve the best and whitest.

 

Instead we’d have schools that serve everyone – a broad mix of cultures, races and ethnicities all properly resourced and offering a broad range of curriculum and extra-curricular activities.

 

Would that hurt you?

 

I don’t think so. In fact, it would actually help because every child would get what he or she needs to succeed. Crime would drop, and even prejudiced and racist attitudes would begin to disappear because it’s harder to hold xenophobic views about people who you actually know because you’ve learned everything with them since you were in kindergarten.

 

There’s one thing you have to understand. Racism isn’t an ideology. It’s a sickness. It’s a virus that blinds people to real truths about the world and makes them more prone to holding views that are just plain wrong.

 

The same with sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and a plethora of modern day maladies that should have gone the way of small pox and polio.

 

Inoculating yourself against prejudice will not hurt you. Living in a society where everyone has the same rights doesn’t impinge on those you already have.

 

Yes, it will mean dismantling white supremacy. But that’s a good thing. You don’t really want the world to prize you just because of the color of your skin.

 

Do you?

 

Do you want to get into college just because you’re white?

 

Do you want to get a job just because of the hue of your epidermis?

 

Do you want the sum total of your value as a human being to be dependent on the way light reflects off your skin?

 

I don’t.

 

I’m white, and I don’t want that for me or my posterity.

 

I want people to judge me for me – not some preconceived notion of who I am based on culturally received generalities and the amount of melanin in my outermost cells.

 

Fuck that shit.

 

I’m me. And if that’s not good enough for anyone they can just go and jump in the river.

 

I don’t need white supremacy. And I don’t want it.

 

I refuse to sit back and accept things I don’t deserve while others are denied what they do deserve just so I can get some free stuff.

 

I refuse to let my society continue to be built on a foundation of prejudice and cruelty.

 

We’re all human beings. It’s time we treated everyone as such.

 

That means everyone gets the same human rights.

 

To paraphrase Oprah – YOU get human rights, and YOU get human rights and EVERYONE gets human rights!

 

For white people that means losing a certain sense of normativity.

 

White will no longer be considered normal. Neither will male.

 

It’s just another way to be – no better or worse than any other.

 

That doesn’t mean being ashamed of your whiteness. Hell. We can revel in it.

 

Imagine reconnecting with all the messy ethnicities we’ve plastered over to claim this homogenous white overclass! Imagine being Polish again, and Czech and German and Scandinavian and so many other nationalities that we barely connect with because we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves as anything other than white — That’s me. Just white. Plain white. Nothing to see here. White.

 

We’ve had to sacrifice a whole lot to get that status. But we don’t have to keep sacrificing. We can be who we are, too.

 

The Alt-Right Nazis are out there in the streets chanting, “You will not replace us.”

 

How about we replace ourselves.

 

Why don’t we redefine who we are as – who we are.

 

Not homogenous. Not white. But specific human beings belonging to various cultural, ethnic and religious groups and societies.

 

Human beings all taking part in the symphony of homo sapia, engaged in a robust love of all things people and a recognition that all people are human.

 

Think for a moment what that truly means.

 

Take a deep breath.

 

Let it in. Let it out.

 

It means letting go of this irrational fear that anti-racism is anti-white.

 

So, let me say it again – no. Black progress will not come at white expense. Nor will female progress or anyone’s progress.

 

Because we go through this life together.

 

We are one race. We are one people – though we are also many – and we will survive or perish together.

 

Take my hand and let’s build a better world for all of us.

 

Let us all benefit.

 

Let us all progress.

 

Together.

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12 thoughts on “Black Progress Does Not Come At White Expense

  1. Dear Steven,

    Black progress has always been at the root of White Rage. There are many examples in our history where Whites destroyed every business and industry former slaves had done from the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Most lynching victims were Blacks perceived to be achievers and not idlers or criminals.

    Now, we are ALL considered to be criminals.

    What now?

    Like

    • My dear Wilma, you are certainly correct. I hope with the article to try to dispel this irrational response from white people to black progress. It is an attempt to both psychoanalyze and delegitimize this pervasive feeling at the heart of many in the white experience. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

      Like

  2. I love your voice Steven and your message. You have the unique ability to capture the totality of our complex, racialized experience with few words, a wry sense of humor (in spite of the seriousness and relative emotional weight of the topic) and a tone of confidence (privilege ?) to code switch freely between the “educator” voice and the “human being” voice- like when you say “fuck that shit…” Knowing that that’s okay and real.

    Peggy McIntosh talks a lot about the power of whites working with whites on these issues that are important and creating these creative “spaces” where the work of awareness and introspection can get done.

    I think you have an entry point here.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Charles, please read my many, many articles on school privatization. First, the public is not unsatisfied with public schools. That’s why almost 90% of students go there. Big business is trying to sell an alternative to make more money. Second, privatization is extremely unpopular in education. No one wants their tax dollars spent behind closed doors. That’s what privatization does. No one wants their tax dollars to become profits for corporations and not go to helping kids learn. No one wants schools to discriminate against students. In short, no one wants privatized schools. Our public schools do an excellent job when compared with international systems and would do even better if we funded them equitably. That’s the problem. They’re being sabotaged.

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  3. No one, including black people, will ever achieve prosperity, when 70+% of all black children are born to unmarried females. (I did not say “women”)

    Like

    • I don’t know, Charles. That seems to be a tired conservative talking point. Coming from a stable family with married parents can be good for children, but not always. If those parents have a toxic relationship, it would be better they were divorced. Better to come from a single parent household where that parent loves you and provides for you than to be from a two-parent household where both neglect you. I’m not buying this one. Sorry.

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    • Charles, your comment communicates that you appreciate the role of family involvement in the success or failure of human beings. Family and upbringing matters, yes!

      And, I’m also thinking about what this article points out–that historically people of color and women haven’t been given the same rights (policy, law) as whites– which also impacts one’s success or failure in society.

      What are your thoughts on how we can advocate for policies and laws that ensure all human beings have the same rights– such as equal labor wages, fair and judicial practices in the justice system, access to quality resourced education, access to mortgage loans in decent neighborhoods, for example?

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      • Your goals are worthy, and I support them. ALL people regardless of race/creed/color,etc. should have equality before the law. You need to read the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, and the various legislation that has been passed in the last decades. It is illegal to have a separate wage scale for white and “colored”. All people must receive the same labor wages, regardless of color. (Last I checked).

        As long as children are assigned to a government school, based on residence, children in economically-depressed areas will receive an inferior education. This is why school choice/vouchers especially help minority and disadvantaged children.

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      • “Government school”? Charles, your Fox News is showing. Do you really believe corporations are great and government is bad? All schools need to be equitably resourced. That’s all. You don’t really want some schools to be run – as many charter and voucher schools are – without duly-elected school boards, without transparency in how the money is spent, with the ability to pocket public funding as profit, with the ability to turn away students for almost whatever reason… etc. etc. Privatized education is a terrible idea. As to everyone getting the same wages, are you in the work force right now? It is incredibly out of touch to think we have wage equity. There are a mountain of studies that show how women, for instance, earn less than men with the same experience in the same positions. The same holds for people of color vs. whites. Facts.

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  4. I do not necessarily believe that corporations are great. I do not necessarily believe that government is bad. I have worked as a civilian for the US Government ,and I am a veteran. The government does some things very well, and some things badly. The government was able to win WW2, and put a man on the moon. (cliche, but true). The government could not win a war against a fifth-rate bunch of rice eaters, wearing pajamas and using bamboo sticks (Vietnam). The government cannot keep drugs out of the country. The government cannot even figure out how to balance the budget. “Government is like fire, a dangerous servant, and a terrible master” – George Washington.

    I have no problem at all, with charter schools, and non-public schools, regardless of how they are run. If non-public schools, do not ” cut the mustard”, and deliver an education which parents are not satisfied with, they will lose students. The discipline of competition, does not apply for government schools.

    I work for a private corporation. All workers in my company, are paid equally, according to the job responsibilities. My supervisor is an African-american woman, and she earns more than I do. So what?

    Like

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