White America's Alleged Inner Racist
Any conversation about race these days seems fraught with landmines. No matter how sensitive, open-minded, and respectful we try to be, we never know if what we say will cause an explosive reaction. Once uttered, we are permanently labeled incurable racists.
Take Drew Brees's comment explaining why he stands during the National Anthem and disagrees with those who disrespect the flag. He simply stated that it honors those who fought on the battlefields and for civil rights, reflects all that we've endured, acknowledges that we have a long way to go, but "shows unity ... that we are all in this together, we can all do better and then we are all part of the solution." But it started a firestorm, with the heaviest artillery being lobbed from his fellow football players. The following day, he issued a lengthy apology in which he saw the light, repented, and asked to be saved from his insensitive, ignorant, racist ways.
This is no doubt why many whites say precious little about race; just politely listen and appear to agree even when they don't. It's even difficult for writers to get published, lest we say anything that might rock the racism boat. But if we can't be candid, we will never move beyond the current stalemate.
I acknowledge there are racists, both black and white; we are all capable, white and black, of having racist thoughts; and sadly, sometimes people act on those racist impulses. The only cure is awareness and unity. Dismantling the entire system is not the answer.
But we do need to talk to each other, and, from the white perspective, we are often told no matter what we think of ourselves, we are racists — condemning us to an eternity in racist purgatory; and, we can't possibly know what it's like to be black — putting the kibosh on further discussion.
Your average, decent, non-racist white person doesn't see his place in this country as an entitled, privileged white supremacist where everything he is, owns, and has achieved comes from his privilege to the detriment of the black community.
Yet it is because of our white privilege that we just can't see how racist we are. It's hidden in our DNA. As Van Jones despicably said: "Even the most liberal, well-intentioned white person has a [racist] virus in his or her brain that can be activated in an instant." This sounds like a eugenics horse of a different color and should be, but hasn't been, roundly condemned. Are some black people becoming the very racists they claim to abhor?
What Jones means is that you might not think you are a racist, and indeed, you might have lived an exemplary non-racist life, but this virus is like shingles, waiting for a stressful moment to explode. If a cop kills a black man during an arrest, he must be racist, as opposed to evil, stupid, mentally ill, or power-hungry. If you explain why you stand during the anthem, your inner racist is doing the talking because, by not kneeling, you are racist. If you don't march, kneel, and submit to the mob, your inner racist is in control.
This leaves whites in a place where no matter what is said or done, if the black community doesn't like it or agree with it, we are racists.
As for the common refrain that white people "can't possibly know what it is like to be black," it silences any further conversation.
Juan Williams echoed this sentiment responding to Drew Brees's apology: "I think sometimes people, even those who work with black people, don't understand what it's like to be black in America; why I have to worry when my kids would go out at night in a way I think white parents don't have to worry; and I wish that he had more sensitivity in that way."
Prohibiting whites from commenting on the black condition in America because they don't know what it is to suffer under the yoke of white privilege sells short the entirety of humanity by limiting our understanding to only that which we have personally experienced. To anyone who actually believes this, listen up: all of G-d's children can imagine plenty. We can feel it in our pithy core, see it in our mind's eye, experience it through a book, a movie, or a personal account. If we didn't, we'd all be monsters.
If it were true that we cannot relate to the plight of another race, then why bother with Black History Month, commemorating the Holocaust, or studying the Trail of Tears? Why have museums and war memorials? Why not burn Beloved, Schindler's List, Windtalkers, and The Rape of Nanking?
If none of this is possible, how is it that J.C. Watts's father was able to get a Klan member to renounce his racist ways, as he recalled in What Color is a Conservative? How do we get an Oskar Schindler or an Underground Railroad or a Civil Rights Act?
Most relevant for today, why bother protesting? If I cannot possibly understand a black parent's fear that his child might be killed when arrested by a white cop; if I cannot be appalled by one race's-hate for another; if I cannot understand that George Floyd might not have been killed if he was white because he couldn't have been arrested in the first place or that he was killed because of racial animus, then why march?
Maybe those leading the movement to dismantle America should focus more on our inner Schindler than our inner racist.