The Problem with White Guilt

lynchingI recently read an article by Mark Judge in The Daily Caller entitled, The end of my white guilt. Judge recounts how the theft of his bike on Good Friday made him let go of white guilt. Judge concludes that black people use “…the moral authority of past generations for their own personal gain and self-aggrandizement.”

But his grand conclusion is that black pain is no different than white pain, which is the fall-back position of the “but I’m not a racist” crowd. We’re all alike and it’s black people who insist on holding on to the past.

It’s a convenient position. It allows white people to take no responsibility for current discriminatory laws and policies and to blissfully attribute racism to the willingness of black people to play the race card.

Of course, they never consider that black people play the cards but white people deal the deck. When we insist that racism is still a factor in the social, political, and economic structure of this country, they shake their heads in dismay, quickly declare, “I’m not a racist,” and feel that should be the end of the conversation.

We are not all alike; we share a history but the role in that shared history is very different based on many factors, including race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and nationality. This fixation on our being one homogeneous group generally results in those who are non-white being pressured to assimilate as fully as possible, giving up our own cultural identities and accepting fully the culture of the white majority.

Emmett Till

Emmett Till

That is the foundation of the “English only” movement. Ask Native Americans about the efforts in the United States to forcibly transform Native American cultures to European culture from 1790 to 1920. The assimilation policy included removing Native American children from their families and sending them to boarding schools to receive a “civilized” education. Canada developed a similar system of assimilation that involved removing Indian children from their families and placing them in residential schools with a goal of forced assimilation.

I’m tired of the generalization on the part of far too many white people that they have somehow borne and continue to bear the great burden of white guilt and that they’ve been treated so unfairly. Bullshit.  If I generalized to that extent, I would mistrust all white people and shoot them on sight.

How often do you hear of a group of bored black teenagers deciding to kill a white man and run him over with a truck for sport? (Anderson story) How often have  black men dragged a white man behind a truck simply because he’s white? (James Byrd) How often have black people covered their faces and burned crosses in people’s yards to intimidate them? (Ohio cross burning 2012) How many times has a black person been acquitted after killing a 14-year-old white boy, beating him so viciously that his dead body was unrecognizable as a human being? (Emmett Till, disturbing photo) How many 14-year-old white boys have been tried by an all black jury, convicted of murder and executed with no physical evidence tying him to the murders? (George Stinney Jr.)

How many white bodies swinging from trees with the signs of torture applied before death have been immortalized in photographs and postcards that show hundreds and in some instances thousands of people–men, women, children, grandma and grandpa–all standing around on a family outing to watch the lynching of men and women, thrilled when the victim was a woman eight months pregnant (Remembering Mary Turner) whose belly was ripped open to insure the death of her unborn child? (American LynchingWithout Sanctuary, from Life magazineBill Moyers Journal)  All of these documented events took place in the 19th and 20th century, not some distant days of slavery.

There have been no instances of black adults spitting on white school children as they attempted to integrate public schools. And now, in the 21st century, black boys are being shot down for walking on a neighborhood street or for the way they are dressed; five black people in Oklahoma are shot by two white men who selected the victims based on skin color.

I’m tired of white people insisting, “Black people commit crimes and black people kill white people, too,” as if that somehow mitigates the killing of black people by white people simply based on race. Of course we kill people, too. People have been killing according to the tale of Cain and Abel since the beginning of time and there is nothing acceptable about the murder of anyone for any reason.  However, perpetrating this nonsense that white people are justified in fearing black people and that black people are somehow inherently dangerous and dishonest is blatant racism.

No one ever asked white people to feel guilt. What we asked for was to be treated with equality. What we received was decades of Jim Crow laws that lasted well into the 20th century. The civil rights movement isn’t ancient history and racism and racial prejudice is alive and thriving in the 21st century.

Most of the time I am in a conciliatory mode when it comes to race relations. When I was 14, I learned to play the guitar, stuck peace signs all over my guitar case, and earnestly sang Kumbayah and all the verses of We Shall Overcome. I believed with all the earnestness of the very young that our newly integrated school system was the start of a better society where we all lived together in brotherhood and sisterhood. I held on to that belief for as long as I could, with the desperation of a novice trying to climb a rock wall.

Somewhere, deep in a brightly lit recess of my soul, that belief still survives. But after 57 years on this earth, I find myself having more and more moments when the light is so dim that I can’t see it any more and I truly wonder if has been extinguished. So far, like Pandora, I always eventually find that light again. But I’m older and I’m tired.

sheria reidEvery day that I come across blatant racism, splattered across the Internet, shouting from social networking sites, reported on in the daily news, it swallows a bit of that light and I fear that one day I will remain in the darkness, angry and bitter and thoroughly disillusioned.

If you are white, and you feel uncomfortable or even attacked by my consistent reference to white people as including every white person in this country, you have experienced to some extent what it is like to be black in this country when every infraction committed by any black person is attributed to the character of all black people.

Sheria Reid
The Examined Life

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Comments

  1. Denver Goddess says

    I’d love to see one psychologist say it’s healthy to harbor hatred at a group for the deeds of some of their long dead. Just one.

  2. Denver Goddess says

    If whites should have white guilt for slavery hundreds of years ago, then why don’t blacks have black guilt for their high crime and STD rates here, now, and today?
    The shoe never fits on the other foot, does it?

  3. jwhanson43 says

    Sigh. What many people who aren’t white don’t understand is that the past behavior of white people both gives us privilege and blame/hatred/resentment we don’t deserve.

    The whole of past (and in lesser degrees still present) racism gets played out on us by brothers and sisters of other mothers. I’ll explain.

    Nobody checks themselves for what they did/thought/said more than good, liberal white people. It’s a terrible state of mind to live in, always questioning oneself, never being able to really just be yourself, freely, openly, without fear of saying or doing the wrong thing somehow. We are forever “the oppressor,” even if good folks of all races know we personally are not.

    If i as a white man even begin to try to explain in conversation with somebody that what i go through socially as that white man has all kinds of stuff they can’t imagine, just like i’ve been told all my life is true (and i believe it and support it) of others, i’m shut down, laughed at, or worse. No matter what, at that moment my individual self isn’t seen/heard, and everything gets thrown into a historical perspective where what i’m talking about as far as my perspective gets put up against what they go/went through. Never is what my experience today, where i never wanted the past to happen like it did, vote against the wrongs as much as i can, stand up for the right as much as i can, never am i heard as an individual, instead it’s “that’s not as bad,” or worse. All i’m saying is it’s different, and it’s time people stopped putting us into the context of what they go through (because most whites respect and try to learn that, and have for all their lives) and just hear us.

    It’s simply like this: White people, especially white men, of today are paying the karmic price for what hundreds of years of white men did. It’s a white thing, and while of course it’s very different, it is a thing. And it’s not cool in a unique way. I am the oppressor outside skin. We all act subconsciously to all the different “demographics” we’re around, and white men are seen, even if subconsciously, as anything from inherently racist, to subtly so, to uncool, to nice but kinda racist unintentionally…and it’s to the point where we’re in a way dehumanized in a new way. We’re put up against a history (and somewhat present but not nearly as bad) in a way our individualness isn’t engaged, often.

    No other group of people check themselves for “bad thoughts” and words like white people. Along with this is wrong thinking that only whites can be racist. History isn’t learned with a wide enough perspective. All kinds of people have been all kinds of bad, everywhere, if you look past just US history. What we find is that many people aren’t really checked for their racist thoughts and words, actions. Non white racism and the such often goes right on, nobody saying anything out of fear.

    “No one knows what it’s like, to be the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes.” We “own” the history of white people in the present anger, righteous anger, of non white people, even though we had nothing to do with it, often come from families who did something about it, and weren’t rich.

    Mainly though, while many things go against non white people, those folks can be freer in their minds, in how they think, talk and act. When you are, by how we all associate others and ourselves, “innocent,” you are freer. When you are in the same way “guilty,” or associated with privilege you didn’t want/ask for…you just are not free in the same way, if you are an aware, caring person in the first place.

    Please non white people and especially american black people, try to get your heads around this.

  4. remorseful grouchy person says

    I am white and I have never experienced white guilt. I’m not ashamed of the race I am.

    I don’t like slavery either. But if you look at the big picture slavery has existed in America for a couple hundred years (and ended here) but it has existed for thousands upon thousands of years throughout human history, in just about every nation.

    I don’t go into the store and see one water fountain labeled “blacks only” and the other “whites only”. That happened 50 years ago but not today. I’m not apologizing for the how a bunch of morons who I didn’t even know behaved long before I was even born.

    I’m white and unlike the common stereotype of white people, I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family with wealthy parents who paid my way through college (and I am grateful, I wouldn’t had learned anything on my own), I grew up dirt poor.

    And I am almost positive that if I were to go on a walk at night through a ghetto area, I would probably get shot just for being white.

    I expect to get hated for this post, maybe I am hateful, guess so, but honesty is the first step to reasoning together eh.

    My grandparents WERE racist, would always talk about how black people were “inferior”, I thought it was BS, got up, left the room, made me so angry, I was just a child, because I DON’T believe people are superior or inferior based on their skin color, that means you’re not inferior for being black and I’m not to blame for being white either. It’s a two way street. And racism DOES happen against white people as well as blacks, both are wrong, its the exact same thing.

    As far as history like I said, sounds harsh for me to say this, but its true, slavery has gone on for thousands of years all around the world, EVERY race owned slaves, I’m not justifying slavery, But I AM saying, if people are accountable for the deeds of their ancestors, EVERYONE is in trouble (not just white people), it was African slave owners who sold slaves to American colonists to begin with. Slavery just happened to END in America when people finally got their heads out of their asses (unfortunately slavery still exists in some parts of the world today)

    To be brutally honest… 50 years ago…black people WERE victims…they DID have a right to bitch…a serious right to bitch…but to day….I think people just WANT to be victims…I don’t see black people being denied jobs based on skin color, if anything they get sent to the front of the line because employers have quotas to fill (which is a good thing). College kids who are colored might qualify for more grants for being colored… they aren’t forbidden from going to college based on skin color, maybe social class, but shit, I grew up in a dirt poor family too, many white people do.

    Ya, and I know people will hate me for this post.

    I don’t think I am racist, racism is believing one race to be superior or inferior to another.
    I have met blacks who believe that their race is superior to whites.
    I have met white people who believe their race is superior to blacks.
    Me personally, I think no race is superior or inferior, I’m just tired of the BS on both sides.

    As far as white people being victims of racially-motivated crimes… here’s an example… its a 13 year old boy who got followed home from school by two 16 year old black boys, held down, with gasoline poured over his head, lit on fire, while being told “you deserve this whitey” ….”YOU deserve this WHITEY” – That wasn’t motivated by racism, was it?

    http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-03-04/news/31122324_1_white-boy-fire-tv-station

    Stories like this is the reason I’m cranky. You just don’t hear about it because it doesn’t get a lot of news coverage. It happens on BOTH sides.
    Of course if it happens against a 13 year old WHITE boy it doesn’t count, right? Of course not.

    I think the Trayvon Martin case was also wrong…poor kid was just walking through his neighborhood…got followed, stalked,
    and eventually killed because he “looked” like a trouble maker..ya…right..

    I like some of the things Martin Luther King said, about people being judged by the content of their character instead other color of their skin.

    Most people aren’t really anti-racist today though. Most people are just pro-(their own race) and then turn around to claim to be anti racist.

    And I’m tired of the BS. From every side. Very tired.

    As far as minority-majority, that is relative as well. If an Asian person lives in a city that is predominantly black, they are the minority in that city.

    If a white person lives in a city that is predominantly Hispanic, the white person is the minority in that city.

    I wish people would stop believing that they are either
    A.) inferior or
    B.) superior, based on their skin color.
    Personally, when I meet people, I couldn’t give a shit less about a person’s skin color. Seriously. I couldn’t

    But I’ve heard people rant before “We’ll I was at the grocery store and the lady behind the desk forgot to give me back all my change I bet it was because of my skin color! That’s its what it was! Its my skin color!” ……BULLSHIT! Get REAL. The lady was probably just stressed out and had a rough day. THATS IT. NOTHING TO do with your skin color!

    I DO recognize that sometimes people are truly victims racially-motivated crimes. I don’t doubt that incidents of crimes based on racism DO happen. However, when people cry wolf over and over and fucking over again because they WANT to feel like victims of something, it just gets on my fucking nerves. It really does.

    In general, I know I was probably rude as tomatoes in this article, but for the past 3 years now I’ve been on online forums listening to people bitch, and I really needed to get it out of my system, I might have to get in out of my system again in another 3-5 years.
    I don’t have anything personally against you or your article, maybe you are a really cool person, who knows, but I am so tired of the stupidity on both sides of this issue. I guess you officially have a right to hate me, but hey, honesty is the first step right.

  5. Tyrannus Evisceratus says

    How about we use our 80% majority to do what we want like we always have and I will forget what I just read.

  6. J Schacht says

    Great article. One can’t come away after reading it ,without being touched by what Ms. Reid says. I am white and if I am honest with myself I must say that what this article says is true. I can also understand why the light  in your soul is so dim, as racism  is still alive and well after all of these years. I hope your light, though dim, continues to burn, because as long as it does there is hope. There have been positive changes, although slow in coming, they are happening. Thanks for making all of us, take a moment  to really look within 

  7. R. J. Fields, Jr. says

    Sheria,

    It is either plain common sense, or wisdom based on experience, that no person can truly feel what another person feels, yet we can all do whatever is in us to understand and empathize with each other.  Yes, I’m white, 66 yrs. old, from a small Texas town that was racially divided; but I was fortunate in that I had parents and also teachers who delivered a message that we all are equal and deserving of love and respect. I learned as a child that, although color was an obvious social and economic barrier, it should never have been so and was to be fought against; that blacks, Hispanics, everyone deserved friendliness and compassion, education, attention, acceptance, etc.  It has been my experience and now my attitude that guilt is a nearly useless emotion which serves almost no one well.  It is often a mask for many other unresolved issues, including fear.  For myself, what I have seen is that anger and intimidation, on anyone’s part, creates a divide that then must first be overcome and healed before the underlying difficulties can be addressed.  And restraint is harder for the oppressed, the downtrodden, the forgotten, because there are times when peaceful, non-confrontational change seems to go nowhere.  Wounds heal quickly for some; painfully slowly for others.  It is hard, if not impossible, to predict.  There is human resilience, yet there is also a limit to banishment and suffering.

    I yearn for an end to racism, to bigotry, to hate, regardless of the source.  Certainly, there are cultural differences to every ethnic group, but my hope is that those differences are seen as far less than our common humanity; that what we share far exceeds whatever we cling to that makes us separate.  It is a road that we will all continue to travel for some time.  The outrageous, abhorrent conduct of racists is to be always and everywhere condemned, while we all look deeply into our own selves to unveil any lingering hostility, smugness or self-delusion.

  8. Nance R Meeker says

    The only proper and useful response to a personal allegation of racism is, “Tell me more. What am I missing? What can you teach me?” Ms. Reid does us the service of responding to those questions passionately, eloquently and informatively.

  9. says

    Well, while I am white, I don’t happen to have any White Guilt. My family were abolitionists for 200 years before the Civil War and were Civil Rights advocates from 1865 until the present day. 

    I do understand the feelings of many white people that they are somehow being made to feel that they are personally responsible for injustices that occurred over 140 years ago that they believe they had no part in. I understand that because in my mid twenties I began to feel that way. Then I started a business partnership with two African-American friends.

    Although at that point it had been 119 years since the Civil war, and some 22 years since the passing of the Civil Rights Act, I quickly discovered that even in the Liberal environs of Pasadena, racism against African-Americans was alive, very well and not too very subtle. African_american people face racism in subtle and not subtle ways every day. Spending a great deal of time under various circumstances with African-American people makes this fact unmistakably and painfully clear.

    White Privilege is the privilege to not have to know or see certain things and those certain things are the daily injustices still imposed on African-Americans by the general American culture. To add extreme insult to injury, the way any non African-American minority knows it has arrived to parity with whites is to be able to insult and denigrate African-Americans in public.

    Truely, until African-Americans in America are free from this injustice, none of us can be free.

  10. Jeffrey Berger says

    Perhaps it is worth sharing a conversation I had with a neighbor this morning. The neighbor, a right-winger formerly from a red southern state, engaged me in conversation while I was bringing the trash to the curb (how apt and ironic). The topic uppermost on her mind was the Trayvon Martin case, and her talking points reminded me of Fox News spin.“George Zimmerman should not be prosecuted,” she said. “Really?” I asked. “One dead teenager, perhaps innocent, and you are telling me there should be no accountability under law!”“Well, maybe the kid wasn’t innocent,” she added.Growing annoyed with the conversation, I replied: “And maybe the kid WAS innocent.  There is one segment on the 911 tape beyond dispute – when the 911 operator asks Zimmerman if he is pursuing the suspect; and Zimmerman replies, ‘yes,‘ and the 911 operator states with perfect clarity, ‘We don’t need you to do that.’ Thereupon, Zimmerman make a fateful decision to continue the pursuit with fatal consequences.”“But it was his job,” she replied. “He was the neighborhood watch coordinator!”“Wrong!”  I said.  “Zimmerman was a self-appointed vigilante who appointed himself. The Sanford police chief even admitted that watch volunteers are NOT encouraged to carry weapons. Furthermore,” I added, “a coordinator of the police volunteer program admonished Zimmerman last year for vigilante behavior. Yet, you refuse to see the poor judgement and impulsive conduct exhibited by George Zimmerman!”“I am sure the special prosecutor will decide to drop the case.”“Don’t be so sure. It is not the job of the public or the media to engage in idle speculation or decide the facts of a case which only a jury is empowered to do.”“How will justice be served by putting Zimmerman on trial?”“If I were a young Black teenager and I was accused of a crime that I did not commit, I would NOT WANT YOU ON MY JURY because I don’t think you are capable of weighing evidence in a fair and impartial manner.”Scratch one neighbor who will probably never talk to me again. I mention this morning’s conversation because I think it is representative of how partisanship clouds objectivity and, most important of all, how these kinds of rationalizations fueled by media spin disguise underlying and systemic racism.I refused to back down just for the sake of neighborly relations. I chose to STAND MY GROUND and not let this uninvited and unwelcome conversation go unanswered. I am curious to speculate which one of us puts our house up for sale first.

  11. says

    I naively thought that the election of Barack Obama would be a start in the healing of racist wounds and move us forward.  I naively thought that having a man of color as President of these United States would set forth a new era of respect and dignity for people of every race. Maybe America is finally on its way to true democracy, true freedom. How terribly wrong and naive that hopefulness was.  We have watched in horror a new racist agenda spring forth. These racists try to hide it, but their veils are so thin.  It’s Fox News.  It’s politicians like Rick Santorum with hateful words on the tip of their tongues. It’s the lies and deceit of the police department in Sanford, Florida. It’s the Tea Party.  It’s the Prison Industrial Complex making billions of dollars with modern day slavery. It’s the countless other George Zimmermans out there just waiting to “stand their ground”. It’s the people who depict our President, a magna cum laude Harvard graduate,  as a primate.  What is so despicable to me is the comfort in which these racists spew their hatred and bigotry. They really believe that they are right to think and behave this way.  It is disturbing, sickening and disheartening. 
    I am white and know that I can never truly understand the black experience in these United States having not lived it.
    I can only say I’m sorry and help to keep working towards a better tomorrow for all people.  
    Honestly, it just doesn’t seem like enough though.

    • Tyrannus Evisceratus says

      I hate how when Barrack Obama was running for President it was like guys if we all vote for Barrack it’s gonna be the end of racism.
      Really it was the end of white guilt all the white people were like well all done with that slavery thing no more feeling guilty.
      It was a pretty obvious trap and everyone sprang it. Nobody actually expected John McCain to win, and didn’t need to. He needed to be a symbol for all the white people to look at and be he is the same color as me, but I am going to vote for the black man and not be racist.
      Now everyone is trying to back pedal Barrack included and be wait racism still exists.
      The white response “no it doesn’t.”

  12. Sschacht says

    An honest commentary on life yesterday and, sadly, today.  If you read only the first 1/4 or 1/2 of the article and stopped, then it is decidedly addressing you.  If you read to the end and thought, “My god, she’s right,”  don’t be afraid to finish the conversation with others.  Ms. Reid gives us clear and brilliant insight.

  13. tnlib says

    Extraordinarily insightful and profound, Sheria. While it’s easy to reach back and bring up all kinds of examples of man’s inhumanity to man, such as the Holocaust, these tragic events aren’t really relevant to today’s racism in today’s America.  Attempting to whitewash black history – the black experience – in this country is not much different from media pundits saying “The Democrats do it, too” when discussing some transgression on the part of Republicans.  Granted, this is a bit of an oversimplification, but in both cases, even if true, what does it have to do with the current situation?

    People need to re-read paragraphs 9 and 10, all rather recent events in our short history – all part of the social fabric/mores of our society and, in far too many cases, legally sanctioned. In a nation supposedly built on law and equality, think of all the members of white supremacist groups who have been tried by “their” peers for the murder of an African-American and who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, were set free. This mind set has been handed down through the generations and continues to this day – most especially in Southern states where the incidences you describe have taken place. There was a time when I thought education would help bring an end to this kind of thinking, and in many cases it has, but not in states where education ranks so low as to be almost non-existent.

    “No one ever asked white people to feel guilt. What we asked for was to be treated with equality.” I think this is the crux of the matter and perhaps what your adversaries are missing.
     

  14. Bea Gilmore says

    Sheria, don’t let your inner light dim, don’t become disillusioned by what you read/hear/see around you. Certainly I can’t speak from the same kind of experiences as you, or from the same kind of cultural influences that made you who you, or made me who I am. You are correct: we are not a homogenous group of people here in this country. Never have been. It is hard to read about the tragic people/events you have linked here… but the horrible facts are horrible facts when one group/race brutalize individuals from another group/race. I haven’t personally experienced the hate based on race/gender/life-style. But I know others who have. We aren’t post-racial yet… I’d hoped we were getting closer, though. You have put yourself out there with this well-written article… I applaud you.

  15. Rhonda says

    Sometimes I find it so difficult to understand why white people like Mike Judge waste time trying to be “cool” and “down with the brothers” instead of simply treating black people as, well…people. You have said it well, Ms. Reid. If white people truly listen, articles like The End of My White Guilt won’t be written by the disillusioned who finally decide that they are tired of playing the “I am better than other white people game” but don’t know how to get on with their lives and just treat black people as equals. Living such a calculated life seems really sad and tiresome so I’m glad he’s ending his white guilt but I think he would feel even better if he would release some of his stereotypes.

  16. Reggie Brown says

    Every day that I come across blatant racism, splattered across the Internet, shouting from social networking sites, reported on in the daily news, it swallows a bit of that light and I fear that one day I will remain in the darkness, angry and bitter and thoroughly disillusioned.

    I feel your pain Sheria. Imagine how worse it is for me, a black gay man, to see the same kind of hatred you refer to directed toward me from my relatives and our local church. To hear about Jesus’ love and acceptance, but then be denied acceptance by my own my community.
     
    What you say about racism goes double for homophobia. All we’ve ever asked for is to be treated equally. But there are too many in our community who will never change as long as they can use the Bible to justify their hatred.
     

    • says

      Reggie, I understand your pain as well. Our community has a long way to go in when it comes to acceptance of our gay brothers ad sisters. The hateful anti-gay rhetoric needs to be counteracted every time it rears its head.  My state is attempting to amend our state constitution to define marriage as only being between a man and a woman.  Some people actually want to enshrine bigotry in the state constitution which is supposed to uphold the civil rights of all. There are many groups united to oppose the amendment but  I fear that hate and ignorance will win and it may receive sufficient votes to pass. If so, then we’ll have to challenge its constitutionality and fight it in the court system. What we cannot do is simply accept bigotry. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  17. Phyllis says

    Passionate and powerful analysis, especially your final sentence. Mark Judge’s experience is classic NIMBY, the act of believing in something – until it affects you personally in a negative manner. I know of people who oppose the death penalty – except in the case of someone who murdered their loved one. Mr Judge was comfortable being an arm-chair liberal until he had a bad experience, and immediately his inner Bull Connor surfaced. His bike got stolen, and his conclusion was that the thief “had to” be a black person because “they” lived in the surrounding poor neighborhoods, and he just knew none of the nearby white people could possibly have anything to do with it. His reasoning leading to the conclusion that “black pain and white pain are equal” is absurd – the pain of having his bicycle stolen equals the pain of a mother whose son has been lynched? Your chilling and tragic illustrations highlight the reasons why his argument is so hollow. I hope you know enough people of all hues whose courage and dedication to justice have remained steadfast in the years you’ve known them; that may help keep the light from going out altogether.

  18. Rocketb52 says

    Excellent. Should be mandatory reading for every white person who has said: “We make too much of the race thing,” which a friend said to me just today as we discussed Trayvon’s shooting. Bravo, Sheria. . .

    How much longer this struggle will go on I have no way of knowing, but I do know that many generations will have to come and go. In the meantime, when justice fails as pitifully as it did in February with the shooting of a blameless teen, we, the people, must hold our system accountable. My God, if we can’t even get together on that, how can anyone say race plays too much of a role in this whole terrible thing?

  19. Ashanti Jackson says

    This fixation on our being one homogeneous group generally results in those who are non-white being pressured to assimilate as fully as possible, giving up our own cultural identities and accepting fully the culture of the white majority.

     
    Huh? What the heck is the culture of the white majority? I was raised in a mixed race family, and my white relatives are as different from each other as they are from my black relatives. Some of them are descendents of people who were attacked, terrorized, raped and made into slaves by other white people (Celtics and red-haired northern Europeans that still carry the genes of the Vikings who invaded repeatedly for centuries). Some of them are Jews, whose ancestors have been both persecuted and also persecutors, who committed massive genocide toward non-Jews at levels more vast than the Holocaust. My Hispanic relatives are descendents of imperialistic invaders from Spain who overthrew and bred with native Central Americans. One of our lineages came from Russia, where the Czar killed some 30 million people. My African-American lineage hails from a continent that experienced thousands of years of tribal warfare, including genocide and enslavement by blacks against other blacks. My Native American ancestors (a small component of our mixed-DNA family group) also committed atrocities against other tribes for thousands of years before white skinned people came to this continent. Well, perhaps we should say the white people who came BACK to this continent, since there may have been Caucasians here 10,000 years ago that were wiped out by descendents of today’s native Americans who arrived via the Bering Strait.
     
    I’ve come to realize that all people and all cultures have descendents who likely brutalized others in order to survive. Tribalism is human nature. In reality, the amount of inter-racial oppression that has occurred throughout history pales in comparison to the amount of SAME-skin oppression. That is primarily because people of similar skin colors resided in the same areas of the world. All people throughout history have jockeyed for power and resources. Most countries don’t even have records of atrocities committed between people of the same skin color. We know that Mao Tse Tung killed some 60 million people; Mao Ze-Dong killed 50-70 million people in China and Tibet from 1950-1969. That’s as recent as the white on black atrocities the author refers to in this country. Not that we have to compare oppressions, but the scale of what’s happened in the U.S. pales when compared to some other parts of the world.
     
    More gays were killed in the Holocaust than African-Americans during the same century. The anti-gay fervor is just another facet of our “us versus them” mentality. Our brains are hard wired for in-group recognition and preference if necessary for survival, but is flexible and allows for cooperation and coexistence when that survival strategy is beneficial. Where we see those tribal lines is key; it doesn’t have to be so black and white.
     
    I don’t think we can stop contemporary racism when we’re clinging to historical racism as an excuse for our failures today. The past affects the present, but it doesn’t have to define the future. Unfortunately, racism can be learned experientially as well as taught. We need to end the experientially learned stereotypes if we want to eliminate racism. Is it giving up your culture to wear a suit and tie instead of glorifying the gangsta look with our hoodies? My ancestors wore some pretty strange clothes, from kilts to Jewish kippahs to loincloths. I’m willing to celebrate them all without getting stuck in the past. And I’m willing to resist using the N-word to impress my homies. Does that make me a sell-out to white culture? If so, which of the white cultures are you referring to?
     

    If you are white, and you feel uncomfortable or even attacked by my consistent reference to white people as including every white person in this country, you have experienced to some extent what it is like to be black in this country when every infraction committed by any black person is attributed to the character of all black people.

     
    If “every infraction committed by any black person is attributed to the character of all black people,” then why did so many white people vote for our first black president? Could it be that in Obama they saw themselves, or recognized someone who was part of their group whatever his skin color? Perhaps they saw a well spoken intelligent man who could articulate a vision for the future. Does that mean he’s too white? No, it means the part of our culture that glorifies gangsta violence and the gangbanger look is a dead end.
     
    We’re not in a post racial society yet, but the best way to end the stereotypes is to stop reinforcing them.
     

      • Denver Goddess says

        She is not correct. White culture is clearly superior. IQ and national accomplishment clearly correlate, and blacks have some of the lowest IQs on the planet. Truth hurts.

    • says

      So much hostility, Ashanti, mixed with naivete or ignorance and a smidgen of identity crisis. Take you pick.  I write of American race relations, not the history of race in the world. Maybe you should do some reading on white privilege, it might help you gain some perspective. President Obama’s election is a positive event but not an indicator that we live in a post racial society. Quite frankly, you appear to have little understanding of the concept of assimilation or the many different ways that culture is defined. I would explain it to you but I don’t have time because I need to go out and impress my homies by using the n-word and engage in glorifying gangsta violence with my peeps.

      • Ashanti Jackson says

        I’m not ignorant, nor am I naïve about white privilege. I studied at an Ivy League college and took my share of African American Studies classes. I also looked beyond American race relations to try to figure out why so many other groups throughout history have had violent conflicts. I try to identify patterns and commonalities, both on the side of the oppressed and the oppressors. I’ve researched the biological, physiological and cultural effects on social behavior. But mostly I’ve done a lot of thinking about this because I want to find solutions.
         
        I have white ancestors who fought in the civil war against slavery, some of whom died so my other ancestors’ freedom. You think I have an identity crisis? No, I’ve just rejected the narrow minded definition that tries to make everything black and white, or worse, uses race as an excuse. I’m an interesting mix of ethnicities and cultures, none of which are better than the others. I’m perceived as a black woman, and as such, am treated by others according to their perceptions and misconceptions.
         
        I don’t need to glorify the gangbanger stereotype to know who I am. I reject the misogyny and violence in rap as much as that found in heavy metal. They’re both cruel manifestations of hatred and fear. I don’t think I’m assimilating into white culture when I speak, dress and act in a professional and responsible manner. On the contrary, I believe that stereotypes can be experientially learned, and that we reinforce and perpetuate racism, or tear it apart by our own actions. As I already said, we’re not in a post racial society yet. We can move forward by recognizing that we are one of many components of our rich American culture, as are the many very different groups of white skinned people who bring a variety of cultural delights to this still imperfect Union.  

        • Denver Goddess says

          White privilege is a concept cooked up by Marxist critical theory hucksters. Question THAT and then move forward from there.

  20. Mark Olmsted says

    The problem with Mike Judge and his ilk is that they imagine black on white crime (which is far less frequent than Eyewitness News would leave us to believe) is somehow racially motivated. Therefore they tally up all such instances and line them up against instances of white on black racism and say “See, we’re even.”  Getting mugged sucks, certainly, but any mugger will tell you his motivations had nothing to do with race.  A crime perpetrated by a black person against a white person for a real or perceived gain is equivalent to a white person committing a crime against a white person for a real or perceived gain. It is not equivalent to a white person perpetrating a hate crime against a black person merely because they are black, and solely to inflict harm. These false equivalencies have got to go.
    The other problem is that white privilege is invisible to white people, to us it’s just normal.  Of course we don’t get followed around in a store, for example, or have to warn our kids about being extra respectful to police officers who pull them over for no reason at all.  (because white kids don’t get pulled over for no reason at all.)  Just because you can’t see your privilege, fellow white people, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Does that make you a racist? No. But you can at least acknowledge that you benefit from being part of the predominant power-wielding class.
    The white whiners who complain about how easy the system makes it for poor black people make me laugh. Not a one of them would take a pill to wake up black tomorrow, not for a million dollars, much less a low-income housing voucher and Medicaid. And yet when I posed this question to the black men I was in prison with, a lot of them said they’d be very curious to know what it was like to be white, even poor.  Mmhh. If being black is so much easier, why is that?

    • Ashanti Jackson says

      The problem with Mike Judge and his ilk is that they imagine black on white crime… is somehow racially motivated.

      Did you even read Mike Judge’s article? There was no racial motivation in the theft of his bike, and he never implied there was. What he said was that after the theft, his liberal friend gave me a lecture about racial profiling and expected him to forget about the bike, as if whoever took it deserved to keep it because he might be black, which in her eyes automatically equates to disadvantages. I have black people and white people in my family. The whites had to pay for college, but every one of the African-American members got scholarships at a good university. The same family, with the same financial resources and pretty similar grades and test scores, but the white kids had to work their way through college while those of us who are black got a free ride.
       

      Therefore they tally up all such instances and line them up against instances of white on black racism and say “See, we’re even.” 

      Now you’re just making stuff up. How do you know Mike Judge or anyone else is tallying up white on black versus black on white racism? It’s not OK to be racist against blacks and it’s also not reasonable to automatically forgive a bike thieve just because he’s black.
       

      …because white kids don’t get pulled over for no reason at all…

      Jeez, you’re clueless. Yes, racism exists. But so do other biases. In a predominantly white area, young white men are pulled over more than white women. Profiling is wrong no matter how it plays out. Poor people are at a disadvantage regardless of their race. Look at how badly gays are treated by members of the black religious communities.
       
      I think you’re pretty well steeped in white guilt yourself, Mr. Olmsted. You can’t stop racism by pretending all whites are part of the “predominant power-wielding class.” If we’re going to put an end to privilege, we need to stop it everywhere we see it.  

      • says

        Ashanti, you are a liar. I don’t believe that you  have any black ancestry. I don’t even believe that you’re female. You are masquerading as a mixed race person so that you can trot around and leave your nonsense beliefs all over the place and avoid any consequences. You figure that no one will challenge you because after all, you’re black too. Well I don’t really care if you’re green with purple spots,you are a liar.

        ” The same family, with the same financial resources and pretty similar grades and test scores, but the white kids had to work their way through college while those of us who are black got a free ride. ”

        Do you really expect us to believe that? There is no mythical let’s give black kids a free ride financial aid. I know a lot about financial aid, my legal specialty is education law and includes public education and colleges and universities. Your assertion isn’t even original. It’s the typical cry of whites who insist that the real problem is reverse racism.

        Apparently you didn’t read Judge’s article. He readily concluded that a black person stole his bike, in his own words, “…I knew that the odds were very high that a black person had taken my bike.”

        If you have something to say, use your own name. Express your views honestly, it’s your right to do so.

        • Ashanti Jackson says

          I have light brown skin, nappy hair and interesting facial features. No purple spots. I’m assumed to be black when people meet me. I got a scholarship at Cornell, while my white siblings paid their own way. My sister is much smarter than me, she tests better and maintained a higher GPA, in spite of having to work her way through school.
           
          I’m not typical in any way, so please don’t lump me in with whites who cry about reverse discrimination. On the other hand, I hope we eventually have an equitable society that doesn’t require any prioritization or favoritism. And you’re right, Judge did make a racist assumption. That’s nothing new or surprising. My concern is that his friend acted as if he should forget about the bike, as if whoever took it deserved to keep it because he might be black, which in her eyes automatically equates to disadvantages. We don’t need that.

    • says

      Black on black crime is much more widespread. The white whiners that you speak of see an enormous amount of black crime, regardless of the race of the victim. So from the perspective of the “white whiners”, of course they don’t want to be black. To them being black equals being violent.

      • Smkyle1 says

        Black on black crime is no more widespread than white on white crime. Perpetrators of criminal acts typically commit those acts against people of their own race – this is true at about the same rate for all races. This can be verified by checking with the DOJ and the FBI. You are wrong but your belief is never-the-less held by most people. It is this belief that justifies racial profiling and the host of other injustices that plague the black community.

          • says

             S. Sgt. Slaughter — it was not clear to me that you were voicing the opinion of others. I understand now. Thank you for clarifying that. It is still important to re-emphasize that the so called “black-on-black” crime rate is not substantially different than white-on-white crime, latino-on-latino crime, etc.

      • says

        According to the FBI’s most recent annual Uniform Crime Report, 86% of white victims where victimized by whites and about 94% of black victims were victimized by blacks.  Of course those percentages refer to violent crime. If we add in white collar crime like ponzi schemes and Wall Street swindles, I suspect that white crime would be significantly more.

  21. Lmjtytla says

    Thanks Sheria. The degree to which you care comforts me that you will not be overcome by despair. We need to acknowledge the past, recognize how it shapes the present, and continue to fight the good fight.

  22. Jeffrey Berger says

    Courageous, well documented and deeply felt, thank you so much for sharing this article with us.  It seems we keep shuffling an honest and forthright discussion of race under the rug, or into some indeterminate future, when we so desperately need it NOW.   We need to have this discussion NOW so we can more fully appreciate what it feels like to be on the receiving end of bigotry.

  23. Jim Grimsley says

    I’ve known you since you were young and hopeful and it hurts to hear you so beaten down by sorrow. I am feeling many of the same things. We’re in a period when hate is okay again, and justice is no longer in sight. You are strong and you will endure, and the people who love you, as I do, will always love you. We’ve been apart a long time but I think of you so often as I met you, at once defiant and proud and fearless, and yet aware of all that the world would do to hurt you. I can’t talk about white guilt because I don’t think it really exists. It’s a code that means “I still hate you but I’m not supposed to say it.” And yes, I am white, and I hear the way you are using the generalizations, and I get your point. Many won’t. But that doesn’t matter. But please don’t open yourself up to internet hatred any more than you have to. Your friends don’t want to lose you, even the ones who’ve been out of touch for too long.

  24. Win Richardson says

    Great post. There is no hiding from this truth. America is not a “post-racial” society. We are still locked in a struggle of hate. Bravo to Ms. Reid for an honest take on our times.

  25. Brian Venners says

    Feminist women saw the Nicole Simpson murder as a clear Domestic Violence matter. Millions of American women have been battered, abused and otherwise oppressed by men for at least as long as blacks. Remember how they all rioted a looted after the O.J. verdict? Me neither!

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