You don’t have to look hard to find a poll or a study that shows how optimistically most white people purport to view the racial situation in America as being. A large majority think racism is a minor issue, at best, and a significant number feel that the election of Obama fundamentally fixed everything forever race related forever…or something like that. Furthermore, a recent poll showed a lot believe blacks are the ones dragging out the issue of racism by talking about it and that reverse racism is actually a bigger issue (Fox News viewers).
The thing that gets me about this is that so many white people seem perfectly content to feel this way while ignoring the fact that the vast majority of black people disagree with them on every single one of these points.
Blacks have somehow lost their credibility when it comes to anything we have to say about race for many people in the white community. Blacks, it would seem, are now widely viewed as whiners and unjustified malcontents who are stuck in a raciest past that has nothing to do with post-Obama America. This attitude so many white people appear to have is especially confusing and troubling to me because there are, in fact, many things white people know more about racism than blacks that should make it impossible for them to have these views and opinions.
So, I’m here to write an open letter to white people.
Dear white people,
I would like to ask you to share some important information you alone possess about racism in America with the rest of us, so we can all see what’s really going on with race relations in America. The information you guys have is important, invaluable and not being divulged for some reason.
Perhaps the most obvious example of the type of information y’all have relates to the use of the N-word. Every once in a while a video will pop up of some white person saying the N-word when they don’t realize they’re being recorded and presumably feel safe to say whatever they want. Now, unless I’m supposed to believe the only time this word is ever used by you guys happens to be when there’s a hidden camera around to film it, this happens more than just a few times a year. But you see, the thing is, y’all know this better than me. I’m not saying white people wait for a black person to leave the room and then just start yelling racial epithets, but surely every white person knows some friends, family members or at least acquaintances who say some awful things while in the comfort of a group of people who look like them. Doesn’t this give a clear indication that race is still an issue for many whites?
I also base this claim on my personal experiences growing up in a predominantly white and very southern high school in Virginia. There were more than a few times when people didn’t realize I was around that they let loose with the N-word. They weren’t my friends and it wasn’t directed at me, personally, but it was said nonetheless. If I’ve accidentally heard it said as often as I did by people who would never in a million years have balls to intentionally say in my presence, I can only imagine how often they said it when I wasn’t there to overhear it. But again, my white classmates are the ones who know the answer to that.
Even in my adult life I still see signs of this.
One of the worst things that happens when certain white people make their first black friend and start to get comfortable with them is that they want to tell racist jokes (I really don’t know what’s up with this, but it happens a concerning amount). For someone reason, they always expect it to be a “You tell one then I’ll tell one” kind of situation. It’s not. While there are jokes about the Irish and Poles and whoever, there are no jokes about white people as a whole that I have ever heard (I challenge you to think of one). The end result is watching a white person tell joke after joke about blacks and other minorities. Again, many of y’all know them. Where did they come from? What does it mean that so many of you know so many of them? I mean, do you guys sit around and brainstorm these things? Are they told around the dinner table at holidays? Is it just something a drunk uncle mutters to himself while sitting in the corner at Christmas? This is another aspect of racism that only y’all know the answers to.
Similarly, when Obama recently talked about his experience of hearing car doors lock or seeing women clutching their purses as he walked by, experiences almost every black man has had, I can’t help but to think some of those people were you or at the least someone you know. These car doors aren’t locking themselves. So which one of you is it? Which one of y’all gets scared when they see a black person? Who feels the need to follow us around a store? or call the cops when we’re walking in your neighborhood?
So while just about every black person in America has felt and experienced racism first hand, we keep being told by a large percentage of white people that this is just in our heads and that racism isn’t a serious issue anymore. We are being told this by the same people who know, in some cases, better than us, that this is not true. And again, I’m not saying all white people use the N-word, or tense up when a black person walks by, but surely you all know someone who does. So the next time you’re at a wedding with a couple hundred people and not a single one of the guests is a minority – I’ve seen the Facebook pics – maybe start calling out those in your ranks who are doing this stuff and stop letting them get away with both being part of the problem and denying the problem exists.
A curious black guy.