This is a Facebook post from Aug. 15, 2017 by Elon James White. I think it is poignant, uncomfortable and absolutely necessary to read. I hope my students, former students, colleagues, friends and family will take the time to read it.
In the wake of the tragedy and hate we've all witnessed in recent days it's very easy to tune out. I'd argue that for some of us it's key to our overall mental health. But there's a lot of you, and I'm specifically speaking of white folks, that are silent right now, literally as Nazis (this is not hyperbole, actual fucking Nazis) march in the streets and plan events throughout our nation.
I've read a lot of white folks expressing that they are not responsible for what we're seeing. That they never owned slaves, they aren't racist, and that they have nothing to feel guilty about because of a few bad people. I'm writing this to say "bullshit." Living in America you benefit daily from the systemic oppression of myriad peoples. It is an absolute fact that America was built on slave labor. The wealth it was able to accumulate couldn't have happened without the subjugation of the indigenous and enslaved.
If you go around screaming about free speech and your 2nd amendment rights? Surprise, my friend, you're benefiting from the same systems that have actively oppressed my community. You get to say what you feel while carrying an assault rifle while the same government that protects that right creates task forces to continue over-policing my community. That over-policing leads to brutality, imprisonment and a subset of society that is constantly fighting to just survive.
Many white folks argue they don't benefit from white privilege while missing the irony that their capability to be oblivious to that privilege is in fact an aspect of said privilege. You are able to ignore race because you can; you grow annoyed with highlighting whiteness because you've grown up so comfortable in the idea that you had no label like the rest of us hyphenated Americans. You are the norm. Everything that's NOT like you is what needs to be defined. At the very first implication that you are part of a group that can be discussed and critiqued you become angry.
The point of these words isn't to outline the many failures of whiteness, it's to highlight just one: your silence in the face of oppression and hate. If you claim to not be racist, to believe in equal rights for all, to reject the very concept that anyone should be treated differently because of their race, religion, etc. then how do you sit in silence? How do you look the other way as the country gives in to the inequality and oppression it was founded on but supposedly has grown past. You say slavery was bad but it's over, yet you don't acknowledge the for-profit prisons, the infiltration of police departments by white supremacists, the fear in which many Black folks and other PoC live with daily.
We talk about those who watched Hitler rise and persecute Jewish folks and others and how they did nothing. And yet in 2017 a lot of America is doing just that. Don't tell me how it's not fair to lump white folks together as you sit quietly as non-whites fight to just be seen as human. When you benefit from a system and say nothing to help the most vulnerable you are part of the problem. You. Sitting there reading this. You. You'll lose your shit and throw "NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE" with incredible intensity but become mute when another unarmed Black person is gunned down by the police or when groups like BLM who are fighting for justice for all are labeled terrorists or simply the flip-side of the KKK.
If you remain silent then you ARE those "white people." You are a card carrying, dues paying member of the "white people" who are a fucking problem. And remember, if I'm not describing you then you shouldn't have any shame or hurt by these words. When I read criticisms of men and patriarchy/sexual assualt, etc., I don't get angry. If I don't fit the description then I don't internalize criticisms and if I do fit the description I need to ask myself some hard questions. And yes, I do believe I need to speak up and to my fellow men about our actions or inaction as many long-time readers/listeners are aware.
Fight the urge to defend whiteness because let's be really honest here. It's unnecessary. Whiteness is doing just fine. Thriving even. White folks can riot under the banner of white supremacy and barely get arrested whereas if we were to march against injustice we need gatdamb workshops on what to do when the cops show up and have lawyers on speed dial and pray we don't die.
So the real question here is this: are you the white people that folks are talking about or are you the change that America needs and that history will side with?
Molly Yanity, Ph.D.