I am a big fan of reassessing. After a project has been deployed and completed, I like to do a postmortem and look at everything that was done correctly, what has failed, and what component we need to improve on to move forward. I feel like at this moment in black people’s lives with an incredible amount of racial strife around us, many people are doing a postmortem on the fight for equality. This week, Terence Crutchher and Keith L. Scott of Charlotte, North Carolina and Tawon Boyd of Baltimore, Maryland were all killed by police while unarmed. While these deaths are eliciting the same outrage as the slayings of Eric Garner of Staten Island, NY and Freddie Gray, also of Baltimore, there is a sense of urgency. Instead of talking about how terrible the police are, there has been more talk of how to move toward justice. Solutions have been suggested and constructive conversations have been had. I have read many essays and posts about how black people can come together and fight racism/white supremacy. Unfortunately, many of these writings have been pleas to white America to come and join in the fight.
It is fascinating in the saddest way to hear and read black and other non-white people beg whites who have no desire to join them in the battle for equality. There have been many writings targeting apathetic whites saying, “White people, you need to recognize your place in this!” or “What type of white person do you want to be?” Planned protests urging whites to join in and stand side by side with blacks and Latinos as we come together and topple white supremacy are scheduled to take place. I stand back and sigh because I believe many non-white people don’t understand that racism is a system, not a feeling.
When I realized that racism/white supremacy was a worldwide entity that encompasses things such as labor, entertainment, law, healthcare, sports, politics and war; that it was a mechanism that touches every facet of life and is not just a racial slur or a hate crime, I viewed the world differently. I then began to study black scholars such as Frantz Fanon, seek out advice from other black and Latino males like Jon Jeter and Al Osorio, as well as to analyze my personal experiences with whites among other people of color. I came to the conclusion that whites as a group had no intentions of stopping the practice of racism. Why would they? It supports their lives in every way possible. White supremacy means white first—everything is created, built, established and formed with whites primarily in mind. All of the non-white people get the scraps.
I have read essays from well-meaning white people that have said in one way or another, “Racism pains and harms whites as much as it does blacks.” I laugh and completely disregard that thought. If whites were so hurt by their oppression of black, Latino, Asians, Native Americans, people of Middle Eastern descent, wouldn’t they stop it? It’s not like white people have no knowledge of the destruction racism has caused. From slavery to reconstruction, thousands of black, brown, and Native American people being lynched, Jim Crow laws being enacted, Japanese internment camps, the Civil Rights struggle, Mexican women being involuntarily sterilized, blacks being over-represented in the penal system, the savagery of the war on drugs, the recent police terrorism that has claimed the lives of unarmed black and brown people in America and the Flint, Michigan water crisis, these examples are just the Cliff Notes version. History has well documented the struggle for humanity by people of color. Racism has been practiced for over 500 years. If it did not stop then, why would it stop now?
Many people of today feel that activities such as sports, music such as hip-hop, and living amongst each other can contribute to ending racism. The theory of socialization and common interests that can be the bridge between races and cultures has been bandied about for years. Jay-Z has said, “Hip-hop has done more for bringing the races together than the Civil Rights Movement.” What Hov and many people miss is that whites and people of color have ALWAYS lived around each other, listened to the same music, played the same sports and eaten at the same restaurants. Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong entertained white audiences for years. After their performances were over, blacks were still lynched. NFL stadiums are consistently packed with white people watching their favorite black athlete score points, yet Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers receives death threats for not standing during the national anthem.
To some non-white people, reaching that white person and making them understand our plight is the Holy Grail. “If we can reach one, then we can reach two and then we can reach them all” is their battle cry. I chuckle in sadness because I believe this is a waste of energy. Part of this thought comes from the belief that whites are ignorant when it comes to racism. “They don’t know what they are doing,” I have said. At one point in my life, I held this belief: “You know, all we need to do is expose them to black culture, to show them that we are human just like they are and to have more dialogue,” I used to say. Dr. Tommy J. Curry of Texas A&M eradicated this notion for me while appearing on the podcast The Context of White Supremacy. Dr. Curry said, “These are not mistaken generational views, but cultural patterns of how white people understand black bodies.” Dr. Curry then further explained, “This behavior happens all across the country. White people have been abusing black people since slavery. It continued through Jim Crow and the amount of arrests of black people. White supremacy is a cultural repetition, something that is dynamic and is reproduced.” Realizing this along with white supremacy being systemic has brought me to a belief that white people cannot be ignorant about the racism they practice. My fellow non-white writers and activists however, aren’t ready to give up on saving white people from themselves. I feel like this is the easy concept to grasp, yet some have such a hard time coming to terms with it. I compare it to a child standing at a window, waiting for the irresponsible father to show up who has disappointed him a hundred times over. The mom looks at the child with sadness and shakes her head saying lowly, “I wish he’d realize that his father isn’t coming to pick him up.”
I believe at this time, Black and other non-white people should concentrate on building up resources and boycotting. Racism/white supremacy only understands the dollar. We should also devote energy to educating other people of color about racism and how it works. There is so much confusion, inaccurate information, and internalized hate amongs us that we need to address this. I recently spoke with an African American man who said, “Racism was dying down until Trump came and now it is flared up.” That’s scary right? Thoughts like these are what we have to deal with. If white people want to get involved in fighting white supremacy, that’s awesome. They should organize among themselves. There has been too much energy devoted to teaching white people how to be “good.” And if they do not, well it is business as usual. The fight for the liberation of my people will go on.
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