It happens every week: I get called a racist.
First of all, I don’t hate white people. I just hate to be told that systemic racism and white supremacists aren’t real.
These callers are probably the same folks who believe that white people are struggling with prejudice against them. A poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health this week found that 55 percent of white people say they are discriminated against.
But less than 20 percent of those surveyed said they actually experienced discrimination. So what’s ailing them, really? It feels like the more we talk about inclusivity and equity, the more butt hurt a certain group of white folk feels.
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Think about it. We had a black president. So we needed to make America great again. We found a way to help Dreamers, so we needed to build a wall. A few NFL players are protesting brutality and oppression during the national anthem and President Donald Trump calls their mamas bitches and says they are disrespecting the country.
At the 2004 Super Bowl, when Justin Timberlake ripped off a corner of Janet Jackson’s top and her gold star-plated nipple popped out, he was treated like a victim. Two years later he sang “Dick in a Box” in a “Saturday Night Live” short that won an Emmy. His star continued to shine. And now, 13 years later, he’s invited back to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile Jackson, who has been singing about social injustice and unity for decades, was shamed. Her black boob, which likely nurtures her baby, was treated like a weapon against family values. But yes, white discrimination y’all. Go with that.
When people of color speak out, we are silenced, punished or vilified. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson says POTUS couldn’t remember the name of fallen Army Sgt. La David Johnson in his condolence call and said Johnson “knew what he signed up for.” Trump called her wacky and a liar. But Johnson’s wife, Myeshia Johnson, confirmed he did say those things. Trump says it’s untrue.
Because how dare black people speak out against him. A black man can be killed in Niger for his country, but his wife doesn’t deserve basic decency from a man who values the flag over people.
Oh, the offense of someone standing in their truth and wanting dignity and humanity. For this basic desire, we are called racists, liars or threats.
This is how white cops get away with killing unarmed black people. They say they fear us. Even as videos show the life being choked from a man, a man running away or a child not even getting three seconds to explain he was playing with his toy gun, we are scary. When we protest and say #BlackLivesMatter, we become the new FBI targets. Watch out for those black activists — they are “Black Identity Extremists”!
Meanwhile, white neo-Nazis can terrorize Charlottesville and Trump says there were “some very fine people” in the mix. When are we going to stop demanding these statues of slavers and oppressors come down, POTUS keeps asking. Does he know that in a Military Times poll 30 percent of respondents said that white nationalism is a significant danger to national security?
I guess it’s hard to admit the hazard when you’re complicit in the harm. White supremacy doesn’t need a hood and a torch to be pervasive in our everyday lives. Someone can be nice and still think you don’t deserve a seat at the table. They can be cordial and still not believe in your rights. They can like you but not care enough to stand up for you.
Bias is often so deeply rooted in our psyche we don’t even know it’s there. Like that recent “innocent” Dove commercial that showed a black woman cleansed into whiteness.
Megan McArdle of Bloomberg wrote this week that “white supremacy” is too harsh of a term to describe the injustice, the inequity, the brutality and the hate we are dealing with. Sorry, Megan, white supremacy is poppin’ in America, and I’m not going to tiptoe around the word.
Are you uncomfortable with the term? Good. Being black, Muslim, queer, undocumented, a woman and any type of “other” in America is uncomfortable. Our lives are devalued and debased and dismissed. We can’t drive in peace. We can’t peacefully protest. And now the NAACP has issued a travel warning to black folk boarding American Airlines because of discriminatory practices.
I’m sorry for white folk who feel discriminated against. I’m not going to deny there are individuals who are biased against you. There is no denying classism. That affects us all.
But this country does not uphold a system that prevents you from enjoying your human rights as a white person. The country is not institutionally set up for you to be funneled into prisons, murdered, denied loans, jobs, education and housing based on your color and constantly having to remind folks your life matters.
Still, somehow when we talk about white supremacy, social injustice and racism, the conversation becomes about white hurt. You don’t see the superiority complex in that?