Note to Self: You Are White, So You Are Part of the Racist Problem in America

Justice 4 George Floyd
“Justice 4 George Floyd,” a sign at this past week’s rally for justice in Chicago Heights. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

“When a racial group’s collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors.”
DiAngelo, Robin J.. White Fragility (p. 20). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

Commentary
By Gary Kopycinski

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- This is an open article to you, yourself, Gary, so take note: You’re white, so you’re part of the problem of racism in America. And this isn’t some “liberal” you’re-off-the-hook kind of reflection. Racism, endemic racism, systemic racism, call it what you will, has always favored you and others with lighter skin in America.

And you can’t say, “Yeah, but.” There are no “yeah, buts” when it comes to racism in America. You might behave better than you did in years past, you might be more careful, or consider yourself “progressive” or “liberal,” but the fact remains that every day of your life, you get to be white. You don’t have to wake up in the morning and worry that, because of your appearance you might be pulled over in your car just because you were driving.

In fact, as a liberal or progressive, you have at times been more hurtful in the past to People of Color (yes, these differences are all social constructs) than some who act blatantly racist every day. You thought at some points that “you got this.” You had some exposure to anti-racism training, even went for more, then made assumptions and said things that hurt real people.

This isn’t about white guilt, so don’t even go there. This is about white responsibility, and you need to get some, take responsibility for your part in this racism in America.

“Yeah, but…”It doesn’t matter that something, whatever it was, happened years ago.

“Yeah, but…” It doesn’t matter that you didn’t mean to hurt anyone.

“Yeah, but…” It doesn’t matter that you thought you were relating, getting along better because you finally “got it.”

White progressives who so often—despite our conscious intentions—make life so difficult for people of color. I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the “choir,” or already “gets it.” White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.

DiAngelo, Robin J.. White Fragility (p. 5). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Yeah, but…” You don’t get a break because you had or have good intentions. You need to become conscious of being white, that you grew up and live in a larger society that favored you, that you benefited from white supremacy.

Face it: where you grew up, whiteness was the norm and, explicitly at times and implicitly all the time considered the norm.

Our umbrage at the term white supremacy only serves to protect the processes it describes and obscure the mechanisms of racial inequality. Still, I understand that the term is very charged for many white people, especially older white people who associate the term with extreme hate groups. However, I hope to have made clear that white supremacy is something much more pervasive and subtle than the actions of explicit white nationalists. White supremacy describes the culture we live in, a culture that positions white people and all that is associated with them (whiteness) as ideal. White supremacy is more than the idea that whites are superior to people of color; it is the deeper premise that supports this idea—the definition of whites as the norm or standard for human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm.

DiAngelo, Robin J.. White Fragility (p. 33). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

That’s white supremacy, and you need to realize, every day, that you live in a culture with institutions that were built by and favor white people.

There is not “Yeah, but…” after that.

You get breaks where others did not.

And there is no such thing as “reverse racism.” People have prejudices, and so do you. Everyone does.

Stating that racism privileges whites does not mean that individual white people do not struggle or face barriers. It does mean that we do not face the particular barriers of racism.

As with prejudice and discrimination, we can remove the qualifier reverse from any discussion of racism. By definition, racism is a deeply embedded historical system of institutional power. It is not fluid and does not change direction simply because a few individuals of color manage to excel.

DiAngelo, Robin J.. White Fragility (p. 24). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Yeah, but…” Blacks got the right to vote!

Women “won” the right to vote only after men — white men — granted them that right.

Black women would not “win” the right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — granted to them and men of color by white men, signed into law by a white man, in an institution controlled by, and still controlled by, white men.

Every time you were silent, every time you waited until things got back to “normal” after the last protests — go back as far as you can remember. Remember Rodney King?

Every time you felt uncomfortable because People of Color were protesting, and you knew they were right, but you did nothing — you benefited from the system that protected you. All you had to do was wait until things quieted down.

But they must never quiet down again.

They can’t.

You don’t get to tell People of Color when things are good for them.

You don’t get to tell People of Color how, when, and where they can protest. If protesting makes you feel uncomfortable, then you’re starting to understand how some People of Color feel in this country every goddamn day.

And this isn’t some, “But someone will tell me I’m alright! That I’m a good guy!”

There is no forgiveness here.

There is no absolution that makes it all better, makes it all go away.

Just stop all that talk. If this is going to be honest, just shut up.

You get to shut up and listen.

“Yeah, but, Barack Obama was elected…”

Shut up!

This endemic thing, this systemic thing, this racist thing, is here, and one election, one candidate, one person, won’t, can’t change that.

Try to make a living amends going forward.

You get your white ass out there and protest — but listen, first.

Go talk to your neighbors. Walk the damn dogs and just say hello! Stop sheltering-in-place already! You’re not a damn hothouse plant. Put on a mask and join the rest of the human race that is calling for awareness, an end to systemic racism.

George Floyd isn’t happy because the damn economy might be doing better.

George Floyd is a man frozen in time, 8 minutes, 46 seconds of time. And you must never forget that man, must never forget his name, must never forget his sacrifice.

You don’t get to do that.

There is no more “normal” again.

Never again.

Because you are white.

You are part of the system.

You are part of the problem.

Racism is a system, not an event.

So shut up.

Listen.

Listen to the Voices of Color.

Listen to the wind.

Listen for the Eternal.

Let it all sink in.

And learn.

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