I’ve been sitting in front of my computer staring at the blinking cursor for several minutes now wondering how I was going to say what’s on my mind. I knew that I had to pick and choose my words carefully because if I said the very thing that was sitting in the forefront of my mind without allowing it to go through the normal thought process, it could possibly come out wrong. I could easily be branded as a racist or someone looking to stir up trouble.
But there are some simple facts that have been bothering me of late…so here we go.
We have never been polarized as much as we are today. We have never hated one another more than we do today…or rather, people of color have never been hated and despised as much as we are right now.
White people are somehow confusing pride in their ethnic background with repressive pride that comes along with being white. This is a fact.
And while I know that every white person doesn’t think this way, there are too many of them that do that it can’t be ignored. There a distinct difference between being proud of your ethnicity and being proud of being white. Because it is that same pride that caused white folks to flee when a person of color moves into their neighborhood. It’s that same pride in being white that burned crosses, subjugated races of people into slavery, created Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration and ghettos. We move about in a society that functions at its best when we don’t talk about what was done to people of color for generations. It’s okay if we don’t acknowledge what was taken from us.
Another fact is that we could move forward both as a people and a nation if we dealt with this issue at hand instead of avoiding it or getting hurt feelings about it.
White people feel like they are under siege. They feel that the nation is becoming blacker and browner and that they are slowly losing their self-imposed right to the first fruits of this land.
Simultaneously, they also feel as if they have been forgotten…. that they have been left behind by the same people that they elected into office.
Another fact is that white resentment has never been as high as its been in the last few years. White people are angry. They feel that they are losing something that they should never have had to begin with. They feel as if their government has left them behind…that their elected officials have shirked their responsibilities to them as a people as opposed to the government themselves.
What’s troubling to me is that patriotism has morphed into giving license to hate. It’s okay to hate as long as it’s done in the name of the American flag. You’re okay if you’re not a liberal. At one time, the difference between being liberal and conservative was the simple (and maybe at times indistinguishable) difference between political beliefs. ~J.L. Whitehead
They believe that everyone else is the cause of their problems; that immigrants are taking their jobs when the simple reality is that immigrants are only occupying jobs that those same people would never think of taking. They are angry that they are losing out to an ever-changing world; that society is starting to see certain minority groups as equal even if that equality still doesn’t extend to every person of color.
Without saying it aloud, white has always been synonymous with a proper upbringing, working hard and as a result deserving of every single opportunity that being white can be afforded. This type of thinking, whether acknowledged or not, is embedded in the head of every white person in this nation.
Conversely, every black mother has had to have a talk with their children as to how to navigate a world that at times can feel like it is hell bent on killing you. As a black son, we are taught that we must be twice as good to get half the pay that white men get. We are taught that opportunities will not come as quickly no matter how deserving we perceive ourselves to be.
I was told by a former supervisor a long time ago that the society that we are living in is a white world. She made me angry when she said that but hindsight being 20/20, she was right. Our entire perceptions have been honed and shaped through the lens of white people.
For years, we have been shown what to buy, what movies to see, where to shop, where to live and yes, even where to work by white people.
Most of us know this to be true, but few want to accept it. The problem comes when we try to address it because in theory, equality sounds good…but that isn’t reality.
It doesn’t matter how many integrated settings we surround ourselves with. It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the surface. At our societal core lies the truth that was brought to my attention a few years ago. There are a lot of white people that believe in white privilege. This is a fact.
And yes, I can be dismissed as another angry black man…except I’m not.
I’ve been navigating the waters of being involved with a white man for years. But simply because I have a white partner doesn’t mean that I am willing to compromise who I am because of who I am with. I find myself walking the tightrope between being a loving partner and sometimes being mad as hell at his race. I’ve learned how to separate the two. Fortunately for me, he makes it easy. He reminds me that at our respective core lies a strong belief in a patriotism that resonates within every American, even though America hasn't been kind to everyone.
What’s troubling to me is that patriotism has morphed into giving license to hate. It’s okay to hate as long as it’s done in the name of the American flag. You’re okay if you’re not a liberal. At one time, the difference between being liberal and conservative was the simple (and maybe at times indistinguishable) difference between political beliefs. Sometimes, it comes down to being socially and fiscally conservative. It has now changed into the political parties becoming arch enemies in an arena where chaos is the norm. We find ourselves being at war with one another when most of us can’t begin to answer the reason as to why we’re fighting in the first place. We listen to one person telling us how we’re supposed to feel when we should be able to discern how we feel all by ourselves.
We’ve lost common sense and perspective on issues that should unite us and not tear each other apart. In many ways, we rely on and have fallen prey to someone telling us who is taking something from us and how we should feel about it instead of forming our own opinions whether it be good, bad or otherwise.
But as I watch the fire burn in my fireplace, I wonder where we’ll be at the end of the year. I wonder if we can get it together as a people and change the trajectory of where we are headed. And I would love to believe that this is something that all races should take equal responsibility in…but it isn’t. Because for hatred to carry clout and really matter you have to have societal power; and like it or not, the power rests predominately with white people.
We as a people have the power to change the structure of our lives. We can change how things are and shape them into how you would like them to be.
But for some, you must be ready to look in the mirror and deal with your own demons. And for the rest of us, we must be ready to form our own thoughts and keep it moving forward at all cost.
~ J.L. Whitehead