I decided to ponder my whiteness today and thought, what more appropriate place than the Returns & Exchanges department at Ikea?
I think one of the urgent humps that we as white people need to get over (and I use the term “get over” with purpose) is the extraordinary fear of being called “racist.” I find that many white people are far more offended by being called racist than the actual perpetuation of racism that is happening all around them. We must admit that we are racist.
We must stop denying racism and instead acknowledge it, examine it, critique it, make every attempt to abolish it. We live in a racist society where people of color have less agency than white people. We internalize the reality of the situation, regardless of which race we are. If you’ve ever seen that video of black kids saying they’d rather have white dolls because they’re more beautiful, you’ve seen (a minute example of) what internalized racism does. If you view the status of black people in this country – more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be accused of crimes, more likely to go to jail, more likely to be on welfare, etc. – and do not actively consider it the effect of hundreds of years of subjugation, starting with forced removal and slavery, and consistent inequality since – then you are passively blaming black people for their own status in this country. We all live in a racist society (just as we live in a misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, etc. society), therefore we are all racist and have to actively examine ourselves and reject the impulse to have racist thoughts and, more importantly, actions. Additionally, we need to hear our black friends when they call us out, and take responsibility rather than deflecting.
And if I hear “I have black friends” one more time I will drop kick a motherfucker.
No matter how actively we challenge racist attitudes, however, we must also acknowledge a different (but connected) problem – institutional racism. I think this is a concept that many white Americans find it difficult to grasp, which is understandable because it can be nebulous. Unfortunately, its ambiguity doesn’t prevent it from having concrete effects. I am certainly not the best person to explain what it (or any of this, for that matter) means, but Wikipedia does a decent job.
Anyway, before you start quoting MLK incorrectly and bitching about “riots” and “looting,” which somehow have become more serious crimes than “murder,” here’s an image of something he actually said:
(image from PBS)
God there’s so much more to say, I find it difficult to stop. But for every word in these few paragraphs there are millions of words that could be (and have been, and will be) said about racism in America, written and said by far more eloquent people than me.