Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Not "All" White People

Remember back when Elliot Rogers went on his shooting spree and the "Yes All Women" campaign started?

 "Yes All Women" was a commentary on the fact that, while "Not All Men" are psycho killers, rapists, street harassers or abusive dicks, ALL women at some point in their lives will face some kind of disrespect and aggression from a man. It could be something as seemingly harmless as catcalls on a street, to more annoying and dangerous forms like groping in a club or rape. That was enough to spark a national debate on the very real threat of harassment and other aggression faced by women, because pretty much all women could agree on the point.

Let's shift gears a little. 

When there is outrage from the black community over a white person doing or saying something blatantly racist, you can always count on a well meaning white person, whether it's a friend or colleague or fellow internet surfer, to come in with "Stop generalizing, not all white people..."




Yes. Not all white people, but yes ALL black people who share space with white people, at some point in their lives, will face some kind of aggression from a white person. They can be small microaggressions like "You  don't act like regular black people" or "You're pretty/quiet for a black girl" or "You speak English so well" or "You sound white" or the poorly concealed shock when you excel at something they did not expect you to excel at, the assumptions and the patently ignorant questions (it's the Information Age people... Google, or at least learn how to frame your questions so you don't sound like a jerk...an ignorant jerk.) They can be overt acts of aggression and disrespect like the cold customer service that everyone else was not privileged to receive, the personal guard trailing you in the store, hate speech and all the other dumbfoolery that we all know so well. It is in the national discourse which almost always manages to paint the black person in the negative light and in the fact that not even black children are immune to the toxicity.

And it is especially in the fact that even the well meaning white people, the supposed allies, seem more intent on defending their hurt feelings and righteous indignation, than on acknowledging the wrong that has been done. They seem more intent on getting reassurance from the aggrieved black person, that he/she does not think they are like those other horrible white people, than in offering sympathy and compassion. It seems easier for them to try to explain away the other person's behavior, or say something to make it seem not as bad. It is more important to them, it seems, that the world recognize that not all white people are like that, than it is to call out the other white person. 

The irony is that it is the actions of a small proportion of the black community, that are used to  justify the generally crappy way, black people are treated. It sometimes even goes as far as them getting defensive and saying "Yeah well, black people also do this and that to white people..." As though because black people are hostile to white people, it justifies whatever just happened. In which case, it would be fair to point out that this mess all started with some white people discovering the "dark continent" and then proceeding to "claim" things left and right, paint the black race in the most negative light possible and generally screw things up royally. It continued, in the US, with  some white people bringing black people here, enslaving them for centuries and then after they couldn't do that anymore, refusing to let black folks be part of normal society, to vote, get educations and jobs and just be regular people. This continued until black folk protested and they were  compelled by law to do so, with some even till today still struggling with the fact that black folk are present in this space. There. Every single act of black hostility justified. Oh, I'm living in the past? The whole of Washington DC is one big monument to the past, the Bible was written in the past, the US constitution was written in the past. All the holidays celebrated in the US are based on events that happened in the past. Get out of here with that noise, and on your way, tell a Jewish person to forget the Holocaust, since it is in the past.



Also, when they do call out the other person, how is it that some expect eternal gratitude and the "Defender of Black People" badge? I mean, isn't standing for a friend the right thing to do, whether or not you get praise for it? And then there is the tone-policing: "I get your point and I understand, but do you have to be so angry about it all the time? Do you have to whine about it?"

Does our anger make you uncomfortable? Does our outrage make you squirm? Are you tired of our ranting and whining? 

Good.

Be more active about bringing about change. It's not being the PC police. It's being a decent human being. Stick your neck out. Call out the dumbfoolery when you see it, so it's not just us railing against the injustice. That is what it means to be an ally.  And for the love of all things good and holy, quit with the "Not All White People" crap. We know that. That's why we are still friends with some of you.



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