In defense of white guys.
Okay I’m not going to defend the last half millennium of cultural imperialism and genocide. I’m also not going to defend the guy that stands too close to you at the back yard BBQ and says ‘I’m not racist, but…”.
I do want to point out a couple things that I think get misinterpreted when black and white folks try and have a conversation on this race thing.
There is a surge in the use of the term ‘white supremacy’ lately. It is often used by black people, or people of color in general, to describe the cultural hegemony of white Christian Western Europeans in the United States. It is undeniable that white people are running shit in this country. For every Barbara Lee or John Lewis there are a hundred grey old white dudes who are in control and making sure it stays that way. As the author here points out pretty well, Barbara Lee may be pretty far to the left, but to get where she is, she has had to play the western European Judeo-Christian game. I can assure you she speaks much differently in front of Congress than a lot of her constituents in Oakland speak when they sit down to dinner.
Again no denying that normative thing. But when you describe a white person as personally participating in a system of white supremacy which oppresses black and brown people. They do not hear ‘cultural hegemony’. What they hear is that they are being accused of being in the KKK. They associate with Nazi Skinheads, David Duke, Alex Jones and Tom Metzger.
They probably have one or two black work friends. Maybe they dated a black or latina chick in college. Surely they are not racist? But the damage is done. Defenses are up, must protect the ego at all costs.
Subsequent explanations and facts cited which illustrate that black men (and boys) are more likely to die from interactions with police than white or Asian men fall on deaf ears.
I am not sure why this phrase is suddenly prevalent. I suppose Franz Fanon’s books have gained more popularity in recent years. He often spoke in such terms regarding France and Algeria. And I’ve seen some authors apply his logic and conclusions to the race situation in the US.
I’m not going to say stop using that phrase. How can I? I’m just another white guy. A white guy who happens to have more than one black friend (who I actually hang out, not just a work friend). Grew up in mixed neighborhoods, went to mixed race schools etc. I don’t think I ‘understand’ the black experience. But black people are not some alien species to me either. They are the people that always ask me to hail the cab because they know if they are out there standing on the curb with their arm up we will be there all night. So yeah, that other phrase, white privilege, I can’t honestly say that folks should lay off that one either.
However, oh yeah you knew there was going to be a however. While I do think white privilege is extant. Asking people to ‘check their white privilege’ is pointless. It’s just a very elaborate way to insult a white person. It might seem that it could be educational. There are certainly some pollyannas out there that have no idea that the world is unequal, hurtful and unfair. But I mostly seeing it used to shut down debate and seize a moral higher ground.
Again, not asking people to avoid these phrases. Just trying to shine a light on the emotional recoil that is triggered by them.