Black gratitude is not an attitude white people should ever expect

Sam McKenzie Jr.
Nov 21, 2018 · 4 min read

You probably think I’m exaggerating, but it’s obvious some white people think Black people should be grateful to white America and even be thankful to be Americans.

Here are a few grating demands for gratitude I’ve noticed:

In 2008, the same year that America halfway apologized for slavery and segregation, crazy man Pat Buchanan said he hears about Black America’s grievances but he never hears gratitude from Black America.

Public notice: Pat Buchanan shall never hear gratitude from me.

Likewise, in 2017, the Republican Governor of Maine, Paul LePage, said the distinguished Congressman John Lewis should be grateful to Republican presidents for all they’ve done for Black people.

It’s clear that LePage, by extension, thinks all Black people should be grateful to Republican presidents.

Then, when Black NFL players started taking a knee during the national anthem, Donald Trump and his supporters said the players are “ungrateful millionaires.”

Can you believe they even said Stevie Wonder is another ungrateful millionaire?

That’s why I agree with the New Yorker article that says, “From Louis Armstrong to the N.F.L.: Ungrateful as the New Uppity.”

And right now, as Donald Trump regularly touts “Black” unemployment numbers, it’s as if he’s saying Black people should be grateful because, hey, what the hell do we have to lose?

Here’s the truth— whatever good America offers Black people is not enough yet, and America will never earn or deserve Black people’s gratitude.

It’s still a fact, every day of the year, for all time, that America rose to power on the bloody backs of Black people.

So, it’s astoundingly insidious and totally enraging that some white people refuse white guilt but expect Black gratitude.

White people don’t have to feel guilty, and either way, I certainly don’t feel grateful. Both guilt and gratitude can be counterproductive.

A gratitude that says, “look how far you’ve come” or “look at the good we did” should never be a stopping point.

Our progress is not an arrival.

How far we’ve come should be a tipping point, and hindsight should push people to finish the work. Both guilt and gratitude can be distractions, delays, and denials.

Instead of gratitude, I focus on the gaps.

The gaps that are wide with racism are traps, and I fully mind the gaps.

With law enforcement, there’s a gap I mind.

With wealth, there’s a gap I mind.

With life expectancy, there’s a gap I mind.

And every record shows the gaps that exist and persist across other measures. That’s why I give no slack for even the smallest lack. I give no breaks for what’s broken, and I offer no leeway as people are in harm’s way.

The “equal protection under the law” that we claim today does not wholly amend the harm that’s preexisting, ongoing, and unequal. While it’s absolutely true that we are all “created equal,” we don’t live as equals.

The difference between what’s said and what’s lived remains a problem. Our creation has never been the problem, but our conditions have always been the problem.

So, I can’t be grateful for America’s equality or the progress that people point at today and say — anti-Black racism isn’t an issue.

To see what we have as equality is to live in a parallel universe. The signs of equality that people insist we have are still higher and lower levels of living — on a pair of horizontal bars.

One set of Americans are still living at a higher level on top of others, and we call that an equal sign?

America thinks it is exceptional, when in fact, America is odd.

The odds for Black people are still odd, and we also have uneven views.

It should be odd that People of Color see racism one way, while white people, to include freaking millennials, see it another.

It should be odd that white people with criminal records have a higher callback rate for employment than Black people with no criminal records.

And it should be odd that white people still control every industry in America.

Since America is a white-supremacist nation, I know none of those facts are actually odd, but since I’m still here:

I need justice to make smooth and even the rough patches of Black life disfigured by white supremacy.

America, however, continues to carry over racism in the ones column that adds up astronomically. To be even in life, we have to add what’s missing and subtract what’s harmful.

To settle any doubt — I am a realist; I’m not fully a Black nihilist. But let’s say one day America became rectified. In that case, of course, if I were alive, I’d be gratified.

Even then, no one should expect me to express any gratitude for the rectitude that’s overdue. No!

In truth, I do have Black gratitude, but it’s all the way for Black fortitude.



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Sam McKenzie Jr.

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I combat racism and whiteness with verbicide and literary devices. https://www.patreon.com/SamMcKenzieJr | http://ko-fi.com/sammc

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