Dear White People, It’s Not About Us

It's about liberty and justice for all.

The other day my friend Sam McKenzie Jr. brought up the evils of rehashing racism, and that story stuck with me. Why do we (white people) so often feel the need to repeat hateful words just to prove we aren’t racist?

It’s not something we talk about or learn in school, but the collective knee-jerk reaction to racism seems to be our innate need to tell people of color that we are not racist--and then go to certain lengths to show them what we mean.

Too many white people bring up the fact that they have black friends, Asian friends etc. That they don’t even see color. And they don't stop there. Here, we’ll prove it. We were shocked when so and so said [insert racially fueled hate speech]. Isn’t that terrible?

Sam pointed out that nobody who’s been on the receiving end of systemic racism needs yet another repeat. Then why do we repeat such garbage?

I think we do it to make ourselves feel better. To feel less liable. And to manufacture a false sense of distance between ourselves and other types of white people. The racist ones.

What's worse, some of us not only insist upon repeating the terrible hate we hear, but we fight to protect it in the name of free speech. Like we’ve got to swallow some evil to truly enjoy life, freedom, and liberty. We go so far as to say that if we try to censor or obliterate hate speech we’ll only give it more of a foothold. Then we tell cautionary tales about how one day, we too could be the victims of oppression.

But isn't it bad enough that other people are oppressed today?

Too many white people elevate free speech all because it makes us feel better. Just like it makes us feel good to pat ourselves on the back for not being racist. For being fair. Since we can’t seem to shake the fact that white guilt is uncomfortable, we then set out to relieve our discomfort. Even if it’s at the expense of the people of color who’ve been on the receiving end of racism their entire lives.

Somehow we forget that none of this is supposed to be about us. But we’re so used to everything being about us that we hardly see the problem.

Yesterday, another white writer warned me about the dangers of the “collusion” against Alex Jones. That we could be next.

The next what? Too many white people are desperately afraid of being censored, but our nation’s brand of racism has historically censored those who aren’t white. Why don't we care about those voices now while the hate is happening?

Are we so concerned with keeping white "rights" intact that we forget there are already people suffering and marginalized for their skin color? Does it matter how much white privilege crowds out their human rights?

It’s not about us. We’re not the ones who have been consistently censored and abused by racial slurs. Injustice is already here and it’s been around our entire lives. We need to decide if we even care.

If it’s not about white people, we have no business making ourselves feel better at the expense of those who’ve been harmed by the same system that gives us our privilege to be so blind. We’ve got to be able to see beyond ourselves and our fears of losing any status.

It's not popular to say that white people fear to lose undue privilege. Saying so invites ridicule and censure from angry white folks who accuse me of hating my whiteness. But I don't hate myself--I just hate injustice. And I don't want to be on the wrong side of history anymore.

Sam introduced me to the idea of rehashing racism. I hadn't really thought about it before, yet I know how much hate speech from any mouth rings wrong. I have long known that men reciting slurs against women never feels benign. And I dread those who repeat fat jokes even if they don't "mean" anything by them.

Why should it be any different when white people repeat racist remarks? Those words don't deserve air, and we owe it to others to listen and believe them when they tell us it hurts.

I wonder how long white culture will protect certain hate speech in defense of keeping white privilege alive. Sure, we chalk it up to lofty goals like freedom and liberty, but we fail to mention that freedom isn't freedom until we offer freedom to all. Liberty is a farce when we use the word to let evil slide.

Right now, all of America isn't free. White people make light of the damage hate speech incurs. We imply that fake news doesn't really matter when we allow it free reign. So I don't believe that social media needs to remain open to voices like Alex Jones, and no, I'm not afraid that kicking him off YouTube and Twitter will endanger us all. I'm more afraid that if we don't take action, people will spew increasingly normalized hate.

One day, it could be too late to change course and pursue justice. We have to speak up now while we still can, while some of us still care. We have to quit making freedom about the oppressor and let it be about the oppressed.