The White People Who Need “Proof of Racism”

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A gif of a white man in a flannel shirt talking to someone with their back to the camera. The text reads: “Oh, denial. The first step in not wanting to admit things.]

I will never again fall for the Show-Me-Proof-of-Racism gotcha-request that many white people resort to whenever a black person or another person of color expresses their experience with racism.

You can dig up study after study, research after research, video after video, testimony after testimony, expert after expert, scholar after scholar, scientist after scientist from the most prestigious academic, journalistic, and scientific institutions in the entire world and it won’t matter a single, solitary bit.

Whatever proof you show — whether it is evidence to demonstrate the presence of systemic racism or social racism; implicit racism or explicit racism; conscious racism or unconscious racism — will never be enough. They will employ every move-the-goal-post, bait-and-switch, logical-fallacy, false-equivalence, appeal-to-the-absurd, argumentum-ad-dictionarium, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt, bar-raising, unrealistic-expectation, persnickety-pseudo-science tactic at their disposal to deny that what you’ve brought forth is solid and correct — or even mildly reasonable. And the gag is that if you don’t bring it forth, they’ll accuse you of being The Real Racist®. They think this is the perfect no-win situation in which to place you.

They will ask you if you can read the minds of white people. Yes. That’s their favorite one. That’s their standard of proof. The only way you will be able to prove racism to these white folks is if you’re telepathic. And even then, they’d question the accuracy of your telepathic abilities and will request a white telepath to verify your knowledge — and they will only believe the white telepath if they disagree with you and agree with them. Anything to avoid having to confront and admit that racism exists, that they benefit from it, and often participate in and perpetuate it.

So I won’t oblige this request anymore. Beyond being a sign of intellectual laziness, psychological ineptitude, and a gross exploitation of unearned authority and privilege, it’s emotionally sophomoric and an insidious and pathological deflection strategy designed to protect white people from encountering any reality that doesn’t make them feel like the most special and innocent snowflakes at the dead center of the alabaster and crystalline universe.

They don’t want the answers, Sway!

Traipsing around, they sing the most inane and blighted of songs:

There are no stars in the sky. There is no ground below the feet. There is no racism to be found anywhere–especially not in me.

The entire purpose of the request for proof is merely an attempt to exhaust me and return to the white person the moments of reprieve they feel I stole from them–the moments in which they didn’t have to deal with me or my experience with racism. And they can go back to their lily-white, fairytale version of existence that my presence and my testimony threatened to undo. That they are asking for proof is, in its own way, proof of the very thing they think they are hiding so well.

The whole point of them asking me to convince them is so they can pretend and tout that they made a good-faith effort all while hiding the fact that the goal was always to never be convinced.

It’s a complete and utter waste of time of my time and energy. And I shall not indulge these sadists for another second.

Toni Morrison gave me permission:

“Racism was and is a public mark of ignorance. It was and is a monumental fraud. Racism was never the issue; profit and money always was…The threat was always jobs, land and money. And when you take away [in order] to oppress and prevent, you have to have a reason for despising your victim.

The function, the very serious function, of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Someone says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.

Racial ignorance is a prison from which there is no escape because there are no doors…Institutions, governments, homes all over the world who need to believe in their racism and need to have the victims of racism…And they are very easily identified:They are the petulant ones who call themselves proud, who call themselves just. They thrive on the failures of those unlike them; they are the ones who measure their wealth by the desperation of the poor…They are in prisons of their own construction”

“The White People Who Need ‘Proof of Racism’” was originally published August 13, 2015.

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