Someone Else’s Skin
Powell's Books
9912

You are free to speak for yourself, but please do not presume to speak for all white people.

I read this paragraph in particular and burst out laughing at how tone-deaf, how outrageously racist and, above all, how utterly silly it sounds:

“Of course, I think we all agree by now that white people, pretty much, should cringe at ourselves. You name just about any shitty American category, and white people are at the top of the list among its numbers. Serial killers, pedophile priests, violent cops, date rapists, Real Housewives, school shooters, Trump supporters. As a group, we suck.”

First, of course, it should be obvious enough that if you’re going to write a paragraph full of such absurdities, someone could write a parallel paragraph of this sort:

“Of course, I think we all agree by now that white people, pretty much, should take pride in themselves. You name just about any glorious American category, and white people are at the top of the list among its numbers. Scientific and aesthetic geniuses, brilliant inventors, founders of transformative businesses, great thinkers and doers, political visionaries, humanitarian leaders …. As a group, we rule.”

The point is that the group that does the most does both the most good and the most evil. This goes without saying, and it is nothing to be either proud of or ashamed of. It is an insignificant, unremarkable fact.

But, more importantly — and this is the real reason you should be neither proud nor ashamed of your “whiteness” — “whiteness” is nonsense. To put this in our modern-day parlance, “whiteness” is not actually a thing. Like “blackness,” it is a sociological category built upon the flimsiest biological foundation. It is something that only the shallowest, most superficial people can identify with. To paraphrase Dinesh D’Souza, white people do not wake up, look in the mirror and smile because the guy who wrote The Iliad was white. Or, at least, no white person with a brain does stuff like this. The fact that Homer, Einstein, Jesus, Galileo, Darwin, Shakespeare or any of the other great figures in human history were (or weren’t) white does not make me feel any better about myself, just as the fact that Hitler, Stalin, Nero, Caligula, Savonarola or any of the other monsters in human history were (or weren’t) white does not make me feel any worse about myself. I did not earn the accomplishments of the greats, nor do I deserve responsibility for the sins of the villains of history. I did not pen the Declaration of Independence, nor did I partake in the practice of slavery. I am an individual. So are you. So are we all. We, each of us, are responsible for ourselves and for ourselves alone.

The fact that you want to judge people so unabashedly as races instead of as individuals makes you an unapologetic racist, pure and simple. The fact that you want to brand all white people as guilty of white privilege makes you, as I have described here, once again, a racist. The fact that your racism is directed at your own perceived group rather than at another’s does not absolve you of racism one iota. If Hitler had hated and slaughtered Germans rather than Jews, his crimes against humanity would not have been any lesser.

It is high time to cure our plague of seeing people as little more than the various groups to which they superficially appear to belong. It is high time to return to the Civil Rights ideal of judging people based on who they are, not what they look like they are. It is high time to go deeper than skin-deep. It is high-time to end the hatred and the self-hatred. It is high time to realize that race is a notion deployed throughout history for the purpose of asserting superiority and inferiority, for the purpose of erasing and refusing to see individuality. Stop erasing us. Start realizing there is no “us.” There is only you and I and she and he and each of us doing, thinking and saying the things that make us uniquely who we are.

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