No. I Will Not Listen to Candace Owens

No.  I Will Not Listen to Candace Owens

Note to my white self…

You do not need to listen to Candace Owens

This is not being close minded.

This is not ignoring an important Black voice

This is not racist.

When white people recommend you listen to Candace Owens, they are not doing so out of some deep respect for her careful analysis of racism in America.  They are recommending her because she says things they agree with.  More disturbing, she says things white supremacists believe.

You do not have to take them or her seriously.  She does not speak for Black folk.

Candace Owens says racism is not widespread in the United States.  In polling, eighty-two percent of Blacks disagree with her.

Candace Owens says Trump is not a racist.  Eighty percent of Blacks beg to differ.

Candace Owens says white nationalism is not a threat in the United States.  Seventy-nine percent of Blacks say it is “the most lethal terrorist threat in the United States.”

If someone looks at this polling and replies, “Some Black people agree with her,” they are not interested in what Black people think unless those Black people think what they think.  They are only interested in Black voices that make them comfortable and support the status quo.

When it comes to racism, Black Americans are largely in agreement.

Seventy-nine percent are dissatisfied with how they are treated in our society.

Seventy-nine percent believe Blacks are more likely to be mistreated by police.

Seventy-six percent believe the justice system is biased against Black people.

Seventy-three percent think the government should make cash payments to the descendants of enslaved persons.

Seventy-two percent support affirmative action.

Sixty-nine percent think a qualified Black is less likely to get a job.

Sixty-four percent believe racial relations in the United States are bad or very bad.

Sixty-two percent think Blacks are discriminated against in obtaining housing.

This is what a majority of Black people believe about racism in America.

If anyone genuinely wants to address racism in America, the opinions of these Black people must be taken seriously.

Those who are really interested in listening to Black voices need to listen to those who speak out of this majority view.  There are plenty of options – Cornel West, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Rev. William Barber,  Alicia Garza, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Heather McGhee. Michelle Alexander and Ibram Kendi are just a few of the more prominent voices.  They echo the work of W.E.B DuBois, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison,  James Cone, Octavia Butler, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

These are the writers you need to read.  These are the voices you should take seriously.

Why?

Because a majority of Blacks take them seriously.

Next time a white person suggests you listen to Candace Owens, point out how out of sync she is with a majority of black people.  If they insist those with a minority view should be taken seriously, ask if they are in support of minority opinions in the white community because…

Thirty-five percent of whites think Black children get a poorer education than white children.

Thirty-four percent of whites think Blacks face discrimination in housing.

Twenty-eight percent of whites believe the government should actively work to improve the lives of Black people.

Twenty-seven percent of whites think Blacks face discrimination in the workplace.

And, since they are really committed to minority views, sixteen percent of white Americans think the descendants of enslaved persons should receive cash payments.

Suggest they begin advocating for these minority viewpoints.

That ought to shut them up.

(The majority of these statistics were taken from recent Gallup polling. However, some examples came from a variety of other polls.)

Fear and Shame In A Racist America

Fear and Shame In A Racist America

There has been a lot of commentary this summer about Critical Race Theory (CRT) and how we should or shouldn’t teach the history of racism in the United States.  Many conservatives claim – falsely – that children are being taught to be ashamed of being white.  They argue – again falsely – that CRT teaches that white people share collective guilt for the sins of slavery and racial discrimination.  These claims remind me of the conservatives who have accused me of being a victim of white guilt or of trying to shame them with my writings.

Defenders of CRT often take the same tack I’ve taken in defending my blog.  We argue we’re not trying to make white people feel guilty; we’re trying to make them feel responsible for helping to right past wrongs and deconstruct a racist system.  Of course, implicit in this response is the suggestion that if they feel no responsibility then they should feel ashamed.  So perhaps they are right in claiming that we want them to feel guilty for their inaction or apathy about racism.

All of this has made me think more deeply about the use and utility of both shame and fear in our long national discourse on racism.  How have fear and shame motivated and moved us?  Historically, white supremacists have used fear to motivate their adherents and the general white population while abolitionists and anti-racists have used shame to oppose both slavery and racial discrimination.

Consider the early proponents of slavery in the South.  They were unabashedly unashamed about the institution of slavery, arguing both its divine sanction and social benefits.  Indeed, until 1791, they were also largely unafraid.  It was in that year that Haitian enslaved men and women overthrew their white torturers and forced them to flee the island.  Many of those enslavers fled to the United States, bringing their newborn fear with them.  This fear was heightened by the Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831, when rebellious slaves killed about 60 “innocent” men, women, and children.  Ironically, killing the families of enslavers was shameful, but enslaving entire families was not.

While racial fear came first to white Americans, shame was not far behind.  Much of this shame came with the invention of the cotton gin in 1794.  With the cotton gin, the planting and harvesting of cotton exploded, allowing nearly all Americans to wear cotton-based clothing.  Suddenly, those Northern whites who had worn homespun clothing were complicit with their Southern compatriots in benefitting from the sweat and tears of enslaved men, women, and children.  The abolition movement used this reality to shame Northerners, turn the tide of opinion in the Northern states and set in motion the willingness of so many to fight and die to end slavery.

In the South, fear reigned.  Whites were told that the freeing of the slaves would destroy their way of life, that blacks would rape their women and kill their children, perhaps voicing the retribution they knew they deserved.  These fears motivated many to fight and die to protect slavery.  In the Civil War, after 600,000 deaths, shame temporarily defeated fear.  Black men and women experienced a short-lived modicum of freedom and opportunity.  The ten years of Reconstruction proved Southern fears unfounded.  Their way of life did not end.  Their women and children went unharmed.  Southerners, aware of how quickly black men and women were succeeding, become afraid of something new – competition.

The establishment of the KKK enshrined fear once more as the central foundation of white supremacy.  Though white supremacist leaders repeatedly accused blacks of savagery, inspiring fears in the hearts of Southern whites, it was the white mobs that did a vast majority of the brutality, exceeding one another in the atrocities they perpetuated on black families and communities.  Lynching became an accepted part of American life, designed to put fear in the hearts of “uppity” successful blacks.  Shame largely disappeared in America’s conversation about race.

Shame would not reemerge until the 1950s when television did what the cotton gin had once accomplished.  Images of non-violent, black men, women and children being beaten, arrested, and even killed for the audacity of using a drinking fountain, sitting on a bus, entering a restaurant, trying to register to vote or attending a school forced our entire nation to confront the evils of Jim Crow and the apartheid of America.  Again, white northerners were unable to excuse racism as a Southern affliction.  Orators like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made us ashamed of past and present injustices.  The laws of our nation were cleansed of blatant racism.

In the years since, white people have been neither afraid or ashamed.  We have been proud.  We’ve gloried in our magnanimity, even though what we did in 1964 should have happened a hundred years before.  Though we paid no reparations for 400 years of slavery and racial discrimination, we thought ourselves freed from both guilt and responsibility.  We pretended the slate was clean and the scales were balanced.  We had nothing further to be ashamed or afraid of.

This is what makes this present moment so poignant.  It was not the election of Donald Trump that brought back fear; it was the election of Barack Obama.  For white people who’d grown comfortable in believing white dominance and supremacy normative, he was a wake-up call, evidence that once again the white way of life was under attack.  The white supremacist chants of “we will not be replaced” at Charlottesville exemplified this fear.  Trump harnessed this angst to motivate millions of white people to vote for the most common and despicable of white men as our new president.  Millions did this without any shame.

In response, people like myself have called for a new campaign of shame – shame that black families have so much less wealth; shame that black men are more often targeted and killed by police; shame that black children attend far less funded schools; shame that blacks have a much tougher time voting and shame that a black vice president can still be labeled a Jezebel and a whore by white conservatives.  Where shame once exposed blatant racism and inequities, we seek to address latent and systemic discrimination.

When white supremacists chastise us for shaming them, we should not be ashamed.  What we identify as shameful clearly is.  While we do not believe white people inherently racist, we do believe the system they have created guilty of that crime.  While we do not want white children to be ashamed of being white, we also don’t want them oblivious to its continued benefits and our checkered history. Those who are unwilling to have such conversations should – in our opinion – be ashamed.

However, some within progressive circles worry shame is counterproductive, that we need to educate or nurture or lure or seduce white people away from their fears.  They call us to be aspirational, to remind people of the high-minded ideals of our Declaration of Independence.  They want to change people’s hearts and minds, to bring about a shame-free revolution.  Those who want this are mostly white.  They are the type of white people who thought slavery could end without a war and that civil rights could be won without protest.  Though they preach non-violence and gentle persuasion, they ignore the words of Dr. King from the Birmingham Jail, that “freedom is never given voluntarily by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

We who oppose white supremacy in its newest forms – voter suppression, the outlawing of critical race theory, the filibuster and gerrymandering – are not waiting for white supremacists to voluntarily end these practices.  White supremacists are motivated by fear and calls to higher aspirations will not move them.  They never have.  We use shame again because using shame to counteract white supremacy has a rich and successful history.  Where shame once ended slavery and Jim Crow, we hope shame can also end systemic racism.

For these reasons, I will no longer apologize for making other white people feel uncomfortable, responsible, guilty or ashamed.  If the shoe fits, wear it.

Indeed, what I am most ashamed of is how many of my white peers are neither motivated by fear nor shame.  They are simply apathetic.

I call them out because I know what history teaches, that only when the apathetic become ashamed will systemic racism end in the United States.

Dumb White Responses to Racism

Dumb White Responses to Racism

I’ve become a collector of sort.  I don’t collect stamps or coins or the usual type of things.  I fill my metaphorical shelves with the dumb responses of white people to racism.  In conversations, Facebook exchanges, and discussion boards, I collect the more ridiculous – and far too common – white responses to our national need to address past and present racial divides and inequities.  I have quite a collection.

Here are some of the most disingenuous, dishonest and dumbest…

“The past is the past.  We need to move on.”

  • Disingenuous:  They don’t really mean this.  These are usually people who oppose pulling down Confederate monuments, love to mention the founding fathers, brag about being Irish American or the like, and are ardent supporters of the original intent of the second amendment.  The past is not the past for them.
  • Dishonest:  They also aren’t really interested in moving on.  Indeed, they usually like things exactly like they are.  They see no need for change when it comes to racism in our nation or society.  They are more like the police officer at the scene of the crime.  “Move along.  There’s nothing to see here.”  But, of course, there is something to see.  It’s called systemic racism.
  • Dumb: The past and the present and the future are all tied together.  Intelligent people understand this and know that if we don’t understand our history, we are likely to repeat it.  Indeed, we can’t move on until we understand where we’ve come from.  Ironically, what is keeping us from moving on is white people who refuse to acknowledge the past.

“Why can’t we talk about all the progress we’ve made?”

  • Disingenuous:  They don’t really want this.  Talking about our progress would require them to honestly admit and address what was done in the past.  It makes no sense to celebrate the end of racial discrimination when you still refuse to acknowledge it happened.  What they really want is for people to accept the status quo as sufficient progress.
  • Dishonest: The progress we’ve made? Including themselves in the creation of progress is laughable.  They are almost always people resisting any reparations or changes.  Whatever progress we’ve made has happened despite them and not because of them.  Indeed, past progress has happened because people of color refused to accept “the progress we’ve made.”
  • Dumb:  If they were really interested in our progress, they would also be supportive of how that progress happened.  It occurred because of the protests of groups like Black Lives Matter, racial education in our schools and national demands for societal changes.  Since they oppose such things in the present, they aren’t really interested in progress.

“Talking about racism only divides us more.”

  • Disingenuous:  It is not the division that bothers them.  It is the talking.  They realize that we are talking about things they would rather ignore.  We are talking about things that might require changes from them.  We are talking about things of which they are embarrassed.  We are talking about them.
  • Dishonest:  The truth is that they are genuinely happy with our present divisions.  What they fear from the talking is the elimination of those divides and a society where they must compete fairly with those over whom they have had such advantages.
  • Dumb:  Few of us would want to be married to a partner who thought talking about our problems only divided us more.  We’d assume – rightly – that this spouse was not invested in solving those problems.  Indeed, they didn’t see the present state of affairs as a problem at all.

“This (insert black person’s name here) said (insert racist claim here) so not even all black people can agree.”

  • Disingenuous:  They don’t really care what black people think.  The only reason they mention the person, or their words is that they confirm some racist trope they’ve always believed.  They aren’t reading widely from black writers and thinkers to get some consensus of current black opinion.  They are cherry picking one comment that justifies their racism.
  • Dishonest:  They imply all white people agree.  Studies find about half of white Americans think our nation has not seriously addressed our racist past and present inequities.  White people do not agree.  Indeed, when it comes to racism, black people are far more united in their opinions than white people.  This makes listening to the minority even more suspect.
  • Dumb: There are people who still think the earth is flat.  Quoting them does not make that position any more credible.

“Affirmative action means black people now have it better than white people.”

  • Disingenuous:   They have no interest in trading places with a black person in America.
  • Dishonest:  There is not a single serious study showing black people have it better than white people in the United States in any important social or economic category.  Affirmative action has been vilified by white people, resisted in state and federal court, and never been widely applied.
  • Dumb: They usually can’t define affirmative action, if asked.  They think it means poorly qualified black people get jobs over better qualified white people.  It does not.  A definition of affirmative action can be found here.  They will not click the link.

“More white people are victims of police brutality than black people.”

  • Disingenuous:  They aren’t really concerned about police brutality, white victims or black victims.  They just want to offer a spurious argument, so they don’t have to acknowledge systemic racism.
  • Dishonest:    They know there are far more white people in the United States than black people.  This means there will always be more white victims of police brutality than black people.  It is all about proportions.  White people are not proportionally more victimized by the police and they know it.
  • Dumb:  There are also more white drug dealers than black drug dealers, more white rapists than black rapists, more white pedophiles than black pedophiles and on and on.  They never seem interested in making these points.

And, finally, my newest collection piece…

“Critical Race Theory argues white people are inherently oppressive and racist.”

  • Disingenuous:  They aren’t really concerned with what Critical Race Theory teaches.  Indeed, they have never taken the time to type “Critical Race Theory” into a search engine and read the simplest explanation.  This claim is just as ridiculous as “Hilary Clinton is running a child sex trafficking network from the basement of a pizza parlor.”  That state legislatures have passed laws based on this claim should be scandalous.  Not since Tennessee tried to outlaw the teaching of evolution have conservatives been this willfully ignorant.
  • Dishonest: This claim is the very opposite of what Critical Race Theory argues.  CRT says that people are not inherently inferior, superior, moral, immoral, racist or anti-racist.  That is the whole point.  Racism is a social construct.  We are not biologically predetermined to be oppressor or oppressed.  However, our systems often perpetuate such divisions.  The good news is that because racism is a construct; it can also be deconstructed.  This is what many white people really oppose.
  • Dumb:  The only people I know arguing that one race of people is inherently anything has always been white people.  We’ve done that to people of color for the last 400 years.

Thanks for letting me show off some of my collection.  If you have any dumb white responses to racism, feel free to share them in the comments.  Or, if you are a white person with a dumb comment on racism, feel free to add to my collection.

One More Try At Explaining Racism To White People

One More Try At Explaining Racism To White People

(First posted in August of 2017, I thought it time to resurrect and update this post.)

I’m not sure if I am making much progress.  In email exchanges, Facebook interactions and face to face conversations, I still spend most of my time trying to explain racism to white people who are convinced they “don’t have a racist bone in their body.”  Too often, instead of talking about the injustice done to people of color and how we rectify those inequities, I’ve had to focus my energies on soothing the hurt feelings of white people offended by the insinuation that they, our country, or our systems might be racist.

I understand the great frustration on the part of people of color with the lack of serious conversation in the United States about racism.  When Mike Pence says systemic racism is a “leftist myth” and Republican legislatures are passing laws against teaching about structural racism, I can understand why people of color are tempted to violence.  I’ve wanted to pound my keyboard during more than one recent conversation with another white person.

I’ve begun to wonder whether such conversations are futile.  If a white person is unable to see the evidence of racial prejudice and bias in our society, they are either unobservant or willfully ignorant.  While I understand no problem can be solved that isn’t first acknowledged, I am discovering how many incentives there are for white people to pretend there isn’t a problem.  When the game has been stacked in your favor so long and so well, there is little incentive to change the rules.

Why are so many white people insistent they, our country or our systems aren’t racist?  I think it has to do with a collective misunderstanding about the nature of racism in America.  Many white people associate racism with the hatred of people of color.  Since they feel no great animosity toward people of color, they assume they can’t be racist.  Some of their friends and even family members are people of color.  This affection for a few people of color convinces them they cannot be racist.

Unfortunately, equating racism with hatred is a seriously flawed understanding of racism.  Consider this analogy.  We’d find it odd if, when asked if they loved their spouse, someone replied, “I don’t beat them.”  A lack of hatred and abuse for your spouse is hardly evidence of your affection and concern.  Yet I have had many white people, when I’ve suggested their attitudes and behaviors might be racially motivated, reply, “I don’t mistreat people of color.”

Let me state this as clearly as I can.  Finding a sign reading, “No Dogs, Negroes or Mexicans” offensive does not mean you are not racist.  It means you aren’t an asshole.  As with your spouse, the proof of your affection and concern for people of color is in what you do to enhance their lives and not in your lack of abuse.  While hatred can certainly cause someone to be racist, hatred is not at the core of America’s racial malaise.  It is the inconsistency, inattention, carelessness and power of white people that has entrenched racism so deeply into our societal systems.

Inconsistency

Inconsistency in behavior is at the heart of all racism. While most white people do not actively seek to harm people of color, they are quite comfortable treating people of color differently than other white people.  They do this so unconsciously that they aren’t even aware of their bias.  Yet this bias has been demonstrated scientifically again and again.

Studies have repeatedly found that police officers pull over people of color at a much higher rate than white people.  Juries convict more people of color.  Judges pass harsher sentences.  Landlords are less likely to rent to people of color.  Banks make loans at a higher rate of interest.  Housing accessors undervalue homes owned by people of color.  Job applicants with minority sounding names are less likely to be interviewed.  I could go on and on.

These inconsistencies are evidence of a racial bias.  While they may not be intentional or conscious, they are still racist.  When someone responds to the killing of people of color by the police with Facebook posts declaring “Blue Lives Matter,” but posts nothing when a black officer kills a white woman, that inconsistency reveals their racism.  Blue is not the color that motivates their behavior.

You don’t have to hate people of color to be racist.  You just have to treat them differently than you would treat another white person.  Racism – at its core – is an inconsistent application of basic human rights and privileges, or the tolerance thereof. 

Inattention

Inattention is another of the signs of rampant racism.  To push my earlier analogy further, being a negligent spouse – while less destructive than being an abusive one – is still a sign of a lack of affection and concern.  Yet many white people, though they do not actively seek to harm people of color, are willing to ignore, diminish or tolerate the unjust treatment of people of color.  Quite simply, for many white people, even if they acknowledge racism in our society, it isn’t worth their time and attention.

I have often had white people tell me that since they have not actively caused the injustices done to people of color they have no responsibility to rectify them.  Yet what would we think of a person who, upon finding out that their spouse was being mistreated at work, responded, “I’m not the one mistreating them so it isn’t my responsibility.”  If you care about someone, you take the injustices they experience personally.

A lack of national outrage over the historic and current racial inequities in America is ample evidence of this deeply entrenched racism.  Indeed, we haven’t even expressed national embarrassment yet. We’re still in denial about our ugly racial past. You don’t have to hate people of color to be racist.  You only need to look the other way when they are mistreated.  This inattention reveals both a lack of compassion and a lack of identification.  They are not like you; therefore their treatment is of little concern.  Racism thrives on this inattention.

Carelessness

Carelessness – in every sense of the word – defines the racism of most white people.  We don’t hate people of color.  We simply “care less” about the racial injustices of our present system.   We refuse to look carefully at our own prejudices for signs of latent racism.  By defining racism as hatred, we can ignore all of our daily micro-aggressions toward people of color.

This careless attitude about the struggles of people of color may seem rather harmless, but it is insidious in its ugliness.  Indeed, in some ways, the hatred of some toward people of color is more respectful.  At least hatred acknowledges them as a legitimate threat and opponent.  When white people treat people of color carelessly, we demonstrate a deeper disdain.  They are not even worth our emotional investment.  We care less because they are worth less.

Power

Finally, no thorough discussion of racism can avoid questions of power.  While any person of any color can be inconsistent, inattentive and careless in their attitudes and behaviors toward people of a different skin toner, only those with power can systematically damage and diminish the lives of those whom they disdain.  In a society where white people have controlled the levers of power, racism is a direct product of white society.

White people can be inconsistent, inattentive and careless in their behavior toward people of color with little risk or consequence.  We can treat a Latino worker with disrespect without censure.  We can be inattentive to a police officer without danger.  We can be careless about racism without any effect on our quality of life.  This is not true for people of color.  A person of color who complains about disrespect is often fired.  A person of color who is inattentive to a police officer can be killed.  A person of color who is careless in their interactions with white people will eventually be punished.  This power differential turns common bias and prejudice into a uniquely white ailment – systemic racism.

In fairness, I am aware of the inconsistency, inattention, carelessness and power of white people largely because this described my attitudes and behaviors for nearly fifty years. I have been part of the racial problem in America.  Even now, I am a recovering racist at best.  As such, I am well positioned to see the racism of other white people.  It takes one to know one.

Unfortunately, I am also learning most white people don’t appreciate and value my newfound ability to see racism. I experience far more resentment than appreciation.  I am seen as disloyal rather than helpful.  More than once, I’ve pledged to stop arguing with other white people about racism. Indeed, two years ago, I entitled this post, “One Last Try To Explain Racism to White People.” I concluded that post by saying that “If white people are unconvinced, I will move on.”

Obviously, I can’t do that.

Talking to other white people is my responsibility.  Over and over and over again.  I do this, not because I will be successful, but because it is the right thing to do.  Silence is complicity and even if I can’t change our country, I will no longer be silent.  Maybe, just maybe, my speaking out and writing will move someone somewhere a little closer to being anti-racist.  Or maybe its only utility is keeping me more honest.  Regardless, I will continue to stand in the gap between my privilege and the oppression of others and call it out.

It is truly the least I can do.

Do You Believe In Critical Race Theory?

Do You Believe In Critical Race Theory?

Conservatives talking heads have been ranting against Critical Race Theory (CRT) for the past couple of months, claiming it is Marxist, divisive, anti-white and – most ironically – racist.  Republican legislatures, who can’t define CRT, have passed thinly veiled laws making it illegal to teach Critical Race Theory in public schools and universities.  Though Critical Race Theory has been around for over 30 years, it is suddenly the cause of all things evil according to conservatives.

All of this means our Fox News and Breitbart friends and family are going to be expressing similar rhetoric, even though they’ve never taken the time to type “Critical Race Theory” into a search engine.  For those of us appalled by this unfair and uninformed campaign, I’ve created a simple set of questions to ask your conservative friends and family.

  1. Do you believe – other than skin color – there are significant genetic differences between white, black and brown people?

Even most conservatives will answer “no.”  You can then explain that this is the first and most important tenet of Critical Race Theory.  Race is a social construct and not a biological reality.  Because of this core tenet, CRT also does not think white people inherently worse than people of color.  We are all more alike than we are different.

If they answer “yes,” you can quit asking them questions.  They are obviously white supremacists and anything you say will be useless.

  1. Do you believe people of color are often treated negatively in our society because of the color of their skin?

Again, most polls find conservatives will admit racial incidents remain a problem.  When they answer “yes,” explain that this is the second tenet of Critical Race Theory.  Racism is systemic and not simply the behavior of a few bad apples. There are still significant advantages baked into the system for white people.

If they answer “no,” ask them to provide some studies proving that all people are treated equally in our society.

  1. Do you believe a black person driving the same type of car as you drive would be more likely to pulled over by the police?

Most conservatives will even admit this.  When they answer “yes,” explain that this is the third tenet of Critical Race Theory.  Systemic racism leads to a greater possibility of harassment and oppression for people of color than for white people.  This does not mean bad things can’t happen to white people, but they are unlikely to be a result of them being white.

If they answer “no,” explain every single study finds the likelihood of blacks being pulled over by the police is higher than whites.  This is not your opinion.  This is a fact.

  1. Do you believe being white has advantages over being a person of color in our society?

If they say, “yes, explain that this is the central point of Critical Race Theory.  Our society does not provide equal opportunity and treatment to all of its citizens and this needs to change.  Critical Race Theory says that if white and black people agree to this, they also have a responsibility to work together to change this.

If they say, “no,” ask them if they would be willing to change places with a black person?

  1. Do they think our society would be fairer if people of color had a stronger voice in government, business, law enforcement, the courts and other organizations?

If they answer “yes,” explain that this is the primary goal of Critical Race Theory in ending racism in the United States.  Critical Race Theory does not want white people to feel guilty.  It asks for white people to be fair and work to increase the power and voice of people of color.

If they say, “no,” ask them how they would solve inequities in society.

If your conservative friends and family answer “yes” to all of these questions, explain that they are believers in Critical Race Theory.  If they object and say they’ve been told Critical Race Theory was something different, ask them the following.

“In a society where people of color are still treated negatively, pulled over by the police more often, at a disadvantage to white people and often denied a voice, what might motivate someone to lie about Critical Race Theory?”

If they don’t know, ask them one more question.

“In a society where racism is systematic and whites still have significant advantages, why would it be easy for a white person to believe lies about Critical Race Theory?”

White Conservatives Don’t Discriminate

White Conservatives Don’t Discriminate

In a recent The Economist/YouGov poll, respondents were asked, “How much discrimination do the following people face in America today?”  Discrimination in this context was the unjust treatment of different categories of people, especially on grounds of race, age or sex.  While all groups of respondents acknowledged there is still discrimination toward people of color in the United States, one group – conservatives – identified themselves as the group facing the most discrimination.  As you can also probably guess, most of these conservatives were white.

We live in bizarre times.

Seventy-five percent of white conservatives responded they were the victims of discrimination “a great deal or a fair amount.”  These same white people thought blacks (49%), Asians (50%), immigrants, (49%) Muslims, (58%), Jewish people (55%) experience less discrimination than themselves by wide margins.  Rather than seeing themselves as privileged, they saw themselves as oppressed.

This would suggest white conservatives are not very discriminating.  Discrimination in this context is the recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.  Conservatives do not seem capable of recognizing and understanding the difference between oppression and social shaming.

There is absolutely no statistical evidence that white conservatives are suddenly being…

  • Pulled over and harassed by the police at higher rates.
  • Having their property appraised at lower rates.
  • Targeted for racially motivated crimes.
  • Sentenced to more jail time than their peers.
  • Monitored by security officers in stores.
  • Hired and paid at lower rates than their peers.
  • Having their children disciplined more severely in school.
  • Denied access to specific schools or neighborhoods.

There is evidence that white conservatives are more likely today to…

  • Have the advantages of being white pointed out to them.
  • Have their racist attitudes, speech and behavior publicly challenged.
  • Hear about the horrific and violent behavior of their parents and grandparents toward people of other races.
  • Be asked to take responsibility for making society more just for people of color.

White conservatives are not very discriminating.  They consistently confuse bias and prejudice – which is a human propensity – with racism – which is a systemic social construct.  They misunderstand affirmative action – which is an attempt to correct an inequity – with discrimination – which is the inequity that affirmative action is trying to correct.  They think intent – which is largely irrelevant – more important than the impact that causes damage.  They identify shaming – which is a societal means of altering immoral behavior – as virtue signaling, thereby excusing themselves from feeling any shame.

Ironically, it is this lack of intellectual discrimination – knowing the difference between one thing and another – that makes it so easy for white conservatives to claim racial discrimination.   They honestly can’t see any difference between their experience and that of people of color.  Trying to convince them they aren’t the real victims is difficult because they don’t know the difference between discomfort and trauma.  They are more offended by a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt than the daily injuries and struggles of people of color.

Years ago, comedian Chris Rock did a bit about racism…

“Shit, there ain’t a white man in this room that would change places with me.  None of you.  None of you would change places with me and I’m rich!  That’s how good it is to be white.  There’s a white one legged busboy in here right now that won’t change places with my black ass.  He’s going, ‘Nah, man, I don’t wanna switch.  I wanna ride this white thing out.  See where it takes me.’  He’s right.  Cause when you’re white, the sky’s the limit.”

I wish the Economist/YouGov poll had asked those white conservatives Rock’s question – “Would you change places with a black, Asian, immigrant, Muslim, or Jewish person in the United States?”  I seriously doubt 75% of them would have changed places with these groups of people they think better treated.

Of course, since they also seem incapable of discriminating between irony and mockery, they will conclude this very blog is evidence of their oppression.

When white conservatives “play the victim,” we live in bizarre times.

(Friends, many bloggers are noticing that Facebook algorithms are severely limiting the readership of posts that mention race or racism. If you have depended on Facebook to access my blog, I would encourage you to become a follower of this blog. You can also choose to receive the blog in your email whenever I publish a new post.)

Ignorant Racial Education

Ignorant Racial Education

Recently, one of my acquaintances on Facebook – a white woman whom I will call Mrs. O’Reilly – posted an article lambasting the teaching of Critical Race Theory.  As a Catholic educator, Mrs. O’Reilly was scandalized by what, in her opinion, was divisive and political indoctrination.  In response, I sent her another article entitled “White People’s Fear of Critical Race Theory Is Based On Ignorance.”  (If you don’t understand Critical Race Theory, this article is a good primer.)  As you can probably guess, Mrs. O’Reilly was deeply offended by the title, didn’t read the article, and eventually unfriended and blocked me.

Before she did so, I was able to ask her to name five ideas she would teach about race in the United States.  Mrs. O’Reilly replied with the following…

  1. We all have been oppressed.
  2. We all stereotype based on our life experiences.
  3. Politics or indoctrination should not be a central education thread.
  4. There are “groups” that connect based on affinity.
  5. Embrace who you are today realizing you have no control over bad history – short of not repeating it.

What does it say when a white educator offers a curriculum for teaching young people about race that never mentions the word “race” or “racism?”

To me, it screams of ignorance.  Not ignorance in the sense of unintelligence since Mrs. O’Reilly is clearly a well-educated woman, but in the intentional and willful ignoring of a basic truth – that racism is still a serious problem in our society.

Let’s unpack her curriculum…

We all have been oppressed.  In grounding her teaching in such an unnuanced understanding of the human experience, Mrs. O’Reilly essentially eliminates the need to discuss racism.  Everyone has been treated badly.  No one has any special cause for grievance.  Oppression and racism are equated.  That non-whites have been the object of any special oppression is completely ignored.

We all stereotype based on our life experiences.  For Mrs. O’Reilly, everyone has misconceptions about other groups.  These are based on life experiences and not cultural indoctrination.  Again, no one has any special cause for grievance.  Everyone can be racist.  Bias and racism are equated.  There is no acknowledgement that, while we all harbor prejudices, that white people have had inordinate power to systematize and inflect their prejudices on non-whites.

Politics or indoctrination should not be a central education thread.  Mrs. O’Reilly must have missed the lecture on John Dewey during her Philosophy of Education college course.  John Dewey, lauded as one of the fathers of the US educational system, argued the purpose of public education was to create good citizens.  He would be shocked to hear that teaching children about the mistreatment of others is a political agenda rather than a moral one.  Even more disturbing is the audacity of a Catholic educator railing at others about using education for indoctrination.

There are “groups” that connect based on affinity.  While this might be heard as a defense of identity politics and the legitimacy of underrepresented populations in advocating for their rights, I don’t think this was Mrs. O’Reilly’s intent.  While she never elaborated, this could just as easily be a defense of segregation.

Embrace who you are today realizing you have no control over bad history – short of not repeating it.  Of course, since Mrs. O’Reilly doesn’t seem to want anyone discussing the past mistreatment of non-whites, it is hard to understand how she expects her students to avoid repeating those mistakes.

I honestly wish I had more opportunity to talk with Mrs. O’Reilly.  She represents the ideal teacher in the nine Republican states that have recently passed legislation outlawing the teaching of Critical Race Theory or the 1619 Project in public classrooms.  Tennessee recently passed legislation that outlaws the teaching of the following…

  1. That one race or sex is privileged or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.
  2. That an individual of any race or sex bears any responsibility for past actions of members of that race or sex.
  3. That an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.
  4. That a meritocracy could be designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex.
  5. That the United States or a state within the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.

The legislation ends by making it illegal to teach anything which promotes division or resentment between people of one race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class or class of people.

If you’re not disturbed yet, you should be.  There can be little doubt that the real intent of these laws is to protect white fragility, ignore historical and societal realities and stymie the most important tool in ending racism – education.

However, I remain optimistic.

First, because if minority advocates are smart, a conservative teacher will be first accused of violating these laws in their teachings.  In Tennessee, there are not a lot of teachers advocating for Critical Race Theory, but there are probably dozens who are teaching racist and sexist ideas.  The State of Tennessee has made it illegal to cause discomfort, guilt, anguish, or distress for their non-white and female students.  Apparently, they don’t realize how epidemic this is in Tennessee.

My optimism also comes from remembering that the last time the state of Tennessee tried to outlaw the teaching of a theory it didn’t go so well.  The Scopes Trials in 1925 made Tennessee conservatives a laughingstock nationally, and while John Scopes was convicted for teaching evolution and fined $100, the trial did much to discredit those who opposed the theory of evolution.

I suspect the same will soon happen in Tennessee and other states where the teaching of Critical Race Theory is being outlawed.  Frankly, there is far more evidence of racism in the United States and in Tennessee than in evolution.  In 1925, William Jennings Bryan, a popular conservative politician, ruined his presidential aspirations when he jumped on the anti-evolution bandwagon and prosecuted Mr. Scopes. He looked the fool.  Let us hope the same happens with the proponents of these laws.

For nearly four hundred years, white educators have largely ignored racism.  In countless schools and classrooms, this is changing.  Those who oppose this shift are the ones with an immoral agenda. 

(Friends, many bloggers are noticing that Facebook algorithms are severely limiting the readership of posts that mention race or racism. If you have depended on Facebook to access my blog, I would encourage you to become a follower of this blog. You can also choose to receive the blog in your email whenever I publish a new post.)

When Whites Complain About Discrimination

When Whites Complain About Discrimination

Last weekend, the New York Times reported on a US government program offering debt relief to non-white farmers.  This $4 billion program is designed to repair the decades of unfair treatment non-white farmers received from banks, farm agents and government programs.  This abuse included everything from being denied loans, excluded from government subsidies and even having their land stolen from them through racist legal technicalities.  In 1920, black families owned 14% of all farms.  Today they own 1.4%.

However, most of the article wasn’t about these injustices and the promise of reparations.  Instead, the article focused on white anger and resentment and the emergence of the All Farmers Matter movement.  Jeffrey Lay, a white farmer was quoted as saying, “It’s a bunch of crap.  They talk about wanting to get rid of discrimination, but they’re not even thinking about the fact that they’re discriminating against us.  I can’t afford to buy that 5000-acre piece of ground, but a black farmer, he’d qualify to get it.  That’s fine. That doesn’t bother me.  But I can’t.”

Obviously, Mr. Lay is lying.  It does bother him.  He doesn’t think it is fine that his black farmer neighbor can buy something he can’t.  He thinks it is unjust.  Another white farmer, Mr. Stevens, was more honest.  He complained, “It’s anti-white.  Since when does agriculture get into this kind of race politics?”  Obviously, Mr. Stevens is not an agricultural historian or he would know agriculture has always been about the politics of race.  It, like all things American, has traditionally been pro-white.

However, this post is not about the long history of racial discrimination around agriculture, though Mr. Lay and Stevens could certainly use a lesson or two.  It is about what white complaints of discrimination demonstrate about white people.  It is also about lollipops.

Several years ago, when giving lollipops to two of my grandsons, the youngest said, “Papa, you gave my brother a lollipop yesterday and I didn’t get one. Can I have two today?”  Before I could respond, his older brother replied, “That wouldn’t be fair.”  Without any thought, I sided with my oldest grandson and said, “What happened yesterday doesn’t matter. Today, you both get one lollipop.”

I’ve thought a lot about that exchange when I encounter white people complaining of discrimination.  Like white and non-white people in the United States, my two grandsons disagreed on what equality should look like. The younger, aware of a historic inequality, was asking me to rectify an injustice.  He was arguing that equality could be measured over two days as easily as over one.  The oldest, aware of an immediate inequality, was demanding a judgement limited to the present moment.  He made his complaint of injustice even though he knew – when measured over two days – he would be the recipient of one more lollipop than his brother.

My oldest grandson’s attitude was remarkably like the attitude of those white farmers. When we who are white argue that what happened in the past doesn’t matter, we are not arguing for equality and fairness; we are defending our advantage.  When we say agricultural subsidies should be administered blindly today, we are intentionally ignoring the historic reality that Lady Justice was peeking from behind her blindfold in the past.  Though she systemically denied justice and opportunity to minorities for decades, we act as if those facts are irrelevant.  Everyone should now be judged by their merits.

However, when that argument is judged by its merits, it fails horribly.  Limiting the measure of equality to the present is an arbitrary decision.  In criminal cases, our courts often address past injuries.  Indeed, for some serious crimes, there is no statute of limitations.  Sadly, our unwillingness to address past racial injustices implies we don’t see those injustices as serious.

Equality without a memory is always unjust.  My younger grandson’s plea for a second lollipop represents the legitimate complaint of non-whites across America. He knew – probably because his brother proudly announced it – that his older brother had received something he had been denied.  Confronted with an obvious opportunity for that injustice to be rectified, he made a fair request – give me what I was previously denied.  He hoped that his grandfather would see the righteousness of his appeal.

Sadly, I failed him.

I wish I could say I denied him a second lollipop because I didn’t want him to ruin his dinner, but that wouldn’t be true. I chose to give each grandson one lollipop, not because that was just, but because that was easiest.  I knew, once my older grandson complained, that to give my younger grandson a second lollipop would result in a conflict.  Once he proclaimed, “That wouldn’t be fair,” I was cowed.  Limiting equality to the present moment was the easiest decision.

I lied to my youngest grandson.

What happened yesterday does matter.

This is especially true when we’re talking about centuries of slavery, the genocide and marginalization of the Native Americans, decades of Jim Crow, the exploitation of migrant workers and countless other injustices.  While it is certainly easiest to limit equality to the present moment, it is never just.  When our nation ignores the past, it always multiplies injuries.

Though those white farmers won’t see it, their complaints demonstrate their unwillingness to surrender decades of advantage.  What bothers them is not injustice or they would have been advocating for their non-white neighbors for years.  What bothers them is what has bothered non-white farmers for decades; being excluded.  Sadly, like too many white people, Mr. Lay and Mr. Stevens only complained about a system of exclusion when it finally excluded them.

I wish my older grandson had responded to his younger brother’s request with kindness. If he’d said, “Papa, he’s right. He should get two lollipops,” I would have quickly agreed.  When this didn’t happen, I did what our legislatures and courts have done for far too long.  I took the easiest route, the one least likely to solicit the complaints of those who have previously had the advantage.  I missed an opportunity to teach my grandsons about the complexities of justice.

Maybe it is too much to ask white farmers like Mr. Lay and Mr. Stevens to respond to this new program for non-white farmers with kindness but, thanks to my grandsons, I understand its necessity.  Our nation needs to do what I would have wished of my oldest grandson. We need to advocate for an application of justice measured by decades and centuries.  We need to acknowledge the legitimacy of some kind of restitution.  We need to establish programs that give billions of dollars of reparations to non-white people.

We need to finally acknowledge they deserve more lollipops.

(Friends, many bloggers are noticing that Facebook algorithms are severely limiting the readership of posts that mention racism. If you have depended on Facebook to access my blog, I would encourage you to become a follower of this blog. You can also choose to receive the blog in your email whenever I publish a new one.

If you would like to assist me by posting the blog on your Facebook page, let me know and I will send it directly to your Facebook page.)

How BSMC Is Shutting Down Discussions on MSCAR

How BSMC Is Shutting Down Discussions on MSCAR

Something insidious is going on.

I have been writing this blog about negative actions toward people with different skin tones, which I will refer to as MSCAR in this post, for five years.  I have primarily used a big social media company, which I will call BSMC in this post, to share my writings with friends.  Over those years, my BSMC page has gained about 1500 friends and my blog now has about 640 followers who receive my posts via email.  My audience has expanded.

As part of my Word Press blogging platform, I can track my readership. Here are the number of views for my most popular posts each of those years…

  • 2017-18        122,655 views
  • 2019              30,712 views
  • 2020              16,475 views
  • 2021              457 views

Here are my total views through BSMC…

  • 2017-18         164,680 views
  • 2019               74,745 views
  • 2020               41,210 views
  • 2021               6,106 views

Somehow, I have pulled off the rare feat of having more friends and followers and less views and readership.  Something insidious is going on.

I am not alone in this conclusion.  Many of my fellow bloggers on issues of MSCAR are seeing the same dramatic dip in readership and views.  Indeed, several bloggers of the opposite skin tone as myself have found their posts on MSCAR taken down by BSMC.  Some have been blocked and even had their accounts temporarily closed.  While this has not happened to me, I am also of a lighter skin tone.  It seems clear that BSMC is making it more difficult to share information and opinions about MSCAR, especially for people with skin tones darker than mine.

While this is deeply troubling, even more disturbing is the evidence that this is impacting those who highlight MSCAR more than those who diminish MSCAR.  Recently, I had a friend of a different skin tone post an article claiming that the United States does NOT have a problem with MSCAR.  This post was widely disseminated by BSMC and had many views and comments.  The next day this same friend posted an article claiming that the United States is still plagued by MSCAR.  The only reason I found that post was because I visited his page.

Something insidious is going on.

This past week, I decided to share my last blog post by sending it individually to many of my friends and family on BSMC.  I asked them if they have been seeing my posts.  None of them had.  After sending this inquiry to about ten different friends, BSMC informed me that I had violated community standards.  They then shut down my ability to share for several hours.  Think about that.  I was not allowed to share my blog with friends and family.  If you are someone who has wondered why I don’t post as often on BSMC, you now know the truth.  I have not posted less.  It is your ability to see what I post that has changed.

In another recent experiment, I posted something on BSMC about a political issue.  That post received over 75 likes and about ten shares.  I followed that post with something about MSCAR and had 13 likes and 3 shares.  There can be only two possibilities.  Either most of my 1500 friends – most of whom came to my page because of my writings around MSCAR – have suddenly lost interest or they are not seeing my posts.

Looking back over the past few years, I have found posts on BSMC about MSCAR that received hundreds of likes and as much as 75 shares.  In 2021, at a point when my page has more friends than ever before, it is rare for me to see more than a dozen likes and two or three shares.

Something insidious is going on.

You could argue BSMC has the right to do whatever they want.  They are a private company.  They can make whatever rules they choose.  They can choose to limit the reach of my posts (unless I pay them).  If I don’t like it, I am free to close my account.  But it isn’t quite that simple.  When one platform has such power to disseminate or to block the spread of information, much of the promised freedom and equity of the internet is jeopardized.

Could BLM have emerged in 2021?

I don’t know.

I do know I am beginning to explore moving my blog to other platforms like Reddit and Substack.  In the United States today, those in power would like to stop discussions about MSCAR.  BSMC has become a tool of this status quo.  That I have had to write this post in code should disturb us all.

Regardless, I do know this.  If you have been relying on BSMC to supply you with information about what people are doing, saying or thinking about MSCAR, you need to rethink that.

As in the past, people of my skin tone with notions of their own superiority are using any and every means to maintain their power.

(Friends, many bloggers are noticing that Facebook algorithms are severely limiting the readership of posts that mention MSCAR. If you have depended on Facebook to access my blog, I would encourage you to become a follower of this blog. You can also choose to receive the blog in your email whenever I publish a new one.)

Making Everything About Race

Making Everything About Race

“You make everything about race.”

I often receive this complaint from other white people – even progressive ones – about my blog and attitude.  While few argue racism doesn’t exist in the United States, some say or imply that I unjustly interpret every human interaction and institutional policy through the lens of race, thereby identifying racism in every nook and cranny of American society.  I suspect others accuse me of this behind my back.  To many, I am the “crazy old white guy in the Black Lives Matter shirt.”

I will wear that proudly.

I DO interpret every human interaction and institutional policy through the lens of race, thereby identifying racism in places where my white peers often don’t.  But I don’t think this unjust or crazy.  I would argue most white people do the very opposite of what I do – they assume every human interaction or institutional policy is “anything, but” racism.

While I hope for a day when racial harmony and equity are the reality in the United States – until that day comes – I have chosen to be a counterweight to the vast number of white people who cannot (or will not) see and acknowledge racism.  To me, they are the unjust ones.  More importantly, I believe their resistance perpetuates systemic racism and makes the dream of a harmonious and equitable society a distant hope.

Some tell me I wouldn’t be so fixated on racism if I didn’t have a black daughter. While this is probably true, it deeply saddens me.  It implies, though my critics don’t realize it, racism and its impact are primarily the concerns of black people and those who love them.  It also suggests my critics see themselves as people who do not fit the second category.  That I once thought this way makes me ashamed.

Still others say my emphasis on systemic racism in America is the cause of continued racial divisions. My blog and attitude are making things worse rather than better.  By making everything about race, I am the racist.  I am denigrating good, non-racist white people and inflaming the resentments of good, non-racist black people.  In other words, the problem in the United States is not racism, but those who insist on talking about it.  These critics never explain to me why “good” white and black people wouldn’t want to talk about racism.

Finally, some progressive friends argue I am alienating myself from whites who might be sympathetic to my cause if I were not so insistent that racism is rampant.  They ask me to tone down my rhetoric.  They want me to define racism in a way in which most white people are excluded and only the most blatant white supremacists are my target.  Of course, when they reference these “hypothetical whites,” they are probably talking about themselves.  They are the ones uncomfortable with my broad indictments of white people.

Knowing all their objections, why do I continue making everything about race?

I believe MOST human interactions and institutional policy in the United States are still impacted by racism.  This is not merely my personal opinion.  It is a conclusion wrought from hundreds of hours of research, of dozens of books and studies read, of many conversations with people of color and of soul searching and internal reflection.  I do not believe I am imagining the racism I now identify in the nooks and crannies of America.  I think I was previously blind to it.  I also think many of my white peers, who have not done this difficult work, cannot see it.

To which my critics reply, “You said ‘Most.’  You said MOST human interaction and institutional policy in the United States is impacted by racism.  So you don’t believe all!”

They seem so triumphant when they point this out.  As if this acknowledgement somehow frees me, them or the nation from the responsibility of confronting racism.  As if this qualification negates all my accusations of systemic racism in America.  As if our nation is redeemed by those instances when people interact or policies are adopted free of racism.  They often say, “That is all we are asking.  We just want you to acknowledge that everything isn’t as black and white as you make it.”

They say this without a hint of irony, oblivious to the fact that they still live in a society where they can use a phrase where black is usually defined as negative and white is usually defined as positive without the least bit of discomfort.

I believe most human interactions and institutional policy in the United States are still impacted by racism, so I have decided to examine all human interactions and institutional policy through the lens of race.  I think this both logical and fair.  I do not emphasize the exceptions to this rule.  It cannot hurt me to assume my attitudes, behavior, or actions are often driven by racial prejudice or animosity.  It can only make me a better person.

It does no damage to assume most of the human interactions and institutional policies I observe are driven by those same prejudices or animosity.  It is when we navigate life with the assumption that we and our society are largely free of prejudice and animosity that we do and have done serious damage to people of color.

When it comes to racism in the United States, I have intentionally decided to err on the side of caution, to assume and accept both my personal racism and that of my society.

I have chosen to err on the side of those who have been victims of racial oppression.

White resistance to seeing, hearing or speaking about racism must end.

(Friends, many bloggers are noticing that Facebook algorithms are severely limiting the readership of posts that mention race or racism. If you have depended on Facebook to access my blog, I would encourage you to become a follower of this blog. You will receive the blog in your email whenever I publish a new one.)