Race 101: Classic White Thoughts (1/2)
Updated: Nov 1, 2018
I’ve discovered over and over again that PoC in any discussion-turned-toxic-debate about race with white people usually tend to get bullied by a barrage of the same old, well-versed yet recycled counterpoints. Let’s call them classic white thoughts on race and this post is about examples of them and responses to them. In the spirit of Rene’s book entitled ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ think of them as reasons why to no longer talk to white people about race.
Brilliant creative Terrence Nance, creator of Random Acts of Flyness, which is a blend of ‘Adult Swim’ and critical race theory included a seven-minute sketch called “White Thoughts.”
In it, white thoughts are a symptom of a fictional aggressive disease known as “Acute Viral Perceptive Albinitis” also know as whiteness. the infomercial goes on to say, “white thoughts can be deceptively euphoric as they give victims of white thoughts a profound sense of identity and purpose as well as an unbridled populace, political power.”
So I’ve compiled some classic white thoughts on race because more often than not trying to be combative in such discussions leaves the black and brown people feeling dismissed, bullied or silenced by their opponent’s white privilege and denial. So once again another post will have to do. Here are some of the best examples and my responses.
…”white thoughts can be deceptively euphoric as they give victims of white thoughts a profound sense of identity and purpose as well as an unbridled populace, political power.”
"It Takes Time"
So the saying goes that racial equality and just generally an egalitarian society takes time. That’s what white people have been saying since the abolitionists. It’s the principle of gradualism. As historian David Olusoga says about gradualism,” this view was predicated on the belief that the slaves were unready and ill-equipped for freedom and any sudden transition might lead to violence and chaos.” Gradualism at its root is about white people judging and assessing our capacity as black people to manage our affairs and adhere to European notions. Gradualism says more about the racist ideas of white people than it does about the inner nature and capacities of black people, which is living on since the abolition of the slave trade in the 19th century. Ultimately, I think this argument is based on a mixture of fear and avoidance hate crimes by the white supremacists reaction to immediate change and wanting to preserve and extend the privileges granted to them.
A response to this is immediatism. Let’s face it as gradually as whites want it to be out of hidden self-interest, black people are still more likely to be charged, shot-dead and incarcerated (often unfairly) at unprecedented levels by the police yet white people still frown and tell us to wait for change.
"You Need to Look at the Issue from a Different Angle."
I don’t entirely disagree with this view (there’s usually a third option) and friends impressed this upon me. However I disagree when the person saying it appears not to be listening at all and just dismissing my POV as irrelevant, i.e. ‘that happened years ago and it’s got nothing to do with me’, without listening to it, even more so when their view is part of the pernicious white narrative on race. The truth is my point of view is not just part of a monolithic black view (which doesn’t exist), it’s a blend of a few POV. Have you read what I’ve read? If not, listen you might learn.
"Black People Are Victims."
We all have victim glasses on and blame white people for our problems. If we did, so what? Can’t you be sympathetic seeing it as legitimate? Maybe not. The point is we’re not blaming; we’re saying we’re not on an equal playing field with whites, fact.
"It’s a Black Problem."
Either we’re too segregated, or we play the victim, or we don’t see things entirely or a whole load of other things that are supposedly wrong with us which have caused the racial inequalities blacks face in society. No, we’re not the problem, again that reveals more about the racist ideas of most people than it does about the natural conditions of black people. As Ibram X. Kendi summarised in a tweet, “the only thing wrong with black people is that we think we think something is wrong with black people.” The real problem is discrimination.
"It’s Worse over There Than in the UK."
I admit I half subscribed to this belief, like most of them already mentioned it seemed convincingly plausible. This idea that racial disadvantage, especially police brutality is much worse in the US than the UK. I think in part it’s because people think that because the US had slavery, lynching and Jim crow it must be worse after all that has Britain had at home in comparison? No blacks, no dogs no Irish signs and the odd case like Stephen Lawrence.
My response, read more! Gary Younge a black British award-winning journalist, who regularly reports on race and politics in America and the UK, worked in the US for over ten years as a Guardian foreign correspondent. He said about his decision to leave and come back to the UK that, “if I aimed to escape aggressive policing and racial disadvantage would not be headlong to Hackney.”
Kehinde Andrews, who last year was appointed Britain’s first ever professor of “black studies” at BCU when discussing racism in the US on BBC Newsnight said, “racism is deeply ingrained that it is part of the DNA of the [American] nation. Britain is no different.” He goes on to say, “police may not kill as many black people [in the UK], but that’s because they do not routinely carry guns.” The inequalities that plague the US are being felt by black people in the UK in every area of social life.
"Colonialism, Slavery and Imperialism Weren't That Bad."
As if it was propaganda?! This is my person favourite. Yes, the economist might say that the African Nations who were influenced the most by colonialism are also the most advanced, particularly economically. My response would be, but who owns most of that wealth today? Wealthy whites, look at South Africa. What of the means of advancement: forced labour, detention camps, land grabbing to name a few. It's embarrassing and taints one's pride in one's country, and it's glorious legacy. So let's lie about it to soothe our conscience and make it up to foster a sense of national pride. As Salman Rushdie said, the trouble with the British is that they don’t know their history, because so much of it happened overseas. Many don't. Good old historical amnesia.
I hope that these responses whether heard or not are out there for valid reference and not just another reason why you’re longer to talk to white people about race.