Why White America Needs to Grow Up — and Stop Acting as if They Should be the Center of the Universe
Politicians are not the only people prone to manipulation tactics that can result in creating more confusion when clear communication is crucial. People need to know where they and others stand, since people of color wounded by systemic racism have little energy to engage in ongoing guessing about those claiming roles as an ally of social justice, and supporter in the co-liberation of humanity. A common issue arises when white people center themselves, however. When confronted with historical information about inequality and ongoing disparities that they would rather avoid, many attempt to gaslight black and brown people. Many respond in ways that minimize or downplay harsh realities despite knowing that most white people directly or indirectly play a role in maintaining systemic racism even if they are not conscious of doing so.
Denial attempts to negate the widespread harm as many whites who consider themselves decent, come to realize they benefit from unearned privileges related to whiteness. They expect some kind of validation that they are not the same as extremists (such as white nationalists, the KKK, Nazi sympathizers, etc), as if wanting to feel beyond reproach. In insisting on being regarded as individuals who just happen to be white, they discount the collective experiences of diverse people across generations who’ve been subjected to socioeconomic barriers with outcomes imposed based on demographic group and political dynamics. That’s why when the average white person says he or she feels “attacked” or “alienated” because black and brown people use direct and sometimes harsh words in describing the impact of racism, which can sting and leave some whites with a wounded ego, my response is: Grow up. Really.
White people, despite historical patterns of indoctrination that resulted in diverse people being socialized to accept racist premises as “normal,” you are not the center of everyone’s universe. Some things simply are not your business to dictate or decide. Some things are not about you, so stop taking everything personally, if something said about the impact of racism does not apply to you. Accusations of rudeness are only applicable if you are personally “called out” based on extreme and unfair individual character attacks. But otherwise, how black and brown people talk about their experiences with racism, is not for you to determine.
America is in the midst of a white backlash epitomized by the rise of Donald Trump, who is one of the least qualified, most incompetent and most brazen offenders of basic civility seen among presidential leaders in modern history. Even before him, Congressional Republicans made it clear they wanted to see the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, fail, regardless of how their actions created stagnation and political dysfunction for the nation. Given these and other indicators of racialized politics returning to the mainstream, anyone seeking to tone police people of color with legitimate concerns, would be better off checking themselves. If you threaten to stop being an “ally” in promoting equality and social justice because your feelings got hurt, you should examine your own integrity under the circumstances.
I agree with KC Raso (yes, she is a white woman and activist), who wrote: “White people need to stop expecting to be catered to and have our willingness to stand up for justice spoonfed in palatable bites. White demands for a high degree of comfort in all matters, while people of color continue to face targeting (now again escalated under this regime) is how we still are where we are today. White liberals have been asleep at the wheel and need to be shocked awake sometimes…Fence sitting isn’t going to get us out of this mess.”
Contrary to popular assumptions, America is not a post-racial society. Stop trying to tone monitor how people express their outrage and frustrations. Stop thinking you already know everything about how racism operates (it is likely the average person of color has awareness about nuanced aspects of racism due to lived experience). Listen and learn why people are increasingly fed up, instead of seeking reasons to judge or discount everyone. You know darn well that if white people are so “fragile” when it comes to being confronted with discussions around race, many would fall apart under ongoing stressors that create unnecessary suffering. Having one’s life severely impacted by systemic racism is far more than an inconvenience.
Enough with the denial or beliefs that systemic racism is not pervasive. America really is in the midst of another “white backlash” where people in power are trying to turn back the clock on progress. Simply ask yourself whether, if you were on the receiving end of major discrimination based on skin color that places ongoing barriers on your path, to harm options for a quality life, you might become homicidal or suicidal. Hearing harsh words about racism is a piece of cake compared to living with routine racism in daily life.
When people feel like they are at risk of suffocating in a house fire or drowning in the ocean, we would not expect language from them that fails to convey the urgency of the situation. Unless you are willing to throw a lifeline, there is no reason to offer a view about how people should cope with threats to their survival. And skip the need to have anyone regard you like a “savior,” since historical racism reflects a sordid reality of more people going along to get along, than those demonstrating courage due to realizing there is mutual benefit for diverse people from doing what is moral and ethical to promote the common good.
No one willingly signed up to endure ongoing stressors from crazy-making people whose racism is both direct and indirect, in attempts to enforce a stale status quo rooted in the false ideology of white supremacy. There is nothing about racism that qualifies as life-affirming — because there is nothing but insanity imposed on people when forced to navigate systems that cause inevitable harm, chaos and disorder. To truly claim they are recovering racists, whites have to do deep soul searching and consistently demonstrate consciousness of their own thinking and behaviors to avoid default habits, since whiteness makes it easy to blend in enough to participate in systems of oppression designed to disadvantage people of color. Those attempting to gaslight others need to address their own discomfort in facing difficult racial realities, in order to align with people seeking legitimate solutions and trying to find life-affirming ways out of the current chaos.