Calling all white people, part 19: Chuck white feelings in the wake of Charlottesville

Calling All White People, Part 19

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: Get real about what Charlottesville means, and get out of your feelings  

[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]

Look, I’m not going to tell you what’s been happening in Charlottesville, Virginia, the past couple days. If you’re deep enough under a rock that you haven’t heard about it all, get online and hit up Google search, OK?

But I have some feelings about what’s happening in Charlottesville and in particular how my fellow white people are feeling about it. And I have some words for those who are experiencing fear, dismay, outrage, guilt or affront (or anything else) with regard to said feelings.

Fuck my feelings.

Fuck your feelings.

Fuck all of our white people feelings.

I’m not saying we can’t have feelings about the way racists of all stripes straight-up decided to instigate a race riot and declare that white supremacy is willing to harm and kill Blacks and other non-whites to survive and prosper. I’m not saying you can’t be emotionally wrought by this horrific set of events.

But we white people love to get in our feelings, especially when we want to make sure people know we aren’t like “those white people.”

But instead of getting *in* your feelings, get *out* of them.

What are you going to *do* about all of this?

Again, not saying you can’t share tweets and Facebook posts; I sure have. But what are you going to do beyond that? What will you do to demonstrate that you won’t tolerate racism and white supremacy in this country?

You can declare all the outrage you want online or among friends about the racists in Charlottesville but what are you going to do about them and the system that both props them up and that they are trying to preserve? A system that, by the way, nurtures all of us white people at the expense of people of color, especially Black people…and which was built on the blood and backs of Native Americans and Black people.

What are you going to do about the white people around you who feel attacked by the Black people who point to Charlottesville and say, “See, white supremacy at work again, in plain sight and unchallenged by authorities” or will you remain silent because you don’t want to have uncomfortable feelings or don’t what those other white people to feel a certain way about you?

Screw your feelings and theirs.

When they say “The Ferguson, Missouri, situation and all the BLM protests were just as bad,” don’t let them get away with it. It’s not the same. Tell them that. Don’t allow them to have a dissenting opinion that is patently untrue. Don’t let them be entitled to feelings of sympathy for racists that are entirely misplaced and undeserved.

Ferguson was a place where Black people protested an injustice and had shrines and memorials with candles and such that were vandalized, and when they marched they were met with police and they were accused of burning down their neighbors when in fact there were more protesters putting out fires than outsiders or people negligently setting them. And yet they were met with tear gas and tanks and had to deal with being occupied in a military fashion.

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, you have white people carrying not candles but torches, surrounding a church and being threatening toward people conducting vigils, while other racists dressed in fatigues and armed themselves and helped spur on actual assaults of counter-protesters and one guy drove a fucking car into a crowd of them…and the white people even threw tear gas at the people of color…and the police did nothing. No tanks. No sweeping show of force among the white people.

It isn’t the same and no matter how much Trump wants to say there is hate and violence on multiple sides, that isn’t the case.

The hate and the violence is overwhelmingly on the side of white people, used against Black people and other POC in overt ways like Charlottesville and in subtle ways with daily discrimination.

Fuck. Your. Feelings. And mine.

It’s time to change, and change will begin by standing up clearly for what you believe in. If you believe racism is wrong, stop hiding that from the people it will bother. Stop allowing non-white people around you to be misused or actually harmed and say or do nothing. Do *something* damn it. Something to show you’re on the right side instead of just saying you are. Something to support or protect people of color instead of hoping someone else will be there for them.

This isn’t, as BGIM and others have pointed out online recently, a “both sides” thing. This is a thing where racists are openly using violence and intimidation to ensure that white supremacy not only remains alive and well but shoves people of color down even harder than it has been for decades even with civil rights legislation in place.

You need to stop worrying so much about feelings and start worrying about which side you are on. Because being in the middle essentially makes you a supporter of the villains who will do anything and everything to harm people of color in order to make sure oppression remains the norm and becomes so normalized that it doesn’t even need to be done subtly anymore at all.
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On race and dreams, and an update on BGIM Media

Once upon a time, I believed that if I could just work hard enough, I would get ahead. Yes, I foolishly believed at one point that hard work and moxie alone would get me ahead.

And, for years, I believed that because I had a few more of the success trappings than my parents had ever had in their 33 years together that this was as good as life could get. Throughout my childhood, I had heard that “As a Black person you have to work harder than the most average white person to get half of what they have.” For the longest time, I didn’t want to believe that was true, but it is one of the few absolute truths when it comes to race in America and how it is lived.

In case that is confusing to you, look no further than the 44th president of the United States…also known as Barack Obama, or the first Black president. Whether you loved him or found his policies questionable, there is no denying that the bar that was set for him and his family was set so high that only an extraordinary man who might be fifth in place behind Jesus Christ himself could meet the standard. He was beyond reproach with the most impeccable of credentials; even his wife was no slouch…no, not in the slightest. Given that Michelle Obama, whose humble start on the South Side of Chicago is the type of bootstrap, Horatio Alger story that white America loves, this nation should have been damn glad these two would have us. Instead, rather than do them a solid and respect what they did and build upon it, well…instead, through angst and disillusionment, this nation elected perhaps the most mediocre and unqualified man possible to succeed Obama. Talk about about a big “fuck you” to Black excellence.

Now we live in a nation governed by an old man whose mental stability is questionable and who loves to talk tough and is itching to play with his shiny new toys, aka nuclear weapons. From Black excellence (and dignity/upstanding behavior) to white mediocrity (and anger/misbehavior).

Too many times in my personal life, I have seen average white people who, due to luck, access to resources and frankly whiteness, soar when average Black and other POC are relegated to letting their dreams die on the vine. Truthfully, our society makes it damn hard for Black folks to make a dream come true, especially if that dream requires resources or money to get off the ground. Up until a few days ago, I was feeling pretty hopeless about my own dreams.

I started this blog in 2008 for a variety of reasons, but several things quickly became clear: this blog is a resource for other Black and non-white folks navigating life in very white spaces and it also became a space for white people to learn to see firsthand how racism operates and to start their own journey to dismantling whiteness. Since 2008, I have been published in anthologies, had my blog posts sited in academic spaces, been plagiarized, received accolades, did a TEDx talk and a few other things. My work profile grew but the one thing that did not keep pace was the financial compensation part of things. Partially due to my own lack of resources, I have never attended a single blog/social media conference, which has meant that my networking and ability to take this space to the next level has always been limited. This space is essentially one big do-it-yourself experience and while I am humbled by the success that I have had, my vision for this space is greater than being a one-woman shop.

After living in Maine for 15 years, I see a critical need for a POC-owned media space; a place that elevates our voice and a place that, frankly, can be a training ground for POC-led media in the region. It was almost a year ago that I announced that Black Girl in Maine would be shifting to BGIM Media. It’s been a long year but I have been able to bring in more voices: Teddy Burrage, Veronica Perez, Samara Doyon and An Average White Guy. I have stacks of resumes from writers whom I would love to give a shot, but given that everyone who writes here is paid, I can’t afford to add anyone else at the time.

What I have also not been able to do is update and redesign this site, which is dated and clunky, nor have I been able to add podcasts. Why? Lack of resources. Recently a reader donated a used MacBook so that I could start teaching myself how to podcast, since my Chromebook was not cutting the mustard. I am making significant headway, barring a few more pieces of equipment (good microphones are a must; it only took buying a bargain one to understand that cheap is not always best) and my son’s availability since, with his own work blowing up, his time is limited…but the upside of asking your kid who’s a musician for help is that the odds are high that you will get it.

There have been back-end and security issues that I can no longer afford to ignore, but they are increasingly testing the limits of my tech knowledge. In fact, my tech issues on the site are what almost pushed me to the breaking point of saying the hell with the dream. Since, after getting the final diagnosis on what was ailing this site, it became clear that either I needed to dream big or consider this a long, slow goodbye.

I average 20-25 hours a week working on blog-related stuff, that is in addition to my full-time day job that often takes more than typical full-time hours. There is also mothering, living and occasionally even loving. I have invested a significant amount of time into this space and the related social media and it is truly a labor of love. I have asked readers to invest and while many have, many more have not. To date, monthly giving only covers half of the true cost of running this site, which has meant that my plans for expansion have been slow. However I have a dream and after much prayer and thought, I have decided that I am tired of playing it small and safe. I am ready for my dream to come to fruition. I have taken out a small business loan to address the immediate issues, including updating and redesigning the site. I have started talks with two local designers and am waiting for estimates, confident that I can move ahead because for once, I have the ability to pay.

I won’t lie, in this 24/7 fickle media world, I am nervous. After all, the loan, while small, is still enough that if this site doesn’t progress according to my projections, I am shit out of luck. In an ideal world, I imagine friends and family admiring my drive and determination and offering to invest in my dreams. But for many Black Americans, that is a pipe dream. As someone who has been feverishly working to pay off debt, this is a big but scary step for me. However, as a Black woman navigating in a world that was not meant for me, I understand that my realizing my dreams requires going above and beyond.

On a practical note, the new changes should be apparent by late September/early October. As always, thank you for your support and keep passing the open windows.
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White folks and affirmative action: The 101 real-deal lesson

The most dangerous White supremacists wear suits and smiles, not hoods. They kill with respectable debate and marching orders, not weapons. – Ju-Hyun Park

I am a Black woman from Chicago living in Maine who writes and talks about race pretty regularly. Then, to ensure that I really never stop talking about racism, my day job is heading up an anti-racism organization. That means that my small-talk game in social settings leads to some pretty interesting moments. If you want to kill the vibe at the local watering hole or social gathering, try talking about a job like mine in the era of Trump. I am what some might consider a buzzkill. Hey, it’s a living and someone has to do it.

Seriously though, what happens far too often is that some white person, upon hearing what I do for a living, wants to engage me on race and generally starts feeding me the “I don’t see race line”…“We are all the same”…or some other line of deflection that reveals that the speaker has never thought deeply or critically about race. Someone who rarely or never understands that to be white in America (and, frankly, most of the world) is to exist in a bubble of privilege.

As I said in my TEDx talk last fall, America is a nation built on stolen land that was built with the bodies of stolen and enslaved people. In choosing that course of action, we set in place a country where possession of white skin has meant inclusion into the family of humanity and anything less than white skin has meant a struggle to be viewed as fully human.

What’s interesting is that since the Obama presidency, there has been a shift in perception that white folks are becoming a minority and that anti-white bias/discrimination is an issue. Funny how the first non-white president out of the previous 43 white male presidents brought about this shift in mindset. I guess when you don’t see yourselves occupying the highest seat in the land, it causes one to feel some kind of way.

Well, fast-forward past the Obama years to the Trump months and we have Trump to the rescue, making America great again by putting those Blacks and other non-white, non-cisgendered, non-heterosexual, non-Christians back in their place. Under the thumb of the straight white man.

Given how fast things move in Trumpland (in the span of a Scaramucci perhaps, or maybe a Scaramouche?), I have tried to avoid writing about Trump directly because by the time I pen my thoughts and post, we will be on to the next calamity or stunt. However as news broke that the Trump regime planned to investigate anti-white bias in affirmative action admissions policies, I had to say something.

For decades now, there has been this fixed false belief that Black people and other minorities and immigrants were getting all the goodies once reserved for white people and thus displacing white folks from their “proper” place of entitlement. When you are used to having all the candy in the treat bowl, sharing does feel uncomfortable but that is how we achieve racial equity.

The real deal is that white folks and specifically white women are the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action. Let’s go back several decades and talk about how the great middle class in America was created. After World War II, soldiers came home and took advantage of the GI Bill, the reward for serving your country and coming home alive.

The GI bill allowed soldiers to come home and to have access to housing loans and education, as my friend and colleague Debby Irving writes about in her pivotal book Waking Up White. Debby talks about how her parent’s first home was subsidized by the government and her father was able to attend law school for free. Debby’s family was not alone. Millions of white folks had access to the American Dream and the GI Bill was the great equalizer. At the same time that white GI’s were starting to climb the ladder of the American Dream, Black GI’s were blocked thanks to the racial inequity embedded in the higher education, finance and housing systems. In the end, only 4 percent of Black GI’s were able to access the bill’s offer of free education.

Why does this matter in 2017? Well today’s white folks are the direct beneficiaries of those GI’s in the 1940s and 1950s. That means if your folks were able to get an education, buy a home and start building wealth, chances are high that you were raised with real access to the tools for upward mobility. Our homes are our largest biggest wealth builders and where you live matters even more given how we fund schools and other resources. All schools are not created equal.

Back on the other side, the FHA created a set of policies that would come to be known as redlining that essentially pushed Blacks into less favorable homes and neighborhoods. These policies had a trickle-down effect and Black folks were often relegated to communities with declining home values thus little chance to build equity and create wealth while their white counterparts were creating wealth in their homes. Moving to a better neighborhood wasn’t exactly an option since the better areas were associated with whiteness and Black folks were essentially blocked from accessing those areas thanks to the federal government. And when Black people have moved into such neighborhoods, white people have often moved out (no matter how professional or wonderful those Black people) and those neighborhoods were seen as less desirable and home values went down.

I am not about to give a full history lesson here but if any of this is news to you, a great place to learn more is watching PBS’s Race: The Power of an Illusion.

The same white folks who ballyhoo about non-white people getting great stuff for free or getting more benefits (both of which are very, very rarely the case) are often the same folks who refuse to see all what whiteness has bequeathed to white folks. To go even further, they often refuse to see whiteness at all. To be white for many white folks is to be “normal.” Thus, everything that white folks do is the norm or the “proper” way and everyone else is “other” or “wrong.”

So, when a country starts to racially and ethnically shift, it feels like a seismic shift of epic proportions to white people, even if it really isn’t. The thing is that even with the very real racial and ethnic shifts happening in America, that won’t necessarily change the power dynamics. And, ultimately, it is those dynamics that must shift for true equity and equal opportunity. After all, majority-minority locales (places where whites are the minority, that is) where almost all the power and wealth still resides with white people are not an aberration; it’s typically the rule.

There is a certain irony that the Trump cabinet is overwhelmingly filled with rich, white people and yet it feels the need to take on this almost entirely mythical anti-white bias. Truth is that this is nothing more than a wink and a nod at Trump’s base of disaffected white folks who have been left behind in a changing world. The problem is that it will do little at all to help his base (because they have been left behind by factors other than racial shifts) but it has the potential to create a world of hurt for Black, Brown and other non-white people who are participating in an unfair race that is tilted towards white success.

The only way we will move past this is to start having honest discussions on whiteness, but I suspect that conversation will not be held by the current regime.
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If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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