I’m going to need a lot of grace on this one; much like the grace that a Native American elder, Nathan Phillips, extended to those punk-ass white boys in Washington, D.C., recently. Let me be clear about my meaning of “punk-ass white boys,” defined as privileged white boys who are confident and comfortable hiding behind their shields of white supremacy, to taunt and dehumanize Black and brown people. Without that sort of corrupt power and privilege, those white boys may actually have been the angelic ”kids” that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and many others claimed they were; but clearly, the devil beamed through the face of young Sandmann and his klan of fellow students.
I commend Nathan Phillips for being a peace-maker in the midst of several Trump-clones, reiterating the ridiculous and pointless idea of building 45’s wall. Face-to-face, eye-to-eye and toe-to-toe with MAGA hat-wearing white boys, is not a situation I’d ever want to be in as a Black man; those sort of demonic smirks are dangerous and could easily snatch a man’s heart like mine or Elder Phillips, right from his soul. As much as I would’ve been tempted to punch that white boy, Nick Sandmann, right in his face, as a Black man, I also realize that would not have gone well for me. The situation in general had me furious beyond measures, and I’m sure you’ve noticed that by now.
I have never been this angry in my entire life. I’ve experienced a lot of evil things in this corrupt world that could’ve easily turned me into Lucifer’s puppet years ago, but lately, the one thing that has been pushing me over the edge (as I’ve told my therapist), is white people who have been emboldened by Trump’s racist rhetoric. White hate has been served to many Black and brown communities over and over, throughout history, continuing right into 2019; whether it be the theft and murder of indigenous people and their land or the enslavement and destruction of Black people and our prosperity.
The regurgitated “BUILD THAT WALL. BUILD THAT WALL” mantra, whether those Covington students chanted it or not, was evident and has erupted into the winds of America once again. Those red, white-lettered stitched hats are no different than the white hoods worn by Ku Klux Klan disciples and belligerently announces that America is being made great again—for white people, that is. As activist Aylssa Milano tweeted recently, “the red MAGA hat is the new white hood. Without white boys being able to empathize with other people, humanity will continue to destroy itself.” Part of that greatness includes building a wall that Donald Trump can’t even seem to scrape up the funds for; which is straight-up pathetic.
Many Trump supporters are so focused on the viral video of “very fine people” and the typical, extreme protection of their reputations that they’ve somehow neglected to address the lies of the good ole’ Catholic Saint. During his interview with Savannah Guthrie on The Today Show, Nick Sandmann stated, “We’re a Catholic school and it’s not tolerated. They don’t tolerate racism, and none of my classmates are racist people.” White boys are phenomenal at lying their way out of racist behavior. If you are white and are wearing any sort of MAGA apparel, then you are a racist! What in the hell do white people rocking Make America Great Again gear think the slogan means? Great? For whom? For Black people? Native Americans? Other POC? I would love to hear Sandmann and his crew get on television and explain to this country when America was “great” for Black people and the like.
The white-boy smirk is threatening and I realize that it was the cocky smug on Sandmann’s face that truly had me wanting to fuck some shit up. But how then would I be setting the example of one of my favorite leaders, Martin Luther King Jr.? To lead and respond in a non-violent manner? Then again, as a Black Christian myself, always leaning more towards turning the other cheek, allowing white people to have their cake and eat it too, results in a burdensome depression. Lavishing niceness upon white supremacists is one of many reasons white boys like Nick Sandmann, Brett Kavanaugh, Dylan Roof, Brock Turner and so many more are freely able to exercise and abuse white privilege to begin with. Many of us Black and brown folks have seen that smirk over and over again in America and as 64-year-old Nathan Phillips expressed, he felt threatened by those teens.
Those smirks of whiteness are dangerous and present a sense of comfort for whiteness that is impossible to be accessed by people with prominent melanin beneath their skin. White teenage boys wearing red MAGA hats, mocking Native Americans, adds a layer of confirmation to the reality of what white parents are teaching their kids at home. This sort of hate didn’t just start with Donald Trump. Like many other white parents raising their well-behaved Catholic boys, teaching them that they’re supreme and innocent in the face of a God, blinds them from even seeing how racist they truly are.
I can recall a time where I experienced the white-boy smirk myself. A white male had been taking advantage of me by excusing himself from a task we were working on, to take several breaks. I hadn’t taken any breaks from the task because like in most cases, the white body has more authority and superiority than its Black peers. Again, part of the Christian faith involves letting a gentle light shine in the presence of darkness so that corruption may witness the acts of God and praise him, according to Matthew 5:16. While attempting to let my little light shine by “being nice,” allowing my white rival several breathers and breaks, I eventually noticed that he wasn’t going to permit me a time to rejuvenate. The situation escalated very quickly after he returned from what seemed to be a vacation; me being frustrated with both his lack of involvement on our task and the fact that he was continually dismissing my request for a break!
I think I lost it that day. The white man started yelling at me and during that time, yelling at me was a recipe for disaster due to some PTSD; thankfully I’ve gotten better at that. He then decided to step to my face; with the same valiant stance Sandmann presented to Phillips. Disrespectfully yelling at me is one button to push but getting in my face with the white-boy smirk is hazardous on both ends. Our task was almost over and when he stepped to my face with his perilous grin, invading my personal space, I wanted to feed him an uppercut. Instead, I walked away, gave no explanation as to why I did and took my deserved and overdue intermission. That white dude did many other things that day including stealing, lying and physically abusing another bystander. I reported it all to the appropriate authorities and the result came down to me being suspended from the task, for three days.
I asked if he was going to be suspended for stealing? Lying? Abusing another human? And for abusing his power by manipulatively denying me the breaks I was entitled to by law? I was told that the white dude would be suspended as well and that I shouldn’t be concerned about what was going to happen to him. But the fact is that I should have never been suspended in the first place. I was suspended for, “exposing dirty laundry.” Whiteness didn’t like the idea of me getting the law involved and so to protect itself, I was retaliated against. I shortly learned that whiteness had lied to me—that my white peer hadn’t been suspended at all and that my blackness had again been demonized and subjected to inequity.
This whole situation boosted that white boy’s ego and I had to see him again, with his smirk of triumph proudly flaunted on his face. The white-boy smirk represents conceit and vain glory. It cateres defiance to indigenous people, who do not believe in walls meant to sustain white supremacy. And so it also was that Sandmann’s smirk was aggression—overdosed entitlement and a silent form of bullying a well-respected adult who displayed wisdom and a strong, pure example of resilience.
The smirk replicates many other young and old white men who get to sweep their nasty behavior under the carpet. These white boys (and men) are protected by their parents, their “just being kids” card and constantly escape from situations where Black boys are shot, racially profiled, unfairly arrested in or killed. White boys know this to be true about Black and brown bodies, and that is exactly what the smirk on Nick Sandmann’s face equated to for many of us.
And, only a few weeks later, here we are again with MAGA white men, this time breaking a Black man’s (EMPIRE star Jussie Smollett) rib, pouring bleach on him, calling him “nigger” and “faggot” and placing a noose around his neck. The white-boy smirk is day-by-day making America greater and greater again for white people with harmful intent and clearly, it’s dangerous!
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