Good faith isn’t always enough to close the gap

My father had a saying: “You wanna talk to somebody, you gotta meet them where they are… But some muthafuckas are just too far away.”

This saying applies to a lot of situations, but he would use it most often when it came to talking to white people about race.

Talking to white people about race is a hard thing to do. The main reason is that it’s not always clear just how far away some muthafuckas are. It can be difficult to tell if a white person is speaking in good or bad faith. If you discover they are speaking in bad faith, then they’re too far away and it seems easy to just not engage…

But it’s not necessarily that easy. There could be other white people involved who don’t recognize the bad faith and question you as to why you’ve ceased engagement. Suddenly you’re in a debate about the intentions of a person with bad faith while that person remains unaccountable and all the other white people just think you’re overly sensitive or paranoid.

But even if you can manage to successfully navigate all of that, stay away from those with bad faith and end up communicating with a white person who is speaking in good faith, there is still no guarantee you will be able to get them to understand.

It’s like the difference between the current president and Joe Biden. Obviously, the president is a man of bad faith. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has all the markings of a man of good faith. He always seems to have a kind word to say. He seems friendly and optimistic. Plus, he’s got that Black friend we all know about!

Unfortunately, there was that time he said of that Black friend, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Naturally, he later non-apologized saying, “And I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the world ‘clean,’” as if that were the problem.

I know right now some of you are thinking So what? He said some bad stuff a long time ago, but he’s learned and he’s better. To you I say, first of all, if his current situation in being told not to touch people who don’t want to be touched is any sort of signifier—which I think it is—he hasn’t learned anything. He was publicly mocking the entire idea and then non-apologizing again just last Friday.

The problem isn’t that people just say some “bad stuff.” The problem is that if we accept that “bad stuff” from each other, then we also accept it from our leaders. In Biden’s case, some of that “bad stuff” he said in the 1970s was against integration and nearly 20 years later he was a leading proponent of mass incarceration. There’s a high cost to be paid for saying that “bad stuff” for such a long time, but Joe Biden doesn’t have to pay it. Countless Black men—or “predators,” as he called them—paid and will continue to pay.

Meanwhile, voters are just hoping Uncle Joe gets through this one OK. And I think that’s because we can all tell that he more or less operates in good faith. Unfortunately, good faith alone still leaves some muthafuckas too far away.

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Let’s not forget that white children learn to be racist from their parents

Just like they are more likely to pass down wealth (property, money, etc.) to their kids, so too are white people more likely to pass down racism. The kids learn from the grown-ups, and that’s a fact even today, because plenty of racists have kids right now. And it’s why the pipedream of racism dying out with the passing of older generations is simply a pipedream.

By now, a lot of America should know the white woman named Corinne Terrone, thanks to social media. I suppose we could call her “Spittin’ Sally.” On Friday, March 15th, the now-former secretary who had been an employee for Hamden Public Schools in Connecticut, decided that she was going to teach her two little girls how to be racist.

Most white people have been in denial for centuries about the racist systems of America that are designed to disadvantage Black people. They claim that Black citizens are treated equally and that we, as a community, should just get over the impacts of white supremacy. The generational standards for how to treat Black people were created by the white race over 400 years ago and are still alive and active today in 2019. Is that unbelievable to you? Are you shocked that white people like “Spittin’ Sally” are still on the mission to destroy Black bodies? If so, why? No, really—ask yourself “why?” How are white American citizens are still shocked when Black people are subjected to racism when we only became “free” 54 years ago?

If you’re surprised when whiteness makes its attack on Black people in any form, you’re confirming that Black lives don’t matter to you. It means that you’re under the impression that Black people are good to go now and that we have absolutely nothing to worry about in regards to our skin color. It means that you thought that anti-blackness was all over and that concept, in itself, denies the Black experience. It is white people like Corinne Terrone who reminds us that anti-blackness is still very prevalent throughout America. 

Being that New England covers both Maine where I live and Connecticut where “Spittin’ Sally” prowls, I felt the need to address the lessons that the Connecticut ShopRite-mother taught her two little girls that day in the grocery store. White people teach their children how to be racist both privately and publicly. Or even how not to treat Black people—literally—teaching their kids to ignore us as if we’re invisible. And you don’t get off the hook because you’re a quiet, non-racist individual, tucking racism in your back pocket and not talking about it. If that’s what you’ve decided to do, then clearly you remain problematic to the cause for Black liberation and dismantling white supremacy.

Without hesitating, Corinne Terrone felt the need to teach her two little girls, indirectly, how to treat Black people. And she did it publicly without hesitations; other white parents teach their children racism privately. The two little girls watched their mother call a Black man and woman, a n****r several times. It’s no secret that children learn behaviors from their parents, let alone the world around them.So what exactly did Corinne Terrone teach her children that day? She taught those two little white girls that because they’re white, they have the advantage of throwing fits of rage in public spaces without facing any of the life-threatening repercussions like Black people do, when we express even a hint of frustration.

In addition to Corinne Terrone calling two Black people n****rs in front of her two little girls, she decided to elevate her dose of fury by spitting at the Black shoppers, twice! The examples that “Spittin’ Sally” displayed in front of those girls have permeated their brains with the level of respect that they should treat Black people with. Those girls have been programmed. It’s possible they will break that programming one day—maybe even possible they won’t internalize it even now. But honestly, that isn’t likely and it isn’t the norm. 

The deadly poison that white supremacy continues to spread through America not only seeks to destroy Black people, but impacts whiteness itself. Over and over again, white supremacy shows that it simply does not give a fuck about who it hurts, oppresses, assaults, disrespects, robs or dehumanizes. How will those two little white girls process and internalize their racist mother’s behavior towards Black people? How will those two little girls socialize with Black people in society? school? work? etc? Who will teach them that their mother is a racist and what that means? Will they do better as girls who will one day grow up to be white women in America? White voters? White citizens? Or will the daughters of “Spittin’ Sally” harbor the same feelings in their hearts that their mother does about Black people? Will they one day spit at Black people and call them niggers? Who will teach them that they’re not superior based on their whiteness? That they may catch a different type of Black person one day who may not be as nice as the Black people were to their mother?

Authorities have said that charges could be pressed against the mother for “impairing the morals of children,” but let’s face it—whiteness corrupts the morals of individuals inevitably when it comes to culture and society. If your whiteness has not been reckoned with, then you remain a huge part of the racial injustices in our country. And if that is the case, your silence about the disease of whiteness and generational hate passed down for centuries is more deadly than acknowledging that you play a role in sustaining racist systems structured to neglect the Black race, in addition to significantly benefiting from these systems. 

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The pollution in our soil: White supremacy

The president’s response to the tragedy in New Zealand… Well. He’s a eugenicist whose shriveled, quivering mouth has only ever dribbled out an endless ooze of hate, stupidity and lies when it comes to women, Black people, Islam and basically anyone who isn’t a rich, white man. He cut funding used to fight white supremacist violence despite the fact that it’s on the rise. He plotted and enacted a Muslim ban that is still in place. And he retweets racists and religious bigots so much that, if I didn’t know better, I might think that he’s delighted by the kind of violence that is so often done in his name. And, to be clear, I do not know better.

If you’ve been paying attention at all, I’m sure the president’s reaction was anything but surprising, but there was a reaction by a world leader that did surprise me. Jacinda Arden, New Zealand’s Prime Minister actually put forth a “global call” to fight racism. It probably says something about the lowering of my own expectations that I could be surprised by a world leader’s sincere, compassionate and all-encompassing response to a tragedy. I’m sure I’m not alone, but I was surprised.

That said, given how often white supremacist ideology has been used to destroy as much of the world as possible—Native American genocide, Civil War, WWII just off the top of my head—it sure would be nice if we were beyond simple condemnations in 2019.

While in this country we are used to leadership not being able to complete a sentence, Jacinda Arden did not just offer words. She somehow, in what seems to be a plainly impossible feat, instituted an assault weapon ban in New Zealand. And she did it less than a week after the massacre.

Here, in the United States there are no amounts of racist massacres that could get us to even think about thinking about having a discussion. What I see instead are a fair amount conversations about tech companies as they have been successful in past battles with extremists online. Non-white extremists, that is. It seems that they’re having a difficult time with white supremacists, somehow.

Obviously, this is because they’re not actually addressing the problem, which is, again, white supremacy. It’s a problem buried so deep in our soil that nothing can grow without its pollution. There are no exceptions, not even tech companies.

The polluted thoughts of this country have been inspiring madmen and mass destruction around the world long before our current president started goose-stepping through the White House. Fixing ourselves will go a long way toward fixing the world, but avoidance will only make things worse.

Gun control, while a positive for society and something the majority of the country is behind, will not stop white supremacist attacks from continuing. If the recent Florida Man incident didn’t tell you that, last year’s Austin bombings should.

And while, of course, tech companies should do everything they can to top the spread of diseased thought, they could turn off the internet, put a moratorium on phone carriers, shut down the United States Postal Service and force the carrier pigeon into extinction and we’d still be left with an idea that continues to prove itself the most destructive force in the world.

In the end, white supremacist systems fight to not stay as they are, but to go backward. They don’t want to disregard human rights so much as to take them away. Talking alone will not push us forward and our silence only acts as their permission.

Fighting is the only way. Find a way to fight.

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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