Calling all white people, part 14: Spaces of their own for POC

Calling All White People, Part 14

(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: No, special spaces and programs for people of color aren’t reverse racism

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

There’s a thing that willfully ignorant white people and openly racist ones love to do (and also that white people who don’t understand racism often reflexively do even if they don’t actually love it), and that is to ask, “Well, why do Black people [or insert any other marginalized group] get special months or scholarships or spaces to gather? Why, that’s reverse racism!”

Leaving aside that reverse racism isn’t a thing…I mean, it literally doesn’t exist, and probably I’ll get into that within the next few installments of this column…there are actually very good and logical and sensible reasons why people of color (POC) and other marginalized groups like lesbian/gay/trans/queer people can and should have their own stuff and why it just isn’t the same as a bunch of white guys having a huge gathering with torches and shouting white power chants. Why it’s not even close.

Let’s look, for example, at the notions of gatherings or clubs focused on POC where white people are denied (or at the least strongly discouraged) entry. Sure, it sounds good on the surface (especially if you don’t believe in terms like white privilege and white supremacy or if you’re one of those chronic devil’s advocate types) to say, “Well, white people would get dragged through the mud for that.”

First off, there are plenty of institutions in America, whether social clubs or political bodies or corporate suites or neighborhoods where people of color are purposefully left out, or so sharply limited and constrained that their inclusion is mere tokenism. White people, especially white men, do not lack for spaces, places, organizations, programs and occupations where they can largely avoid people of color and, often, white women as well.

But more fundamentally, any group that is marginalized wants to have places where gathering is possible in a way that allows for open communication about the issues of marginalization they deal with and that allows them not to have around them people who represent the source of their oppression.

If we take this away from a racial tack and make it a women’s rape survival group, maybe it will make more sense to you. Does it seem logical that a group of women trying to deal with and discuss issues of sexual assault really are going to feel comfortable or safe with a bunch of men around? And why do men need to be there? To challenge them and say “Not all men” and make their stress worse? To prove they’re “good guys?” No, the dudes should stay at home and show they are stand-up humans in daily life.

Same thing with scholarships and the like. White people get the lion’s share of scholarship money. Why must they begrudge programs that help make sure scholarship money gets to marginalized or minority people so that they are at least a little less likely to be left out? And don’t get me started on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). So many white people love to say, “We can’t have all-white colleges” and the fact is that not only do HBCUs accept white (and other non-Black) students, some of them have majority white student bodies now. And why were HBCUs formed to begin with? Because existing colleges wouldn’t accept Black students.

There is something atrociously presumptuous about being able to go through the vast majority of the United States as a white person without ever having to think about your race; without ever being judged by police or passers-by as threatening because of your skin color; to have access to more opportunity, money, influence and power than anyone else and then to get mad because there are a handful of gatherings, organizations or places you aren’t welcome…and that you probably don’t really want to be part of anyway.

Sort of like not being allowed to use the N-word. Boo-hoo. Get over it (especially since the current fad is to use “thug” and everybody knows that’s just code for the N-word)

Plenty of other groups get denied all kinds of benefit of the doubt, networking, money and even dignity because they aren’t white, straight, Christian and/or male. As white people, we need to get over being denied a very small handful of things to which we feel entitled only because, to be honest, we are white.
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