Space: the imaginary problem for white folks, or Black people don’t get perks

Recently, I watched Roland Martin debate on-air with white nationalist muckity-muck Richard Spencer and, as usual, I was struck with the way that so many white people in America are so threatened by any gains that people of color make, so often seeing progress on any non-white front that makes the playing field slightly closer to fair as being, “They’re taking over everything!”

But weeks later, after having seen that, what sticks in my brain the most from that debate is this notion that Spencer and his kind of people always want to bring up about “Why can’t white people have their own spaces?” and “What about all that special treatment Blacks and other minorities get?”

Look, I realize I live in one of the whitest states in the country right now and have for well over a decade. But even in Chicago, where I lived most of my life and which has much more racial diversity, especially in terms of percentage of Black folks, I don’t recall white people lacking for spaces full of whiteness and being held back by a plethora of privileged Black people.

The white people who bray the loudest about “special treatment for Blacks” need to really look around themselves. How many of them in social settings have even one face of color at their table, any color other than white? How many of them see any significant numbers of non-white people in their workplaces, particularly Black people? Especially at the managerial, executive and ownership levels? How many of them have anything other than white people in their professional and personal networks?

Frankly, most white people are routinely surrounded by white people even when they don’t actively try to surround themselves with white people.

White people already have more access to the jobs, the promotions, the loans, the halls of government, the better schools, the better police protection/treatment and so much more.

If it weren’t so delusional, frankly I’d laugh more often when people like Spencer say things like “Well, what about Black scholarships?” “What about Black social clubs?” “What about Black colleges.” And so on.

This is where school failed the children who became today’s adults and continues to fail their children by giving a whitewashed and skewed view of history.

Those “Black perks” as white nationalists (and even the average white American who doesn’t think they have racist thoughts) put it, aren’t really perks (nor do they exist in huge numbers). They were only created because Black people weren’t allowed to access the same scholarships white kids could. They weren’t allowed in white social clubs and country clubs. They weren’t allowed to go to white colleges and universities. Etc.

And even when the laws said Black people had to be given the same access to those places, it wasn’t like that magically happened. Whether through outright actions to bar them or more subtle ones, Black people still didn’t get fair access and typically still don’t.

That’s why they had to create their own things.

And their own things still don’t make up the difference for the advantages white people get.

And yet somehow they are seen as “extras” and “special treatment.”

In fact, there are historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that have rather sharply growing white student bodies in recent history. Bluefield State College, an HBCU, had a 90-percent white student body back in 2013 and I doubt that’s changed much in the past few years.

You’ve always had most of the space, white people. A lot of the time, you’re the only people occupying the most valuable spaces or you’re an overwhelmingly disproportionate majority. You don’t need special places to go, Richard Spencer. You still have them. Where you need to go is someplace you can get a clue.

And white people are often welcomed into Black spaces. That’s how Dylann Roof was able to massacre a church full of Black people; believe me, having gone to white churches and Black churches, the latter are much more welcoming to the skin tones at the other end of the scale. I’ve been in soul food restaurants in some of the blackest parts of town in big cities and seen white people dining very much in peace and getting fine service.

The problem isn’t Black people or any other marginalized group trying to take up all the space or keep white people out (though, admittedly, we sometimes need safe spaces just for us where we can let it all out amongst ourselves, especially after racial tragedies).

The problem is the pathological need of so many white people to make sure there are no non-white faces around them because they make them uncomfortable.

Black people don’t often have the luxury of avoiding white people but it’s exceedingly easy for most white people to avoid being around Black people.

The real problem is that any time non-white people carve out a little something for themselves (space, opportunities, education), especially if they are Black, white people feel like it comes at their expense.

The idea of special treatment and special perks for Black people doesn’t exist in any real form. If it did, we wouldn’t have a world where the median Black family wealth is $7,000 compared to more than $110,000 median for white families and, at the current rate of Black social gains, would mean 200 years before they catch up to white people.

If Richard Spencer wants an all-white space, I highly recommend he move to a remote Norwegian village and take all his friends with him. That would mean several less people complaining about a problem that doesn’t exist.

Apologies in advance to the Norwegians, though, if he takes that advice.
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