In the last 6 months I’ve had more people admit their racism to me than ever before. It literally happens every week. I come into contact with a lot of people for part of my job and I never bring up any politics, race, or religion. I barely bring these things up with family. It’s just something that you shouldn’t talk about unless you’re ready for a fight and especially when you are representing another company it should never be uttered. So I don’t bring it up, but it keeps coming up and I find it very strange, irritating, and tiresome.
I am white. My last name is White. My mom is full blooded Italian but my dad is a typical American mutt with a broad array of nationalities. I look like a typical white American man. And for whatever that is worth, recently people have started to expose their racism to me. Most of them are complete strangers, or at very best people that I come into contact with only a few times a year. They’re doing it in such a way as if I’m supposed to agree, as if I’m supposed to go along with it, as if I was thinking the same thing and they’re just the ones that happened to say it. They’re not waiting for the subject to be broached, but rather launching into soliloquies without provocation. My ‘whiteness’ must be a beacon for self-assuring validation.
I want to get angry. I want to lash out. I want to bring up examples and points to show that they are only being brainwashed by a giant propaganda machine that has snuck into their brain. I want to explain that racism is not a gene but learned. They learned to be a racist over time and they could unlearn. I want them to know that they are the profligates, the minority, that intelligent people don’t think that way. They never did. Scared people think that way, people scared to lose money and power. They’re the ones that started these lies and you’ve bought into that fear and it’s ruining your life. I want to tell them that one of my best friends is black and I was with him when a whole family degraded him for his color, how mortifying it was for me, and how he had to let it roll off his back. No one should have to do that because of who they are. It seems to me that is an un-American thing, prosecuting someone for being themselves. Isn’t that why we left England in the first place?
I don’t say any of this because I have come to realize that it is too deep a part of their life. My anger is only going to add to theirs. They have physically sewn themselves to their misery and fear and walk around with it as their cross to bear. To talk about it makes them feel a little better, relieves their anguish and anxiety even if just for a little while. When other people agree with them about their fear of other colors or cultures, it rationalizes their very being. When they find an unvetted propagandist website they proudly post it on Facebook, showing the world they have company, a team of troglodytic lemmings to ban together and validate themselves as rational. But it only proves their insecurity, insecure to be white, scared that another race, color, or culture might be better than them. Why should anybody be better? Is it possible that we are all humans and equal? And, so what if we’re all equal? Why is that so bad?
I don’t want to give my examples of the racism that I have encountered. I don’t want to put it into words because I feel like it just helps spread the hate, insecurity, and irrationalism. But without going into detail I recently saw a racist meme on Facebook. It was an unlearned suggestion that degraded black people in particular and relied heavily on an inaccurate depiction of history. It did not have many likes, but it did have some. Underneath the meme, the first commenter agreed by adding an exclamation point after his comment. But the proof of a lack of education lies in the commenter’s choice of vernacular as well as their appropriation of the English language. The commenter simply wrote “Word!” meaning, as I imagine, a term of agreement with the meme. This is just a tiny example of why racists are not very cultured, intelligent, or aware.
By using the word “Word” what the commenter was trying to say is “I agree with this statement. It is true”. You will often times in hip hop culture hear rappers and other artists say “word” on recordings or TV. Only “word” is not spelled the same as the Microsoft product or the things you are reading right now. “Word” is actually spelled “WERD”. It was the call letters to a radio station in Atlanta owned by Jesse Blayton, the first black radio station owner in American history. He purchased the station in 1949 wanting there to be a station that could speak to the black population of the south. By the 1950’s and early 1960’s Mr. Blayton had become synonymous with helping spread the messages of civil rights, giving Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists air time. Jesse Blayton was a pioneer and literally the first of his time. When someone says “WERD” it is synonymous with “TRUTH” because that’s what WERD in Atlanta stood for: TRUTH. So when I read some racist commenting on a racist meme and incorrectly using WERD while also referencing WERD I have to laugh out loud. You’re using an empowering term incorrectly while referencing the very culture you’re trying to degrade. It’s simply not intelligent.
I guess I’m not surprised. I have yet to meet anyone believing in racist propaganda that seems to have much intelligence. Even those who don’t think they are racist can be racist. If you have ever started a sentence with “I’m not a racist, but…” then you most certainly are a racist. Please don’t excuse yourself ahead of time for the terrible thing you are about to say about another race or culture, although I certainly appreciate the warning so I can zone out while you are talking.
I feel terrible for people who can’t seem to break the spell. Almost the same shame and sadness I felt when my friend was degraded in front of me, in my home town, by a whole family of racists. We are given this one life to live and there is so much that is wonderful and beautiful in the world. There are so many good people to friend and learn from, to share love with and to laugh with. But some people choose to live angry, to live in complete fear of all people of color, in fear of different cultures, petrified of strange far away religions. They have sewn themselves to misery, only living to validate their fears by being around other people who also feel the same way. They will never venture out and learn about these other cultures on their own, never be surrounded by anyone that they don’t understand. They will only live this one life, petrified of everything that could be and not amazed by what actually is. They have chosen to live their life in misery and fear and will die in the same vain.
My anger is over. Some of my friends can testify to times I have almost been in fights with strangers for being racist in public. I took it as a personal attack to my very being. I’m done with all that. I thought that I was leading by example, standing up for what is right, being the moral super hero and fighting the evil forces that bring hate into the world. I realized I myself was bringing hate into the world. So instead, I’m offering my condolences to those who believe that one race is better or worse than another.
Their grip is slipping. More and more people in America are casting aside previous racial stereotypes and accepting each other for who they are. I believe I’m seeing an increase in admittance to racism as an unconscious survey, to see how many white people are still going to band together for supremacy, irrational fear, and blind hate. Count me out. I don’t buy into it and just because I’m white doesn’t mean you’re able to bring this up, even casually, because I know you’re not bringing this up in front of people of color on account of your fear. I will no longer retaliate in anger, but rather offer a sad shaking of my head and a pat on the shoulder for condolence. You have lost. And not is some battle for racial supremacy, but in life, for you have wasted yourself in anger, deteriorated yourself with lies, and will live in the shadows of the rest of us.
You never liked the sun anyway.
Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.
He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband
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