THE BETRAYAL OF WHITENESS
As a black man and having tried my best to be a considerate, intelligent and thoughtful human being, there’s a reality that I have to face when it comes to white people. Yes, It’s a horrible thing to do in regards to generalizations, but let’s be honest, this is the world we live in. I’m under the assumption that most intelligent beings can differentiate between generalizations and actual truths, so when certain things I say don’t apply to you……you shouldn’t take it personal. If you happen to find yourself taking it personal, I think that it might be an opportunity to learn more about yourself as a person. This isn’t the demonization of white people as a whole, but it’s an honest attempt at constructive criticism in the field of race relations.
My entire life, I have grown up around and amongst white people. I actually believe my first sleep over at a girls house was over the house of a girl I was in kindergarten with (our parents were obviously very liberal in their thinking for the late 70s). I say that to express the notion that I was never raised with hate for white people. They have been my friends and best friends. My childhood was filled with so much diversity that I was raised thinking this is how the world should be. Growing up, universal acceptance was probably my motto, but I understood race and understood race in context to history. I understood that there were still people who looked at me in a manner that was not positive, but understood that I cannot use the color of a persons skin to determine if they were good or bad. My living example of that thought was my very own existence. No matter how accepting I was of other people, I could not expect that they would be equally accepting. Yet, those who I met along my road of life were to be treated fairly. Or to quote the great Chubb Rock…. Treat Em Rite.
I was born in 1974. I state that to give you a point of reference and to shape context around this passage. My childhood was filled with wonderful memories of Hip-Hop, R&B, Classical, Rock and whatever you call that period of the DoobieBrothers, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, and all that jazz. Once the 90’s started rolling in, I started to notice a weird shift in the dynamics of friendships. In the late 80s I had moved across town and found myself in the middle of an orthodox jewish area. That’s when I really started to see that racism was a little bigger than I thought. I was born in New York, but moved to Baltimore and lived most of my life there with a few exceptions like Philly. I was use to racial issues, but never so much of a “In your face (Prince Akim style)” type of racism. Soon having had moved into our new home on the west side of town…..I experienced social racism. I have had the police called on me in my own home, I was in 7th grade by the way. I had “nice” jewish women tell me to get away from my own home. One even stated, “I know the good jewish family that lives here, so you need to get along and not cause any trouble!”. Her mouth was left open as I pulled out my keys and unlocked the door to the blackest interior entrance way you could imagine. I’ve had the Citizens Watch follow me as I was skateboarding home. All of this…for the first time in my life, in a matter of 2-3 years.
By High School, I started having to break down the groups for my own mental sanity. Suddenly that “Universal Acceptance” has caused white kids I was cool with to call me a something “Black” in the nastiest of tones. I was semi-flirting with a young girl in my acting group, who happened to be white. Once her parents found out I was black, they removed her from our acting group and made her change schools. Some of the people I had been cool with started to get a little shady. My best friend at the time happened to be white. He seemed to have issues when I would do better on Sat prep tests. We went to rival high schools and at times, it seemed like a racial rivalry. We both ran for SGA for our senior year. I had decided that I really didn’t have it in me to be President, but I’d settle for whomever wanted to quarterback the SGA. I settled on Vice-President (ran unopposed, lol). We somehow had a conversation and found out that both of us were running for SGA. He told me his plans of being a Treasurer and mine of Vice-President. Next thing I know, he was running for President. It started to always be something with these people that I thought saw me as an equal. My more liberal, damn near communist friends taught me about certain issues happening around the world. Often they would talk about the injustices of apartheid with a fervor to rival Khalid Muhammad. I was taught about injustices towards Jewish people and often I attempted to teach them about mine. By the time the Caps were thrown to the sky and hit the ground in celebration of graduation, the racial lines were practically drawn.
After high school, the hopes to have some retention of my “white” friends at an all time low. I practically had no white friends. Sure, there were the more…romantic friendships with certain people that transcended race & time on occasion, but all the white males had fallen off. A lot of my white female friends had fallen off. The only people that were around were the ones who actually spent time with me and we weren’t the type to really see race in its traditional sense. I went to an HBCU..the Almighty TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY, so my exposure to white people was either faculty and staff or it was a 20 min drive up the road to Auburn University. I remained in the south from 1993 -2006. In a state like Alabama, I had never experienced any real….unordinary racism. Especially not in that little political black Universe they call Macon county Alabama. As soon as I’d cross the county like from Macon county into Lee county, I always had my racism countermeasure program running. There was a time that I use to hold Atlanta, Georgia as the best example of Democracy where race was at play, but once a man named Barack Hussein Obama was elected, all that went out the window. I was fortunate to be there the day he was elected, but had moved on for the crisp cool winds of Minnesota.
Once in Minnesota, that’s when I realized what structural racism was. Better yet, that was the first time I had lived in an environment in which white people were dominating all aspects of politics and culture. Its where I experienced the extreme importance of situational awareness. That was the first time, I had truly understood the concept of “Fuck the Police”! My interactions with the police always seemed to happen in their local chain of gas stations called Super America…and ironically enough, always around the donut station! Any time I would pass white officers and say hello, I was often greeted with Surprise or a sort of “How Dare you”. My friends from Minneapolis and St. Paul use to have what I considered was an unjustified fear of the police. It started to make sense when I worked on Obama’s 2012 campaign in North Minneapolis as a fellow. I didn’t see a day go by that the police didn’t have some young black kid on the back of the car. There I was met with the Stereotype of having experienced nothing. For the first time in my life, I had been considered a thug and if the poeple have any kind of Negrometer ( NE-GRom-met-Er), you’d know that’s the furthest thing from the truth! Minneapolis was everything that I saw about Whiteness on TV. It was the land of the Red sun for a brother like me. Due to indigenous black folks being marginalized, blacks functioned on two levels: The have’s and the have nots! There truly was no real in between like I found everywhere else.
I worked for a Security company and had befriended a cool Veteran chick, who had the same shift I was on. She was pregnant and happened to have been knocked up by some brother that was still in the Military. Due to all the horrible things she described, we became cool on the notion that we are essentially making it day by day. My mom always taught me to be polite, so seeing this chick was on the verge of busting, I always made it a point to make sure she had water……Gatorade….you know…being considerate. I even visited her at the hospital after she had her baby. It was just another day in the life, until suddenly she found out that someone else at the job liked me. Let me clarify, there was no flirting….there was no intimacy….It was good ol’Quasi-Neo-Abstract-Christian manners. Suddenly, she wasn’t talking to me. I knew her to be a woman of a firey personality…with her firey red hair….and one day I noticed her white car was parked next to my red car. I walked in between the two cars and say a Big white dent on my passenger side door. I wasn’t really angry, but when I entered into the job, she was on a call, so I kneeled down and asked her if by chance she happened to hit my door. She said no……and I kept it pushing. Later I see her go into my mangers office and about 20 mins later I was called into the office. Suddenly this woman felt threatened by me…..because I asked her about my door. I became the bad guy and found myself in the office calling b.s. I was told I could get HR involved in this matter, but wasn’t suggested. In order to quell her fears I was forced to change shifts in efforts to save face on all fronts. It had become clear it was time to kick rocks, so I put in my 2 month letter of resignation and decided to move back to Baltimore. My mother had fallen ill to Ovarian Cancer and the only other thing that made Minnesota worth it was that I had developed a long relationship. Once the employment issue showed me that there’s no real progress for a brother, taking care of my mother was the obvious choice. So that cold New Years eve, I pack up my car and head home.
I moved to Baltimore and thought that I had truly escaped the madness of racism. Not that it didn’t exist, but that it was what I was most familiar with and unfortunate to say, most comfortable. I worked, took care of my mother and took over my mother’s travel business. That summer I took her tour group to Egypt, 3 months before the Arab Spring. During this time I found out I was going to be a father and also realized that my mother was losing the battle. She passed on the God’s day in October and celebrated by All Saints Day. By the first of November, I was on my way back to Minneapolis. To support my girl in her next 5 months of pregnancy. During this period of time is when I met the brunt of racism.
By the time my child reached the age of two, I felt like I was running away from racism in the same fashion as Atreu was running away from the Nothing in the Never Ending Story! Again, there was this desire to go somewhere I believed to be safe, my beloved Baltimore. Little did I know, that a few years later…..I ran from a Philando Castille situation to run to a Freddy Grey situation. In my efforts to try to normalize the life for my family, I found myself with nowhere to run. I came home, to find that the activist white kids I knew, had become silent at the slew of black deaths that occurred. The only time I saw any utterances about the unjust system that opposed black people, typically stemmed from Black, Latinos and a few whites who happened to have extremely close black friends, boyfriends and/or children.
So, in my search from understanding in the midst of confusion, I started to wonder what happened to all those white people I’ve known over the course of history that espoused the greatness of their being (bka whiteness). What happened to those who always felt compelled to measure my life in comparison to theirs as a symbol of what to do? What happened to all those good intentioned white people who always felt compelled to tell people tell people how they were going wrong? What happened to all those hard working white people that use to jack Booker T. Washington’s statement about bringing yourself up from your Bootstraps?
In essence, whiteness is a figment of everyone’s imagination. Not even white people can stand up to the high bar of being a morally superior being. With a little study of history, you find that in essence people subscribe to the belief that they truly have no part of. Whiteness is an imaginary belief and those who believe in it, have an inflated sense of self worth. Why would anyone want to be associated with people who have historically lied, cheated and robbed people to gain their power We are talking about the same whiteness that killed innocent native women and children. The whiteness that corrupted nations that weren’t white, because they thought they were incapable of running for themselves. Whiteness has betrayed people of white skin, because it associates itself with anyone who easily falls into its definition, whether they believe it or not. The concepts of whiteness and all the accolades of it are based in myth and often denies people the props they deserve.
Whitness turns good intentioned white people into spinless cowards who will watch people get hurt by a system that doesn’t look for them. Whiteness causes good people to be paranoid of the consequences of its design. Whiteness is a weak belief that requires people to believe in it so it exists. Whiteness has betrayed the world, because it refuses to accept that the world is a world of color. The problem is, that in order to fight whiteness, white people have to be willing to give up the pseudo-advantage of being quiet with no consequence. Whitenes skews history, destroys people and lessens the belief that good White people exist, because so many can sit back and know that nothing will happen to them.
The real problem is that in the end, what seems to happen to people of color eventually happens to white people. I.E. crack & heroin epidemic.
Whiteness has no place in this society. Before anyone goes and says…what about Blackness, keep in mind that Blackness came as a direct result of whiteness. If we started to treat race like a thing that helps further understand a perspective vs. acting as if race defines that aptitude and ability of a person, the world would be a much better place. I think its just time that white people understand that Whiteness will Betray you. So the question is, when time moves on, what side of history will you be on. The right side….or the white side?
-The Great Elephant