I don’t like White people. It came to me as I was watching The Secret Life of Bees. Everyone will walk away from the book or movie feeling something different but, what I walked away with was Black people have nurtured White people and placed ourselves in harm’s way for them repeatedly. I see very few White people having that spirit. My best friend is White she rarely calls me and she doesn’t do anything that requires her to go out of her way for me. I think the only reason I still call her my friend is because she helped create my Goddaughter. I realize too that she may read this and she may become offended, but I honestly don’t understand how one becomes offended with another about their behavior. I’m merely giving voice to how I feel. Even that relationship is complex for me because although my love for this child is boundless the detached relationship I have with her parents reminds me of the relationship of the mammy with their young White charges.
Don’t get me wrong there are many White people with whom I have a genuine affection, respect, and love for. Our friendship isn’t about the color of our skins, and yet for many Black people and I include myself here it (everything) is about our skin. That isn’t a self created reality it is a reality created to emotionally imprison the Black self. White people don’t realize they too are imprisoned by their elevated status. When I say elevated I can hear the I’m broke, unemployed/underemployed, or drowning in debt responses that tell you we are the same. But if you and I were both digging the same ditch in the blistering sun and the White (and often Black) boss had a job that would place one of us in the shade the odds are better than 75% that I would still be out in the sun. But I’m increasingly finding it harder to overlook behaviors that appear selfish, racist, and or downright ugly.
I have been in an industry for well over 30 years and there have been a number of my peers who have advanced well beyond me. I often wonder do these friends ever question why I haven’t moved any further in my career. I also wonder do they know the reason but dare not say it aloud because that would somehow diminish what they have accomplished? Do they become comfortable with the disparity because the alternative is to be uncomfortable with how easy it is to close one’s eyes to the iniquity? Do they just not think about it at all? The shame of that beyond the innate compulsion to treat us differently without even thinking about it is many of us have been inculcated or indoctrinated so well that even when we do it to each other we use justifications that are centuries old. And we use them just like everyone else does. That is pretty powerful hoo doo when you can turn a person on the race from which they sprang so completely they use the royal “we” including themselves in a group to which they can never fully belong. Ask Tiger, Michael Jackson, and OJ about that one. This is who the character of Stevie (Samuel Jackson) in D’Jango Unchained represents. By the way I thought it was his most powerful performance since he played the junkie in Jungle Fever. The Academy and Golden Globes didn’t see either character as a stretch perhaps because many of them know, love, and appreciate some Black who is so unaware of their own condition. They also didn’t pick Leonardo DiCapprio, my feeling is that is because White people have tricked themselves into thinking this character no longer exists or that while he would be prize worthy in a Nazi uniform he/she is quite unacceptable in a slave owner’s outfit. But only because he/she is an uncomfortable reminder of a past most don’t want to remember.We live in a world that has White people going so far as to want to change the very nature of history of slavery. That isn’t new of course, because it was part and parcel of the institution itself. White people then called slaves, (who literally built the South and connected it to the West) and later sharecroppers lazy and shiftless. White Republicans today use the same language to describe the first Black President. He, like Stevie, has done as much to the rest of us when he told an NAACP audience that they need to take off their house slippers and get off the couch. Interesting dichotomy that General Powell called that the language of slavery when ascribed to his party members, but wasn’t offended or at least never voiced it publically when the President used virtually the same language addressing a largely Black audience.
Right about now someone is highly offended that I have lumped all Whites into this group. Well welcome to the world where all Hispanics are hard working and just wanting to make a better life for themselves. Sound familiar; is this something you’ve said about all Hispanics as if it is the God’s honest truth? Or how about when you see a group of young Black men standing together do you whisper to your friend “let’s cross the street” without thinking for one minute. Maybe you feel that way because unlike Hispanics, Blacks for hundreds of years have been associated with negative behavior or attributes.No behavior that we have exhibited can compare to the hundreds of thousands of Blacks that White people raped, tortured, mutilated, and killed. Nor can you compare our behavior with White and Hispanic peoples who practiced slavery then wrote laws to amalgamate their populations, disarm us, and fool us into thinking our rights are equal to your own. Buying that assertion is akin to a person attending a party and wearing elephant dung on their head; a great many of the other party goers are going to avoid you, some will be curious about you, and a few will be attracted because you are bold enough to wear your difference. While the odor is different you do become accustomed to it and you realize it isn’t going to kill you, plus the person wearing it is interesting on a number of levels.
So there I said it and some will actually read this with insight and understanding that not all White people are White people, or all Hispanics are Hispanic people, or all Blacks are Black people. But you will perhaps learn that certain behaviors can make you the problem in your racial or ethnic group. And it is your job, responsibility, or obligation to learn to recognize and change them. The alternative is you can own them with great pride.