Don't Listen To The White Boy

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I'm Not Racist
Open Letter To White People

An Open Letter To White People

Dearest White People,

What the heck is the matter with you? Stop apologizing for being white and privileged.

How is that not as racist as categorically judging people of color? Instead of judging others, you are judging your own white skin on the same exact merits…none. Nobody chose their color at birth or the resultant amount of privilege they would receive, so stop acting shameful and defensive about it.

Moreover, that is as empty as your lifelong silence about racial inequality. Now you want to speak up? Has it become cool enough? You do realize that your history of maintaining and exploiting the socially acceptable position is the reason racial inequality has survived this long, don’t you?

Let me be honest. Your apology is not going to do anything except make you look even more white and privileged. If you are trying to make yourself feel better, stop apologizing. If you are trying to make real change in this country, stop apologizing. Apologies and other forms of self-assurances and pandering will not stamp out the disease of racism in our country.

Before we continue, let us not confuse what I have said with those of you that outright refuse to apologize based on ignorance and denial of systemic racial inequality. That makes you a whole different box of cracker jacks. You are the rebel yell of racism and belong with every other hate group that believes might is right.

I am not worried about you. You are the type to wear your hatred on your sleeve, hang it from your flagpole, and ramble about it with incoherent verbosity. We can all see you from a mile away. And you, my friend, truly are the minority.

Back to you, my white privileged apologists. My guess is half of you would like to do more, if it is not too inconvenient, and the other half are skeptical and want to do more research first. Okay, this is a good start after more than 400 years of crushing the identities of people of color.

I mean that sincerely. I do not care where you start, just that you start. Why? Well, here is the kicker.

Until the white privileged majority decide they must contribute to the eradication of social, economic, and racial injustice, it will never happen.

Never. Nope. Not a chance.

You do not have to believe me. Please refer yourself to every civil rights struggle in this country and notice how the opposition in power, usually the white privileged majority, fought to keep the status quo. It was not until they had to relent, sometimes facing the challenge from other whites, that we saw laws, minds, and eventually hearts change.

You are the roadblock. You. Until you decide to stop blocking a just and moral cause, until you agree that you are the problem, and until you get past your conveniently unhelpful guilt-shame-victim cycle, the fight and struggle for equality will continue with violent consequences.

How many times must you make people of color fight for their legal and God-given rights? They ask peacefully and you tell them no. They protest and you accuse them of being unruly. Well, howdy do! Did you not make the rules, and most likely without their input, consent, and representation? Isn’t that like the Karen calling the other Karen white?

When some of the protesters’ frustrations result in violence, you lump them all together as criminals and thugs. When your racist cousins show up to incite violence even further, you are in no rush to call them out. When the law gives you an excuse, you take it.

What if you were to stop relenting and start pushing? Instead of being the block resistance, turn around and be the battering ram against those that insist on remaining in the blockade. The struggle for social equality and even-handed justice exists within yourselves. This is not a black vs. white battle. It is a moral battle against the deleterious effects of historical privilege on the unprivileged.

Did you know that,

White families (77% of population) hold 90% of the wealth, while black families (13% of the population) hold 2.6% of the wealth?

Blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed than whites consistently over the past 60 years, regardless of the economy? And when you add a college degree, those numbers don’t change?

Black children are three times more likely to be suspended as white children for similar infractions?

Blacks make up 40% of the prison population (13% of the total population) and are given sentences 20% longer than whites convicted of similar crimes?

Black drivers are 30% more likely to be pulled over by the police than whites? (Stanford study)

To ask a minority to win a battle against a powerful majority is as cruel as me asking you to attempt to move a mountain as I cheer you on from the sidelines. Welcome to the movement for equal rights. It is not sufficient to understand and support anymore. The mountain of systemic racism will never budge until something of equivalent energy, size, and strength makes it move. That is, you.

If you were not aware of these few examples of systemic racism, that is the point. You have the privilege of learning them while others must live them. Privilege has a long history of causing blindness among its own. This is not a blame, shame, or fault statement. It simply is. If you can understand what is happening, you can have empathy for those it is directly affecting on a daily basis and take responsibility for it so that we can change it together.

As I close this letter, I do not implore you as some evangelical outsider. I AM you. I am a one-hundred-percenter on the spoiled scale: White, male, educated, young, able-bodied, heterosexual, middle-class. I have received straight A’s in privilege. And I am calling you and me out.

The time for silent complicity with the unjust minority in power must end. The past shall never be forgotten but that does not mean it cannot be forgiven. Forgive yourselves, connect with your personal God, meditate, or whatever you need to do to clean the slate in your own mind. Please do it fast. People are being hurt every day.

You were not born racist. You were born white and systemically privileged. We can choose to stop apologizing and acknowledge the responsibility that others' lives are in our hands, literally. For racism cannot stand if we refuse to stand for racism.

Your fortunate friend.

Josh Zepess

josh@theedje.org

I'm Not Racist

As we continue to expose the systemic inequalities and injustices that have pervaded our society for centuries, we are beginning to see the threatened, knee-jerk reactions of the historically-privileged as their black and white outline of a world begins to get colored in.

There are few more profound outward expressions of this natural, yet unfortunate reaction than the exclamatory statement, “I’m not racist.” Yes, you almost certainly are. Allow me to explain.

Claiming that you’re not a racist is like claiming you’re not rude. You may think you’re not rude, but you are not allowed to make that determination. Rudeness is always and only in the eye of the receiver.

I have yet to meet a rude person who thought they were rude. They may have believed they were straightforward, honest, or tell-it-like-it-is, and yet they came across as rude as our system is rigged. Therefore, you may be saying, doing, and believing racist things without intending to do so. Yet it is what actually happens, not what you intend to happen, that makes all the difference in the world.

Notice that when this statement is uttered, it is almost invariably before or after a statement you know, or suspect greatly, is racist. I can easily rest my case in this point. For example, you would never let people know you’re not racist before checking out at the supermarket. That would be senseless as there is no concern whatsoever that racism plays a role in your hot pockets and toilet paper purchase. Indigestion perhaps, but not racism.

The phrase “I’m not racist, but…” is certainly going to be followed by a racist remark. It even tells us that you are planning to be racist and incredulously, you expect us to excuse you for it. Hint: It doesn’t help your case. The mere qualifier here indeed makes you, and your “but”, racist.

If you feel the need to add your statement to the end of your diatribe, that is also an excellent indication that you probably said something inappropriate. I would recommend reflecting on that and apologizing if need be. Defending it with your “proclamation of privilege” is only adding the fuel of intolerance to the deep-seated supremacist fire burning inside.

Finally, trustworthy people would never let you know that they’re trustworthy. They have built trustworthiness into their mindset, attitude, behavior, and speech. It is so authentically ingrained that they give no thought to articulating it. More to the point, when someone says “trust me” that’s probably the last thing you want to do.

Do trustworthy people make mistakes? Do they sometimes break trust? Of course, we are all human. The key is that they are intent on being trustworthy, understand what it takes to earn and keep trust, and are aware and corrective when they mess up. Their humility and honesty about themselves is what builds even more trust.

Look, we’re not born racist. I believe nobody truly wants to be racist either. However, we just can’t wish away our programming and pretend decades of subtle whitewashing and inherent privilege don’t exist. We can be aware of these things and how they have influenced us and continue to influence us.

The purpose of awareness is not guilt or shame. Those are low-level emotions that are tied to a defense mechanism around our identity. An attack on our racist tendencies (behavior) is perceived like an attack on the core of who we are. Yet at our core, we are a big pile of love.

"We just have to be willing to scrape away the baked-on crust of conditioning with the Brillo pad of empathy and compassion."

Awareness is the first step. It is about acknowledging what is, understanding how this affect other people, and fostering an openness to change ourselves in support of making the world better for everyone. Do the right thing because it’s right. No more silent complicit majority.

Josh Zepess

josh@theedje.org