A Question for White Racists

I am a 66-year-old white man who has seen and known racists who are white, and I have a question I’d like to ask them.

Now, how things and people come to be (and why) are not matters I am degreed in. I am, however, fortunate, if that’s the right word, to have lived a life in which I’ve not had the yoke of racism hobble my character. However, I’ve seen white racists and known white racists and, I have a question I am bound to present respectfully, because people are free to be bigoted if they want to be.

I have a memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asking an audience, angered by an attempt a white man in his fifties had just made to punch Dr. King, and I paraphrase honestly. “If you had been told, every day of your life, for more than fifty years, the blacks were bad, what would you believe?” 

And there it was, the beautiful thought-clarity and spiritual sense of justice of Dr. King, pointing out a salient, heartbreaking reality.

All bigotry is learned.

Back to my question for white racists. Clearly, one of the basic tenets of white racism is rooted in the believe  you are, because you are white,  in some way superior and preferable to the black and brown races. In short, the lighter skin reflects a human value you believe is lacking in black and brown races.

And so, to my question.

If white people are superior to black and brown people, because they have lighter skin, then someone needs to explain tanning to me?

All those white folk out there on the beaches, trying to do what, get a tan. They are trying to get darker.

When is the last time anyone heard a black or brown person say, “Oh sweat, look at the time, I need to rush down to the Pale-ing Salon, see if I can’t, lighten up a bit.”

Here’s a fact. Bigotry never defines reality accurately.

A word on oppressors & advocacy

Any company, agency,  government, school, healthcare provider, individual, who seeks to minimize the voice of those they claim to serve is an oppressor. To be fair, some get caught up in group-think and find themselves supporting decisions, methods, laws, protocols, directives that oppress a group or groups of individuals. Others know bloody well what they are doing. Some oppress out of a palpable dislike for those they claim to serve, while others do so because those they serve, people with disabilities (PWD) for example, are little more than revenue streams in their eyes. Moreover, PWD have been used as fodder for those who revel in the sewage of arrogant self-aggrandizement.

The question is, a willful oppressor or an oppressor out of ignorance, or, equally relevant, out of fear? Fear of reprisal if he, she, or they hold the oppressors accountable. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was absolutely right when he said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Back in 2008 I lost all income and all employment because I would not remain silent when a particular New York State health care provider, a Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver provider to be exact, was denying the rights of those participating in the program in part by community-based warehousing. In other words, put as many difference services on the shoulders of the program participant so you can bill (make money) as much as possible. It was made very clear to me that I needed to go along to get along or lose everything (meaning, in this instance, all my income and healthcare coverage). I chose that latter.

I knew then, just as I do now, that real human rights advocacy (as opposed to lip-service advocacy) can be a bloody business. If you are the real deal on the advocacy front you’re in good company: Mandela, King, Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, Malcom X, Medgar Evers, Harvey Milk, Elie Wiesel, Simon Wiesenthal, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Frederick Douglass, Malala Yousafzai, just to name a few.  All of the aforementioned paid dearly for their advocacy. Loss of freedom, loss of life. So, when it comes down to it, any price I may have paid pales in comparison.

It seems to me the job, if you will, of any real human rights advocate, is to, by any non-violent means necessary, drag the oppression and the oppressors into the open, and hold them accountable.

Recently I was pondering a column about accountability. I found myself wearing a rather large smile when several thesauruses listed accountable and responsible as synonyms. I know  a few oppressors who, on the one hand, would, with misplaced pride and predictable defiance, say they do their jobs responsibly. Yet the moment you hold them accountable,  these folks would slither under a rocks with remarkable speed and spit out venomous accusations of unfairness at those holding them accountable.

Oh well.