Thursday, July 21, 2011

Public Service Announcement #2: Calling the Good White People of America

So, this began as a music blog.

Life in High Times, would allegedly be tightly focused on hip-hop, local shows, music reviews and the like, you know, keep it light. However, as the weeks have gone on, the focus of this blog has widened. I've never had a one track mind,but what I do have is a strong passion for social justice and I get regularly pissed off at the world around me.

What's got me pissed off lately, is that the humanity of all people is under attack in a major way."Mainstream" candidates [Republican] for the President of the United States signed a pledge recently, actually stating that African American children were better off duing slavery!

Sit back and ponder the implications of that for a second. Think about the gross insensitivity, ignorance, revisionist history,sense of supremacy and dominance, involved in the inception of a statement like that.

It makes me shudder, really.

It also makes me laugh when I think about all the ways my premise of writing about race has been criticized. While, the writing I've shared has been accepted by people of all races, even embraced, in a way that has been truly rewarding. I have also been told that writing about my experience of race is divisive and racist. And that my style and tone, creates an alienating experience for "good white people".

After I read that pledge, signed by Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman, it made me wish I had actually flipped the bird at those, who offered that commentary,as I had been tempted to. I have a low tolerance for people who wail at pin pricks when I have to have the skin of an alligator just to walk out the door in the morning.Really, cry me a river, then get over it and do something to make a difference.If you really aren't a racist, then show it.

[Hint: The first way you can tell a person isn't a racist is that they don't get angry when people talk about racism! If you do, or find yourself getting defensive or red-faced you've got some looking in the mirror to do.]

You can't reject or claim not to be subject to an idealogy until you become aware of it and all the insidious ways its has shaped your conciousness. We are all products of our enviroments,that can't control the garbage force fed to us as children, but we are responsible for what we perpetuate as adults.

I used to walk around with a great hesitation when it came to writing about race, class and priviledge. I knew how some people would react, black and white. Did I have to be that girl?

But the answer is, Yes,Yes,Yes I do.I have sharp tounge, that's no doubt, and its not shuck, jive or sass. I'm not here to write kumbayah tales of how we can all make it together if we try, and that we're all in this together. There are some people, systems and behaviors that are the enemies of liberation and I'm not afraid to say that.

Agitator is bad word in the United States,but agitate, is exactly what I strive to do with my writing. Move people to action, even if that action is just a new thought. Afterall, the battle begins in our own minds.

So,I don't write fairytales.

There are no heroes, just hard,cold realities to this world and you can't be on the side of justice until you acknowledge them. You can't put an end to a preference or a privelidge or discrimination, as long as you choose to view the world through rose colored glasses, looking for absolution from guilt.

I have known no "good white folks" but plenty good people. And good people of all colors are what it takes to make this a more just and humane society for us all. I've said many times,to use an expression borrowed from my great-grandfather, "Its not the color its the kind."

He was right. What kind of person are you? Who do you stand in solidarity with? These are questions for us all.

"All we need is love"



  1. I have also been told that writing about my experience of race is divisive and racist. And that my style and tone, creates an alienating experience for "good white people."

    I raise my hand to say I was one of those people. Although I didn't say racist, just alienating, and possibly divisive. I think the offense we take is in being told that we cannot understand, of being shut out of that understanding, or maybe just having the injustice pointed out and feeling implicated despite a true will and desire for a solution. You know I'm never one to hesitate to flip the bird when necessary, but the problem for me is not being given an option for means of not deserving that bird to be flipped at me, as the bird is already being flipped me right in the text.

    And why shouldn't I ask for absolution of guilt? Why am I responsible for the actions of my ancestors? These are not rhetorical questions meant as an attack on your argument but true requests for a response. How do I, as an individual, put an end to my own privilege?

  2. The Duchess! Thank you for reading and taking the time out to respond.

    I know you may find this statement offensive but hear me out to the end. White people can't understand the experience of minorities in America. The closest approximation is the feeling you say you get from some of my writing. The feeling you have while reading is temporary and the experience is voluntary,

    There is nothing temporary or voluntary about racism. Its there every, single, day.

    That feeling of powerlessness against something, of having no options, no way in, that my text gave you, is the most frustrating, soul-cutting and destructive thing about racism. Contending with those feelings is many black people's daily reality.

    As for feeling implicated, why? If I write about an experience of racism and/or discrimination that you were not the victim or perpetrator of, why do you feel implicated, personally?

    We are less than fifty years past the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I am not yet 30, my mother is not 55 and she rode the back of the bus. The experience of race and racism is fresh, raw and real for us and it's unfair for people to think we should be silent about it.

    You, shouldn't be looking for absolution because they're not your sins, that's a fact. You didn't create this anymore than I did. But it dosen't mean that you don't benefit from the system that's in place.

    White privelidge is real and you can't end it on your own but you can do your part not to perpetuate it. Acknowledging the state of things, the existence of your privlidge is the first step. Also, hearing, receiving and respecting the perspectives of minorities is the second.

    In my own life, I have had to get real in the ways in which I have benefitted from colorism and the societal preference toward lighter skin. See my post, "In Search of My Mother's Garden" if you have time, for more on that.

    Once we recognize them and realize the damage they have done,I don't know what we do with the sins of our fathers,that is the great question of our times.