The White (Men) Issue — Rigged, six big takes on white supremacy

LEO’s White (Men) Issue, now on the stands, examines from several directions how white supremacy has been rigged against everyone but white people, men mostly.

First up is Simon T. Meiner’s list charting the pervasiveness and depths of white supremacy in public life.
And then…
Nicole Hardin on: The cost of antiracism, an investment come due
Kate Sedgwick on: Why we don’t talk about race
Erica Rucker on: Masculinity is a pathology
Shane Peabody Powell on: What in the actual f$&k are you doing whitey?!
And a special guest Editor’s Note from James Penny: Why we are not in office


Rigged: White Supremacy by the Numbers

by Simon T. Meiners

White supremacy is embedded in the fabric of American life. It’s woven into our laws, our government, our economy, our culture.

If you live in Kentucky, but you don’t see the presence of white supremacy around you, then here are five facts you need to memorize.

1. 26 percent of all the black adults in this state cannot vote due to a felony conviction.

2. no other state has a percentage that high.

3. 86 percent of Kentucky’s total population is white.

4. 91 percent of its trial and appellate court judges are white.

5. 99 percent of its elected prosecutors are white.

Scandalous, right?

I know what many white readers must be thinking: If those black folks would just obey the law, they would still have the right to vote!

But here’s the thing: Voter restrictions undermine democracy and discourage civic engagement. So it’s awfully damning that Kentucky is one of only three states that still has a permanent ban on voting rights for felons.

More importantly, though, just because a black person is convicted of a crime in this country does not mean that he or she actually committed that crime.

Contrary to white people’s shared rhetoric and intuitions, the U.S. criminal justice system is not, in fact, a colorblind arbiter of fairness and equality. In reality, it’s a racist gauntlet of anti-black booby traps and pitfalls.

For example, blacks and whites in this country use and sell drugs at the same exact rate, but blacks are three times more likely to get arrested for drug possession.

If you still don’t believe me, let’s you and I run that gauntlet together. I’ll point out 10 places where anti-blackness asserts itself.

Ready?

1. If you’re driving or walking in public, you’re more likely to get stopped by the police if you’re black.

2. If you get stopped by the police, you’re more likely to get searched, touched, pushed, clubbed, handcuffed, pepper-sprayed or aimed at with a service weapon if you’re black.

3. If you’ve actually committed a crime, you’re more likely to get arrested for it if you’re black.

4. If you get offered money bail, it’s likely to be set higher if you’re black.

5. If you get offered a plea deal, it’s more likely to include jail time if you’re black.

6. If you go to trial, you’re more likely to be kept in pre-trial detention if you’re black.

7. If you were falsely charged, you’re more likely to get wrongfully convicted if you’re black.

8. If you get convicted, you’re likely to get a longer and harsher sentence if you’re black.

9. If you get sent to death row, you’re more likely to get executed if
you’re black.

10. If the crime was murder, you’re more likely to get executed if the victim was white.

Clearly, the justice system is stacked against black folks — and if that shocks you, then you haven’t been paying attention.

However, if you still believe that over-policing and over-prosecuting blacks is somehow fair or justified — because, you say, a disproportionate amount of crimes get reported in black neighborhoods — then remember this: Black folks have a much higher poverty rate, and poverty begets crime.

And guess what? In the U.S.A., black poverty is not an accident: It’s a white conspiracy!

That’s right: Black poverty is the upshot of a public-private partnership between white majorities in the halls of government and the chambers of commerce. It started way back in 1619, when Dutch traders brought the first kidnapped black slaves to Jamestown, and it continues today, each time their black descendants get a loan denied or a job application thrown out.

“But those Africans were enslaved by other Africans!” you say.

Maybe. But the ongoing system of racial oppression responsible for centuries of black suffering and poverty began indeed as a white capitalist conspiracy. In the late 1600s, the Virginia “plantocracy” — a ruling class of governors, councilors, burgesses, magistrates and tobacco barons — cooked it up to divide and conquer the working class of Anglo-America. (For more on this, check out “The Invention of the White Race” by Theodore Allen.)

“But we had a black president!” you say. “There’s no white conspiracy!”

Hmm.

Consider this: In U.S. history, 44 of the 45 presidents, 48 of the 48 vice presidents and 107 of the 113 Supreme Court justices have been white men. In Kentucky, 61 of the 62 governors and 493 of the roughly 495 delegates to the U.S. Congress have been white men.

Today, white men make up 31 percent of the U.S. population. However, the president is a white man. His vice president, attorney general and deputy attorney general; his main strategists, advisors and czars; his secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury; his picks to run the CIA, FBI, NSA, EPA, ICE, Army, Navy, Customs, Border Patrol, Prison Bureau — all of them are white men. Here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, all 16 leadership roles in the General Assembly are held by white men.

None of these facts or statistics are that obscure or surprising. However, that doesn’t make them any less scandalous. That is why it’s vitally important that we — and by we, I mean Americans in general but white men in particular — take a full reckoning of what racial and sexual inequality looks like.

…So, below is a casual audit of inequality in the United States in 2017.

(White men make up 31 percent of the U.S. population.)

I. Here are some white men, 1776-present.

44 of 45 Presidents

48 of 48 Vice Presidents

107 of 113 Supreme Court Justices

61 of 62 Governors – KY

53 of 57 Lieutenant Governors – KY

79 of 79 U.S. Senators – KY

414 of 416 U.S. House Members – KY


II. Here are some white men, in 2017.

_Federal Government_

39 percent of Federal Workforce

59.5 percent of Senior-level Employees

_Executive Branch_

President

Vice President

Chief of Staff

White House Counsel

Senior Adviser (Policy)

Senior Adviser (Strategic Planning)

National Security Adviser

Homeland Security Adviser

Director of National Intelligence

Chief of Staff of National Security Council

Chief Economic Adviser

Director of National Economic Council

Trade Representative

Trade Czar

Regulatory Czar

Attorney General

Secretary of State

Secretary of Defense

Secretary of Treasury

Secretary of Interior

Secretary of Agriculture

Secretary of Commerce

Secretary of Energy

Secretary of Health & Human Services

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Secretary of Homeland Security

Ambassador to China

Ambassador to European Union

Ambassador to Germany

Ambassador to Israel

Ambassador to Japan

Ambassador to Russia

Ambassador to United Kingdom

Head of Amtrak

Head of Army

Head of Army Corps of Engineers

Head of Border Patrol

Head of Central Intelligence Agency

Head of Cyber Command

Head of Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Head of Federal Bureau of Investigation

Head of Federal Bureau of Prisons

Head of Citizenship Services

Head of Coast Guard

Head of Commodity Futures Trading Commission

Head of Customs

Head of Drug Enforcement Administration

Head of Drug Policy

Head of Environmental Protection Agency

Head of Export-Import Bank

Head of Fannie Mae

Head of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Head of Federal Election Commission

Head of Federal Emergency Management Agency

Head of Federal Housing Administration

Head of Food and Drug Administration

Head of Forest Service

Head of Freddie Mac

Head of Global Coalition to Counter ISIS

Head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Head of Internal Revenue Service

Head of INTERPOL (U.S.)

Head of Joint Chiefs of Staff

Head of Marine Corps

Head of National Security Agency

Head of Navy

Head of Marshals Service

Head of Missile Defense Agency

Head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Head of National Archives

Head of National Counterterrorism Center

Head of National Credit Union

Head of National Guard

Head of National Institutes of Health

Head of National Labor Relations Board

Head of National Parks

Head of Nuclear Security Administration

Head of Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Head of Office of American Innovation

Head of Office of Inspector General

Head of Office of Legal Counsel

Head of Office of Management and Budget

Head of Sallie Mae

Head of Secret Service

Head of Securities and Exchange Commission

Head of Selective Service

Head of Smithsonian Institution

Head of Tennessee Valley Authority

_Legislative Branch_

66 percent of U.S. House of Representatives

81 percent of U.S. House Committee Chairs

House Speaker

House Majority Leader

House Majority Whip

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House Majority Policy Committee Chair

House Minority Whip

House Minority Caucus Chair

74 percent of U.S. Senate Members

90 percent of U.S. Senate Committee Chairs

Senate President Pro Tempore

Senate Majority Leader

Senate Majority Whip

Senate Majority Conference Chair

Senate Majority Conference Vice Chair

Senate Majority Committee Chair

Senate Majority Committee on Policy Chair

Senate Minority Leader

Senate Minority Whip

Senate Minority Conference Vice Chair

Senate Minority Outreach Chair

Senate Minority Policy & Communications Vice Chair

Senate Minority Committee on Campaign Chair

Senate Minority Secretary

Senate Sergeant at Arms

100 percent of U.S. Congressional Joint Committee Chairs

_Judicial Branch_

58 percent of Federal Court Judges

56 percent of Supreme Court Judges

Chief Justice of Supreme Court

_State and Local Governments_

65 percent of Elected Officials

88 percent of State Governors

79 percent of State & Local Prosecutors

>61 percent of State Legislators

58 percent of State Appellate Court Judges

57 percent of State Trial Court Judges

_Commonwealth of Kentucky_

Governor

Attorney General

9 of 9 Prosecutor’s Advisory Council Members

31 of 38 Senators

76 of 100 Representatives

77 of 92 Committee Chairs

Senate President

Senate President Pro Tempore

Senate Majority Leader

Senate Majority Caucus Chair

Senate Majority Whip

Senate Minority Leader

Senate Minority Caucus Chair

Senate Minority Whip

House Speaker

House Speaker Pro Tempore

House Majority Leader

House Majority Caucus Chair

House Majority Whip

House Minority Leader

House Minority Caucus Chair

House Minority Whip

70 of 108 Judges (Est. Total)

III. Here are some facts.

_Land and_Property_

If you apply for a mortgage, you’re more likely to get denied if you’re black or Latinx.

If you’re approved for a mortgage, you’re more likely to pay a higher rate if you’re black or Latinx.

If you own your home, you’re more likely to face foreclosure if you’re black or Latinx.

If your home gets foreclosed, it’s more likely to sit neglected if it’s in a minority neighborhood.

If it sits neglected, it’s more likely to drag down the property values for minority homeowners.

If you’re Ted Turner, you own about half as much farmable land as all 40 million black Americans do combined.

If you’re one of the top five white landowners in the US, you and your four peers collectively own more land than all 40 million Black Americans do combined.

_Criminal Justice_

If you’re out in public, you’re more likely to get stopped by the police if you’re black.

If you get stopped by the police, you’re more likely to get searched, touched, pushed, clubbed, handcuffed, pepper-sprayed, or aimed at with a service weapon if you’re black.

If you get searched, you’re less likely to get caught with contraband if you’re black.

If you have broken the law, you’re more likely to get arrested if you’re black.

If you get offered money bail, it’s likely to be set higher if you’re black.

If you get offered a plea deal, it’s more likely to include jail time if you’re black.

If you go to trial, you’re more likely to be kept in pretrial detention if you’re black.

If you were falsely charged, you’re more likely to get wrongfully convicted if you’re black.

If you get convicted, you’re likely to receive a longer and harsher sentence if you’re black.

If you get sent to death row, you’re more likely to be executed if you’re black

If the crime was murder, you’re more likely to be executed if the victim was white.

_Incarceration_

If you’re a black adult male, there’s a 1 in 6 chance you’ve been to prison before.

If you’re a black 16-year-old boy, there’s a 1 in 3 chance you’ll go to prison someday.

If you’re currently held in a state prison, there’s a 59 percent chance you’re black or Latinx.

If you’re a white child, there’s a 1 in 57 chance that your mom or dad is behind bars.

If you’re a Latinx child, it’s a 1 in 28 chance.

If you’re a black child, it’s a 1 in 9 chance.

_Gender_And_Poverty_

If you’re a trans person, you’re more likely to be poor.

If you’re black and trans, there’s a 38 percent chance you’re poor.

If you’re multiracial and trans, there’s a 40 percent chance you’re poor.

If you’re American Indian and trans, there’s a 41 percent chance you’re poor.

If you’re Latinx and trans, there’s a 43 percent chance you’re poor.

_Employment and Pay_

If you’re a working-age woman, you’re more likely to have a job if you’re white.

If you’re black or Latinx and apply for a job, you’re more likely to get a callback if you use a white-sounding name.

If you’re a woman working full-time, you make 78 cents to a white man’s dollar.

If you’re a white woman, it’s 77 cents.

If you’re a black woman, it’s 64 cents.

If you’re a Latinx woman, it’s 56 cents.

If you’re a female CEO, you make 75 percent as much as your male counterpart.

_Income and Wealth_

If you’re in the median white household, you have 50 percent more income than your black or Latinx counterpart.

If you’re in the median white household, you have 16 times more wealth than your black or Latinx counterpart.

If you’re in the top 1 percent of households, there’s a 96.1 percent chance you’re white.

If you’re a millionaire, there’s a 76 percent chance you’re white.

If you’re a billionaire, there’s a 0.6 percent chance you’re black.

If you’re a black billionaire, there’s a 1 in 3 chance you’re Oprah.

_Corporate Power_

If you’re a Fortune 500 boardroom member, there’s a 69 percent chance you’re a white man.

If you’re a Fortune 500 CEO, there’s a 91 percent chance you’re a white man.

IV. Here’s my conclusion.

It’s rigged.


The cost of antiracism,
 an investment come due

by Nicole Hardin

It’s been said that “the victors write history.” I think it better stated, the colonizers determine the narrative, and the predominant narrative of American culture is that whiteness must be the standard, and that white masculinity is the superlative. This Great American story has been passed down for generations, and we are living in an age when that narrative just isn’t sustainable anymore.

Those of us who have been struggling under the weight of oppression have reached the point of demanding to be seen and heard; and the   effect of this has been the breaking of relationships and multiple rips in our diverse communal tapestry. We have felt it in lost friendships, protests and conflicts on repeat for the last couple of years. The longer the resistance, the uglier the fight, and it’s exhausting.

Right now, everyone is rushing toward the fastest possible resolution we can find, but I have one piece of advice for us all:

Don’t.

What does moving forward look like? The deconstruction of a status quo that has stood for centuries. We don’t get out of this easily — what we need now is intention. We need honest conversation about the systemic infrastructures we have built to uphold this standard, and honest discussion about what it takes to undo it. Those discussions don’t come quickly and they don’t come cheap.

What does it cost to discuss how this is not a new struggle? That time and time again marginalized groups have risen up. They fought for the right to live on their native land, or to be out of slavery, or vote, or marry, or have a different religion, or have no religion, or say no to sex, or have general reproductive health. And while white men are not alone on the opposing side of these battles, they are without a doubt the greatest representative number there, and the reason for that is power and fear of losing power.

There is a meme making the rounds on social media, which, to paraphrase, says it best: Understanding systemic and societal oppression requires an understanding of power dynamics and we cannot understand power dynamics until we listen to those without power.

What does it look like to move forward? It looks like listening to the powerless, even if it makes you feel bad and guilty to hear them tell their truths. Even if it forces you to see that all this time, our diverse culture was exacting a cost that you never had to pay.

For our white friends, it means intentionally coming into a space and for the first time allowing the discussion to not be about you, because your best interest has always been primary, and now we need to hear about the best interest of the others in our community. And it hurts. I know it hurts, because I’ve lived in that uncomfortable space my entire life.

It’s dissonant and loud, and it makes you recoil — all those voices speak about this pain that we built. And this is where we have to sit.

We have to resist the urge to say, “if you don’t like it then leave,” or “you are no patriot,” or “what was she wearing?” We don’t get to find a way to rush past this for cheap reconciliation.

Many times we sit at the table of collective bargaining and we like to offer up “equality” as a settlement. We like to say, let’s have a discussion where everyone’s voice is equal. What does that look like? Is the voice of a Nazi equal to the voice of the people they seek to destroy? Does it look like rape victims being sued for custody of their children, or for even speaking at all? Is it being forced to work next to someone who sexually assaulted you; because the voices are equal right?

This is not an “equality” that will bring about peace. What is needed is equity, because that is where justice lives. Quietness is not peace, and there is no peace without justice. Silencing the oppressed will never be the correct means to an ending in reconciliation — that only makes it quiet again.

And after we listen to the voices of the powerless, we have to be actionable to rectify what we let fester here. What does that even look like?  It is intervening when our Muslim friends are harassed. It means not making excuses for rape culture. It means standing up and stepping in the middle when we see the English Second Language members of our community being berated and told to go back where they came from. It means saying, “All Black Lives Matter” without qualification, or the need to center yourself in that statement. It looks like fighting for general healthcare, not just for the rich, but for the historically financially looted, or our transsexual brothers and sisters as well. It means sitting down and telling your family members they are racist over Christmas dinner. Because we don’t want the status quo. We want to be better. We can’t afford quiet anymore.

Strap in. This is going to take a while. •

Nicole Hardin is an organizer for Black Lives Matter Louisville and associate minister at Douglass Boulevard Christian Church.


Why we don’t talk about race

by Kate Sedgwick

Educating white people about racism, privilege and white supremacy throws up huge stumbling blocks for me. I find myself hamstrung by anger brought on by entirely predictable behaviors. If I were a more perfect person, maybe I would smile, issue some platitudes and move on with the conversation for the benefit of people who were there to listen and learn.

When confronted by a foreign idea, one that challenges their worldview, there are people who are anxious to explain, usually white men, who feel their skepticism and lack of empathy are in any way relevant.

“What about this?” they ask in mild voices, which they’re used to people paying attention to.

These are the same kinds of people who’ve been my teachers, my bosses — men who routinely dismiss my concerns.

I remember an editor lauding a personal essay by another writer. The piece about leaving a restaurant job included a line about which people didn’t tip well. It was clear he didn’t mean visitors from Europe. “That seems pretty racist,” I said. “It’s not racist. He doesn’t mention any particular race. That’s his truth,” the editor said. But white guys couching racism in what they think is witty commentary is constant, and so are other white guys who don’t see a problem with it. My concern was for readers, especially readers who weren’t white. His concern was for the white male writer’s capital T Truth.

After a recent performance by Looking for Lilith Theatre Company, I was part of a talk-back afterwards with Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice, or LSURJ. The play, “Carefully Taught” examines race in the workplace, politics and between close friends. It’s provocative, and it was a great move on the company’s part to hold a discussion to help process it with audience members who stuck around.

The two main characters, best friends whose employment hangs in the balance, are a black and a white woman. The white woman often cuts off the black woman when she speaks and steps in and speaks for her, an insidious and very real tendency written with fidelity by black playwright Cheryl Davis. There is an argument, finally, about race that brings the white character’s denial about her paternalistic behaviors into sharp relief. It’s clear they have never spoken about race before.

“Is that really possible?” a man asked during the discussion. “That they wouldn’t have talked about race the whole time they were friends?”

Yes. It’s very possible.

More than one person of different races answered the man, and he responded with a skeptical look, clearly unsatisfied. Afterward, he approached the black actor who played the leading role to ask, yet again, if it were possible for black and white best friends to not talk about race.

I butted in, aware within moments that I was reproducing the silencing behavior of the white main character, playing white savior to protect the actor from garbage logic she must deal with every day. But the man’s doubt plucked a string inside me that demanded a response.

“It’s entirely possible,” I said.

If I’d been more articulate, I would have said that the friendship was dependent on the white character telling herself that her black friend was just like her, and the black character ignoring her white character’s frequent disrespect and failure to listen to her friend’s point of view — disconcertingly faithful to reality.

Instead, I said those conversations are awkward, and that often when white people bring up race with a black friend, they are looking for validation that they are one of the good ones who gets it, though the ways we engage prove the opposite.

Again, the man asserted his doubts — doubts meant to poke holes in the plausibility of the plot, the characters and perhaps even the validity of the play he had just watched.

“You must not have any close friends who are people of color,” I snapped, finally.

I was frustrated, and I caught a look from the actor I imagined was mild admonishment for my lack of grace. I wanted that man to be at least a little ashamed of his doubt, his need to neutralize. He walked away with the same bland skepticism on his face, and I stood there, heart pounding, ashamed of my aggressiveness, knowing I hadn’t changed his mind.

This skepticism about the realities of racism, a constantly deployed white tactic, is like holding up a mirror to shield ourselves from the sight of others. It prevents any sliver of doubt to penetrate our shield of white denial. It places the blame for perceived racism on the shoulders of the perceiver. The claim is often that people who point out discrimination are too sensitive or overly analytical, or reading too much into things.

In it, we expose our need for control, our need to avoid responsibility for the credit our lives are built on. We need our successes to be based on our merits, not byproducts of whiteness.

But our denial is a weapon we use to enforce inequality, and nothing changes until we drop the shield. White people can’t get over racism. We can scrub at the dirty spots inside us, but it never goes away. We are imperfect, and we will keep making mistakes. Unlearning racism takes a lot of practice. We run away and plug our ears and throw down obstacles in the path of the truth as if it’s chasing us just to maintain the safe harbor of our denial and the veneer of protection offered by the myths of our culture. All it takes to change is to listen.

 

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