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.
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.
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.
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
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!”
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.
39 percent of Federal Workforce
59.5 percent of Senior-level Employees
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
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
66 percent of U.S. House of Representatives
81 percent of U.S. House Committee Chairs
House Majority Leader
House Majority Whip
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
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_
9 of 9 Prosecutor’s Advisory Council Members
31 of 38 Senators
76 of 100 Representatives
77 of 92 Committee Chairs
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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.