White America must recognize

Jul 20, 2016 at 10:45 am
White America must recognize

This nation is sick because it has repeatedly failed to address and remedy the racism that renders it unhealthy. Racism prioritizes the needs of white people over the needs of others. It has festered in our nation and brought us to now — a nation splintered, angry and explosive.

If you are a white reader who doesn’t feel comfortable speaking, or thinking, about racial issues, ready your petitions, and prepare your angry comments: I’m going to get in your face for a minute.

Much of the continued struggle in our nation is the result of white violence against people of color. It also is a result of white avoidance of — and aversion to — addressing the history of this violence, and to creating substantive changes. This perpetuates the barbaric treatment that people of color have suffered at the hands of whites for centuries — the same treatment has resulted in a culture where the comfort of whiteness has manifested a pallid, lazy privileged-class, unwilling to acknowledge and right past wrongs.

This violence extends from the streets of our country — where white boys in pickups yell, “nigger,” from their windows — to the our Legislature, which passes state-sponsored assaults on the lives of people of color in this nation, particularly the lives of African-American and indigenous people.

For some, if violence doesn’t directly involve blood or death, it isn’t considered violence. This attitude needs to change. White America has to recognize how much it is complicit in violent acts against persons of color on a daily basis. Sometimes that is as simple as saying, “How did you do your hair like that?”

Looking back over the history of our nation — beginning with infested blankets given to indigenous people, and the complete disruption of native societies, to the escalating and disproportionate police violence against black people — we can map a sordid, filthy history that is anything but the wholesome, clean, genteel America that has been sold as reality.

In the late 1800s and the early 1900s, Native American children were forced in large numbers to attend boarding schools. This effectively removed children from their homes, forcibly stripped their heritages and indoctrinated them in European standards and behaviors. This was all in an effort to “civilize” and “Christianize” people whom Europeans saw as savages — a word used to this day to describe persons of color who retaliate against white violence and imperialism.

Fast forward to the 1920s in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. After slavery, many African-Americans moved from the South to Oklahoma to rejoin family who had been made to walk the Trail of Tears as mixed heritage indigenous people. In Oklahoma, during the oil boom, many black business owners became successful, and Greenwood prospered as a center of black economic power. In 1921, starting with one of the oldest white lies against African-American men, a black man was accused of assaulting a white woman. When white Oklahomans heard this, they wanted him dead. Lynchings were common, so the black community worked to protect him. The result: two days of race riots that completely destroyed Greenwood, known as Black Wall Street, and killed dozens of black people. After this, whites tried to change building codes to prevent these businesses from rebuilding, by making the process prohibitively expensive — much in the way sections of New Orleans have been made too expensive for residents to return post-Katrina.

From the Wade House bombing in Louisville, to the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, to the violence of the micro-aggressions on a daily person-to-person level, white ignorance and fear of difference have done terrible things to people of color, and, until there is a deep social and cultural shift in the white community, this legacy of white violence and racial unrest will never change. In a world where the majority is actually the minority, the ability to control the narratives around race through violence and complicity is wholly unsustainable.

People of color are tired of being the bogeyman for the projection of white fear. It is not our responsibility to address or change it.

We can’t.

That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the people who continue to ignore, perpetrate or benefit from this society borne of those fears.