I watched Fredrick Wilson II’s rant on the black man taking some “personal responsi-damn-bility,” (posted below) in the wake of the Ferguson/Michael Brown tragedy and I stepped away seriously considering what he had to say. It’s a call from Fredrick to “his people” to stop blaming, take a good look at where they are and fight their way out by succeeding; by getting an education and finding empowerment. He wants them to stop doing the things, or appearing to do the things that are more likely to get them killed or seriously injured. I suppose I could argue either side.
But see, it’s not up to me to argue either side. I’m a sixty-some-year-old white guy living in a country that has been forever run by forty- and fifty- and sixty-some year old white guys. Any black guy who cares even a little bit about what I have to say about racism is wasting time. But just as Frederick Wilson claims that legions of black guys over relatively recent years have created a perception that scares the cops and the white public into responding too quickly with violence, I claim that legions of white guys have created a perception that if you aren’t a white guy, you’re gonna have a lot harder time getting a break and we will do whatever we have to do to keep you “in your place.”
Neither is always true, or even true most of the time, but perception, as Frederick says, is often reality.
So I give it up to Frederick. It’s for the black community, and every other minority of course, to find the best way to help itself and its members lead long and empowered lives.
But in like spirit, I gotta issue the same spanking to white American males. I’d include white females but we’re doing a pretty good job of holding them back also. When a white man who is very close to me asks in all seriousness why we don’t have a TV channel exclusively for white people like we do for blacks, I’m as close to speechless as I get (which is actually not that close.) Jesus, for all of my childhood and a good part of my adulthood that’s ALL we had. Tap your helmet. And speaking of helmets, when some white guy – and it’s always a white guy – asks me if we have to rename the mascots of ALL the NFL teams because we don’t want Nordic folks to be offended by the Minnesota Vikings or people in the meat packing industry to go off on Green Bay’s mascot or cattle ranchers to cringe when Dallas’ football team comes on TV, I wonder if they know how ignorant of the real issue they sound. I don’t think you’d create a lot of ill will walking up to a stranger in snakeskin boots and a George W. Bush hat and calling him cowboy. But I don’t know anyone who isn’t an avowed racist looking for a fight, who would walk up to an American Indian they didn’t know and call him a redskin.
This bigotry stuff ain’t rocket science.
If it’s incumbent on minorities (and guess what, very soon we’ll ALL be minorities) to step up and take responsibility for their reaction to racism, then the same has to be true for us. We, all of us white dudes, should make a habit of walking into Barnes and Noble, heading straight for the “History” section and demanding to know why The Autobiography of Malcolm X isn’t there. When the clerk tells us it’s in the BLACK History section, that’s time to get seriously and loudly indignant. It’s fucking HISTORY, man! It’s ALL the shit that happened! Same thing for women. Latinos. Asians. Everybody. Half the responses to this rant should be about the folks I left out in that last sentence.
You know, a whole lot of white racists who won’t call themselves racists, WILL and do call themselves Christians (and this is not a knock on Christians; it’s a knock on racists). Many are the kind of Christian who believes there will come a time when they stand before the pearly gates to make their case. Up or down. It’s called Judgment Day. Hard to imagine the gatekeeper going light on a history of turning one’s back on political reform that keeps poor people (high percentage of minorities) away from decent jobs and health care and opportunity just because the guy with the idea for that reform was black. Hard to believe the gatekeeper won’t have been instructed to look for folks who, knowing that resources like food and medicine and housing and wealth are FINITE, took as much as they could get anyway. The gatekeeper might simply be instructed to ask and record those men’s definitions of “enough”.
I noticed that the majority of Hoo-zahs for Fredrick W II’s rant came from white people, declaring “Here’s a black guy saying what I’ve said all along.” Go back and watch it again; that isn’t what he’s saying. Clarence Thomas is the black guy saying what you’ve been saying all along. Nothing.
Many credible brain scientists will tell you that humans are hard-wired for racism; that throughout evolution the safe group has been the familiar group, made up of beings that looked like us, and that’s how we learned to gather. But the brain is evolving too, and it should be smart enough by now to understand that evolution doesn’t have a nurturing component. Evolution doesn’t CARE. It’s up to us to comprehend and appreciate simple cause and effect. If you’re a white guy who believes black men are scary and prone to criminal intent, answer this question with the same earnestness with which you’ll approach the gatekeeper. “Did my actions on earth make it harder for any group of people to get a fair shake?” If you think you’re going to need a different answer, there’s still time.