The infuriating accusation of “racism against white people”
Sometimes I wish white people could be black.
Not forever, beware. Maybe for just a few weeks like John Howard Griffin, the author of “Black Like Me,” who darkened his skin and traveled South in 1959. Sometimes I wish white people could have that experience.
Not so they can feel the morbid apprehension that can accompany a simple roadside check.
Not so they can feel the outrage at being asked to report on yourself just by walking down the street.
Not so they can feel what it’s like when your bank loan is denied, your house is undervalued, your doctor doesn’t take your pain seriously, you don’t get the job, your preschooler is suspended, the shopkeeper follows you everywhere, you can’t hail a taxi or you end up handcuffed, because of the melanin in your skin.
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No, I wish white people could be black so they know what it’s like to deal with all of this – and then hear white people complaining about how bad they have it.
The reference is to a recent political announcement. You probably haven’t seen it if you’re not in Georgia, but it popped up on Twitter the other day courtesy of Isaac Hayes III (yes, that Isaac Hayes’ son), where he reminded us that when it comes to race, some of our white brothers and sisters – repeating to emphasize: some – are shameless beyond words and ignorant beyond travesty.
“When did racism against white people become OK?” asks the announcer. The worried piano frets behind him, and white people look emotionally at the camera as he lists the alleged acts of “leftist racism” and “anti-white bigotry” they face from President Joe Biden and of Vice President Kamala Harris. We run out of space to detail these claims, but it won’t surprise you that they’ve been debunked by Factcheck.org, Politifact, and the Washington Post. You also won’t be surprised to learn that the ads are funded by something called America First Legal, run by Stephen Miller, a Trump Reich veteran who has defended his obscene policy of stealing children from immigrants.
Yes, the spot is obviously a direct descendant of Willie Horton’s notoriously racist 1988 ad. But our focus today is on how it attempts to neutralize the language of liberal protest by co-opting it, that is, say by reframing “racism” as something suffered by white people. It’s a rhetorical trick the white right has been using for years. Which does not mean that he has lost his power of exasperation. This narrative that racism is a “both sides” phenomenon may be comfort food for them, but it is a defamation of my ancestors.
Again, however, this is nothing new. You may remember a 2016 exchange about racism between Bryan Richter, a white cop in Austin, Texas, and Breaion King, a black woman. “Do you think it goes both ways? he asked him. This, after he punched the 112-pound woman’s body, handcuffed her, stuffed her into the back of his car and told her about the “violent tendencies” of, ahem, black people. She had been arrested for speeding.
Six years later, five years after Charlottesville, four years after a court awarded 4 cents to the family of a black man in Florida executed by police, three years after a white man threatened a black man with a knife for walking in a “white town” in Kansas, two years after Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, it’s hard to overstate the brazenness of the white right asking us to worry about “racism against white people.” “.
We wish they were black, but for them it’s probably best if they can’t. If they were, they would be dealing with white people like them.
They couldn’t handle it.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami FL 33172. Readers can contact him at [email protected]