Being white really must suck. Because it’s a scam. From its very beginnings, the whiteness sales pitch to Caucasians has been a bold and persistent lie: “This is a thing about you that makes you superior and will protect you.”
Sure, I see how the invention of whiteness was expedient for an enterprise built on the unpaid labor of people who happened to have brown skin. Whiteness made economic sense as a way of creating a corporate culture for the unforgivable. Problem is, though, that whiteness, as an employee morale-booster for capitalism, is strictly short term. It was only a matter of time before the acceleration of greed, to use Cornel West's word, “niggerized” working white people who now find themselves in a warp-speed free-fall at the hands of the one percent who actually own the economy.
This is what made Trump necessary. Gluttonous growth at the top requires that white people near the bottom continue to settle for racially-printed Monopoly money to try to buy back their shrinking privilege.
So it is supremely ironic that the kind of fretful punditry that a century ago was devoted to “the Negro question” – as in, What do black people want and how do we resolve their complaints? – is now dedicated to the equivalent question about angry white people.
Blogger Ijeoma Oluo has a response:
Almost every day I get a message…from a random white person — on Facebook, Twitter, or email — offering to provide me with the “white perspective” that they think that my work on race and feminism is missing. “Just to give a more well-rounded picture,” they’ll explain, or “Having been a white person my whole life, I think my insight would be useful to you,” or, “I think I can help you understand how this issue looks to white society.”
To which I say: Physician, heal thyself.
No, I do not know everything. I do not cover every angle all the time. Sometimes, I’m flat-out wrong. But here’s the thing: I do know white culture. I know white culture better than most white people know white culture. I know white culture, white history, white politics. I know it better than you because if you knew why you were really in my DMs right now, you’d be embarrassed. Why do I know white culture so well? Because I’m a black woman. And while I, and just about any person of color who has spent their lives in a white supremacist society, know enough about white culture to write a book or two on whiteness and option the bestseller movie rights, y’all know almost nothing about us and even less about yourselves.
Why? Because you don’t have to.
Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it’s required your ignorance. The dominant culture does not have to see itself to survive because culture will shift to fit its needs. This shift is cheaper and easier when you don’t look too closely at how it’s being accomplished — if you never ask who is picking up the check. And no, you hardly see us at all — even if you love us. You can’t; we don’t exist as whole people in most of the places that you have been getting your information from.
And as much as I’d like you to see me — as much as I’d like systemic racism to simply be a problem of different groups not seeing each other — I need you to see yourself, really see yourself, first. This is the top priority.
I’ve left out a lot; read the entire piece for Oluo's detailed cataloguing of examples of what black people know about white people.
My friend Aubrey, a black person steeped in not just American but global culture, took Oluo’s piece to be a petulant (and doomed) demand that white people solve the problems to which black Americans are subjected. I told him I don’t read it that way. To me her point that we black folks can’t do white folks’ inner work for them is completely compatible with the larger mission of what we can do.
I say: Hey, hostile white brethren: Get on the train, or catch up later. I as a black progressive am not waiting for you. We and our allies will create a narrative, and ultimately a reality, of non-purchased non-oppressive public policy with you or without you. You as whites have the relative luxury of skepticism about our experience. We as black people have, from centuries of experience, the imperative of necessity.