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A Letter to White People: I Know You're Not Racist, But ...

Posted by on Jul. 20, 2013 at 6:51 AM
  • 6 Replies
a, letter, to, white, people:, i, know, youre, not, racist,, but, ...,

A Letter to White People: I Know You're Not Racist, But ...

A recent article on PolicyMic in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict sparked my interest, not because of the contents of the article itself, but because of the comments that followed. The young white woman in the video that the article linked to claimed that middle-class whites who take up the “I am Trayvon Martin” rallying cry are, in fact, deluding themselves if they believe the cultural education that they have received doesn't teach fear of black people. Most of the white commenters responded angrily, denouncing the video and claiming that they were never taught to be racist. I could not adequately respond in the comments so I decided to write a letter and publish it here.

Dear White People of America,

I know you weren’t taught to be racists. Your parents were/are good people who worked hard and never hated anyone. You went to decent schools and have lived in diverse places. You publicly espouse tolerance for everyone. I know you weren’t taught to be racists. But somehow many of you have absorbed, if not racist attitudes, then certainly prejudiced ones.

Though I know that it will be viewed as such in many quarters, I don’t intend this opening to be inflammatory. What I want is to spark a real conversation around race, privilege, and perception, a conversation that has been sorely lacking in America and which is not happening in any meaningful way even in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. Whites, blacks, and other minorities keep talking past each other regarding race. If we are to prevent the tragic deaths of more children, then this has to stop.

America’s current issue with race is not the problem of old. The KKK doesn’t roam the streets looking for people to lynch anymore. Nooses no longer adorn trees, dangling “strange fruit” as a warning to black people to stay in their place. Governors don’t stand in school house doors proclaiming the never-ending reign of segregation. Our current problems are deeper and much harder to talk about. They are as deep as our thoughts, and few alive today were taught by any authority figure in our formative years to actively hate. But somehow, we have absorbed the lesson that we should actively fear.

That’s what George Zimmerman did. He actively feared a young black kid walking home from the store in the dark. Why? Zimmerman’s father was a judge, someone dedicated to upholding a colorblind law. I seriously doubt that he taught his soon that black people were a threat. So who did? Why did George Zimmerman, and why do so many of you, so actively distrust and fear black youth that laws that could justify the killing of such youth are allowed?

How did this irrational fear creep into our national culture and indoctrinate us? I have no real answers to that question. I suspect that it has something to do with media portrayals of black people coupled with the realities of minority poverty. Shows that portray white criminals tend to do so in a sort of fantasy of storytelling. Who is likely to meet an Italian mobster in their everyday life? Conversely, shows like The Wire and Oz purport to portray a “slice of life” in black neighborhoods. We are much more likely to meet people like those characters, black men with a violent streak. Hip-hop has, for years, been one-dimensionally viewed as violent and disruptive. And who makes hip-hop? Black males. The murder statistics out of Chicago are appalling and splashed all over the news. Black kids are shown as dropouts and dope dealers, gang-bangers and thugs. With so many violent and negative portrayals, it’s no wonder that many of you unconsciously think of black men as a threat.

Here is a painful admission. I, a black man, harbor much of this fear as well. I too have been indoctrinated to fear black males. My heart rate quickens and I begin to look for possible avenues of escape when I see an unknown black man approaching on the street, especially if he is wearing “thug clothes.” I roll up my windows when a black person pulls up next to me in a jacked-up Cadillac blasting rap.

If I can own up to the fear, white people, I think you should too. Let’s all stop hiding behind the “I’m not a racist” excuse and admit that we do fear the Other, especially if the Other is a black male. Let’s look at what we consume in the media and how our culture shapes us and admit that it just might be affecting how we think about minority males.

White people, I know you weren’t taught to be racist. But if the effects are the same — if innocent kids can be gunned down and the killers can get off and even be defended by whites as “being within their rights,” if you can still pass laws that disenfranchise and impoverish minorities without protest, if you can carry on as if everything is OK when black people are dying in the streets of our cities — then how am I to tell the difference? I’ll take you at your word that you’re not racist and weren’t taught to be so. But until you can admit that many of you harbor an irrational fear of black men, then we can't really begin the process of making all of us safer.

Sincerely,

A Black Man

by on Jul. 20, 2013 at 6:51 AM
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Replies (1-6):
Billiejeens
by on Jul. 20, 2013 at 8:07 AM
5 moms liked this

Dear Black Man:

Go to Chicago worry about the black males killing other black males every week.

Make some progress in your house, then we can work on the bigger picture.

Kathy489
by Bronze Member on Jul. 20, 2013 at 8:22 AM
5 moms liked this

I read the article up to about the 4th paragraph:

"That’s what George Zimmerman did. He actively feared a young black kid walking home from the store in the dark."

This is bullshit. Yet again, another black man has to go and put race into it. It can't possibly be that there was a young jerk of a kid out there looking for trouble. NO, it has to be a BLACK kid, (and it was proven that Z didn't know that right away, either)

Let's not put the personal responsibility of his own actions onto TM. Let's blame it on his race! Like the first response says, go back to Chicago and get it right first, then try to tell the rest of the country how to do it.

JustCJ
by on Jul. 20, 2013 at 9:17 AM
1 mom liked this
Boom told ya!
Hahaha
numbr1wmn
by Nikki on Jul. 20, 2013 at 9:22 AM
1 mom liked this

FFS this has nothing to do with race.  Some people really want to make black people into scapegoats here.  This was a kid who acted like an idiot and messed with a man with a gun.  Had tryvvon not hit Zimmerman he would be alive today.

I feel worse for the mother who watched her daughter get shot in the face by a black men.

jcrew6
by Jenney on Jul. 20, 2013 at 9:26 AM
2 moms liked this
This OP speaks in absolutes. Since when does this style of narrow minded writing and thinking help?
jcrew6
by Jenney on Jul. 21, 2013 at 8:15 AM

OP, you seem to post questionable posts then avoid actually discussing them.  Why? 

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