Racism And The Problem With White Pride
Once upon a time, I was asked the following: “Justin, I want your honest opinion on this. Why is it that society in general is usually OK with people saying they are proud to be everything else other than white, but people usually frown or raise eye brows when someone who is white says they are proud to be white. I know there is the whole KKK and White Nationalist in our past, but why do you think this is such taboo? As a Mexican woman, I am curious to know what you and others think. I think this is a good conversation we need to have.”
What follows is the answer I gave to that question:
Well, I think there are three main answers: White Privilege, White Guilt and unavoidable racism.
White privilege, for those not familiar with the concept, is the fact that being white in America (and throughout the world to varying degrees) automatically conveys a higher status that is completely unearned. A less qualified white candidate will often be chosen over a more qualified black one. A white person will not be stopped and questioned by the police as often as a black or Hispanic person. That sort of thing. I was unfamiliar with the concept until a few years ago myself but I was aware of its effects. Despite being half Puerto Rican, I am, as I have mentioned before, unmistakably white. Not just white but WHITE. There is not a person on the planet who would think I had a drop on Hispanic blood in me. Because of this I have been treated with a deference by customers at my retail jobs that baffled me at first. My first few jobs were with almost all white co-workers and there was nothing noticeable. Once I went to work for EB Games though, my manager (and almost all of the staff) was black and suddenly I started to see a peculiar pattern. Despite being older than me (not a lot but enough to be obvious) and a much sharper dresser, customers would approach me, the assistant manager, first with questions for the “manager” and ignore the actual manager. It didn’t matter the race of the customer. Black, white and Hispanic would all assume I was in charge. The look on their faces when I pointed out the actual manager was always the same: eyes would widen followed by a quick sheepish glance over at my boss. Fortunately, Steve was very graceful about it.
Another disturbing example was the night several years later when my (Hispanic) boss, my (Hispanic) co-workers and I (Whitey McWhite) worked a late shift at the store and they were giving me a ride home at 3 AM. I was stuffed into the back seat and was not visible from the outside. A car full of Hispanics at three in the morning caught a policeman’s attention and we were pulled over. As the officer started to grill my (nervous) boss, I poked my head out and said “Good evening, officer! Is there something wrong?” I quickly told him that we had been working and they were dropping me off and I swear to you, he nodded, told us to have a good night and let us go without another word about why he pulled us over. Everyone in the car was staring at me as I sat back and said only half-jokingly, “That’s why you should keep a white boy on hand. Cops don’t bother us.” Now THAT’S privilege!
So that’s White Privilege in a nut shell. We live in a country where being white is the “norm” and we are conditioned to look “up” at Caucasians. Most people are not even aware of this on a conscious level. Chris Rock said it best: “ain’t a White man in this room who’d trade places with me, and I’m rich!”
Now, what this has to do with “white pride” is that it is kind of gauche to declare how awesome it is to be white in a country where not being white is a handicap. It’s kind of like a rich person talking about their gold plated toilet bowl in front of a soup kitchen. There’s tacky and there’s tacky and then there’s white pride in America. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being white but, for God’s sake, we don’t have to remind everyone who isn’t how much better we have it!
After White Privilege comes White Guilt. White Guilt is the shadow of White Privilege. The basic idea is that white people were responsible for slavery and various other kinds of oppressions in the past and we should feel terrible about it into perpetuity. This is total bullshit by the way. I used to think like this when I was an angsty teen-ager but then one day it occurred to me, what the hell do I have to feel guilty about? My father came over on a boat from Puerto Rico when he was five (no bananas onboard thank you very much) and my Jewish grandparents came to America from Russia. I think it’s safe to say my ancestors didn’t oppress anyone. It also occurred to me that blaming descendants for actions they would find personally abhorrent is ridiculous. I might as well blame Italians for the Romans throwing Christians to the lions. Mind you, a redneck down South whooping and hollering about how the Confederacy will rise again is entirely deserving of the scorn they receive but the rest of us? How many of the white people in this country even know if they had an ancestor that owned slaves at this point?
But still, guilt is a powerful emotion and easy to manipulate. After the onslaught of political correctness was done, there was a distinct feeling that being white was tainted by history. On top of this, it’s almost impossible to celebrate being white without coming off as racist, which is the third main issue with white pride. How does one celebrate being “white” (as opposed to Irish or Australian) without make it very clear that the alternative is “not white”? “White” is not a single ethnic group, it’s a mish-mosh of different cultures so it’s hard to celebrate it without contrasting it to something else. Once you start contrasting you inevitably drift into the “I’m better than you” zone so it becomes racist even if you’re trying NOT to be.
So that’s my thoughts on the matter. Am I utterly misguided? Did I miss something obvious? What do YOU think the problem is, fellow filthy liberal scum?
edited by Sherri Yarbrough