Posts tagged #White American

Win or Lose: Will We Tolerate Trump’s Deplorables?

Since the 1960s, many Americans have done the necessary work of pointing out past (and current) moral failures when it comes to race and gender. Yet, too few of us have taken seriously the psychical harm done to many voters by a half-century of (mostly) positive social changes in the country. Democrats have fetishized diversity to the extent many white Americans do not see themselves represented in the party, while the Republican playbook’s worst-kept secret is that they have carefully stoked racial animus among white voters. For decades, Washington told white Americans: “you don’t deserve to be angry” or “stay angry.” One result has meant a growing percentage of white Americans feel resentment that their voices, concerns, and pain do not matter. Progressives have acted as if white folks feel no pain, which is tragically ironic considering many white folks have thought the same thing about black folks. Whether phantom or hidden, pain is still pain, right?

Trump, MiloJonesRichard Spencer, and others from the “alt-right” are scratching an existential itch a lot of folks feel. But they aren’t offering anything akin to civic engagement. Trump is the latest name for an old white card played when it feels tougher to be heard. Historically, white Americans have made very bad decisions in these moments. Lynching, the KKK, Jim and Jane Crow Laws (segregation laws), and the incarceration epidemic all began in moments where rich white businessmen tapped into racial resentment and turned white anger into a special interest. Look up the Louisiana Gubernatorial race of 1872. Is this what Trump means by “Making America Great, Again?”

Our political failure to take white frustrations seriously has seen them fall prey to chicken hawks and us become hawks, as well; too smug (as Democrats) to show compassion to hurting white folks; or, too ashamed (as Republicans) that the party of Lincoln went the way of the Southern Strategy virtually assuring that race would end up the proxy war over far more fundamental American values. How difficult would it be for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to actually speak out against racism? And doesn’t Clinton’s ‘deplorables’ comment amount to building a wall of her own? All voters would appreciate moral leadership and leaders with morals.

Regardless of who wins or loses the election, when will Americans decide to stop playing a political game rooted in the rejection of others? White pain has been pimped out before, and many are being pimped again by Trump’s abuses — some of his biggest victims are his supporters. At best, rejecting these “deplorables” makes us their enablers. At worst, we have been their groomers.

My dad used to say that when people talk about the good ole days, don’t trust them, but don’t forget to love them, either. What Trump offers, by his admission, is a return to the past where rejections based on race and gender were rampant. He may soon be out of the news cycle, but his “deplorables” are not going anywhere. We might do well to greet them with the same toleration we expect so much from them. If we’re so certain American democracy is truly great, then let’s trust it is strong enough to hear all of its voices.

Posted on November 2, 2016 and filed under Whiteness.

What's Really behind the Confederate Flag Protests?

On this year’s 4th of July holiday, many white Americans are feeling their identity encroached upon and their opinions ignored. Especially in the south, many whites feel that the recent focus on removing the confederate flag from public spaces is an attack on our heritage, our past, and our very identities. Here is the totality of what white southern identity looks like, as some would have us think:

Uncertain Humanism and the Water of Whiteness

HumanistJulyAugust15

IN 2005, one of today’s most revered American writers, David Foster Wallace (now deceased), delivered a commencement address to graduates of Kenyon College, titled “This Is Water.” The twenty-minute speech is worth a listen or read, freely available on YouTube and in Wallace’s eponymous 2009 collection, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. Some of what he says in the address about liberal arts education is applicable to humanism. In particular, his words help to color a brand of humanism I refer to as “uncertain humanism,” a way of privileging human possibilities for flourishing that relies on an embrace of and appreciation for uncertainty—for not knowing, feeling anxious, insecure, and unsettled. Uncertain humanism is not just about how we approach “facts.” It involves how we approach our very identities and who we think we are.

Continue reading at The Humanist Magazine July/August 2015...

The Ten Cracka Commandments

#BlackSpring is here. #SayHerName is here. Looks like it is going to be a long, hot summer.

What’s a white person to do?

Recently, I had the pleasure to participate in the Interplay Hip Hop Symposium at Lehigh University. The event was hosted by the inimitable hip hop theatre pioneer Kashi Johnson and keynoted by brilliant lyricist and hip hop educator Asheru. I gave a lecture about white appropriation of rap. My lecture led to a discussion about how white people fit into the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Together, we came up with these, the ten cracka commandments for 2015:

1.      #AllLivesMatter won’t matter until #BlackLivesMatter. This commandment is a litmus test and the greatest commandment.

Hands Up!: Mountaintops and the Dawn of White Limitation

(Originally published for Marginalia Review of Books on January 19, 2015. Reprinted here in full including images that were not included in the MRB post due to permissions issues.)

The hard truth is that neither Negro nor white

has yet done enough to expect the dawn of a new day...

With these words taken from Dr. Martin Luther King’s final book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, King prophetically and woefully suggests that for the dawn of a day without racism, more black blood and suffering will come hand in hand with white denial, ignorance, and indifference.

I remember well a day in middle school, during gym class. We’d just arrived to gym and were swiftly told that in lieu of P.E., we’d be attending the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day assembly. Some students were happy, others were sad to miss the glorified recess that is junior high phys.ed. One white student, I’ll never forget, spoke up and said “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ... more like James Earl Ray day.” Amid awkward laughter from students and an even more awkward silence from the gym teacher, we walked to the auditorium. As our class sat down, my childhood emotion met with intellectual curiosity and I wondered, “Were we there to celebrate King’s life or to have our minds galvanized as to exactly what happens to those who profess to climb insurmountable mountains?

MRBlog: On the Journey to White Shame

(Originally published for Marginalia Review of Books on December 8, 2014)

The human relations I valued most were held cheap by the world I lived in.

 White lesbian Southern novelist and woman of letters Lillian Smith wrote these words(and those that follow in italics) in 1949, the same year my parents were born — one to white Catholic carpenters in Iowa, the other to white Protestant farmers and share croppers in central Louisiana. Growing up in north Louisiana in the 80s and 90s, I would never have imagined that Smith’s words from so long ago would resonate as powerfully today. Written in response to her growing awareness that, in America, to be loved by “white” meant she could not love “black,” they tell a tale of the two-ness of white life in America, its unreconciled bondage to a moral binary of guilt and shame reinforcing the way we saw the world then and continue to see the world, ourselves, and those around us now. If the notion that #blacklivesmatter teaches white Americans anything, it is that our white relationships — those based on denial, silence, privilege, and blood — have not allowed us to see black bodies as fully human, as mattering at all.

Continue reading here...