Why White America Is Now Black. Let Me Explain
40% of all white people do not have any black friends. 55% of white people only have one black friend. The average black person has eight white friends. This is my lived experience. I personally know two white people, with more than one black friend. I have a number of close white friends, so close I would call them my family. These people would clothe me, feed me, shelter me, protect me, and fund me if I asked. I love them and they love me. Yet, if I am being honest…I am their only black friend. This is not an indictment on these people, whom I truly love, but it is a truthful statement said out of love. Many of you reading this are not proximate to the pain and experience of being black in America, until now.
I must confess that I have abdicated my duty to you, my newly black friends. See no one has told you, out of anger or in love, that all of you formally white people are now black.
See whiteness is a fickle and fleeting concept. Any groups’ grasp on it is tenuous. It is something that can be bestowed upon a people and can be removed. Many of you have heard the concept of white privilege, but white privilege is too small and clumsy to express and define our existence. White privilege is not rooted in history. It is a term that fails to adequately, appropriately, and accurately define what we are dealing with: whiteness.
The American experiment has worked for this long because of whiteness and niggers. You see I am a nigger, like my father, and his father, and his farther, and so on. It is because of niggers that America is a place where someone can immigrate to and can escape being on the lowest rung of your nation’s social structure. Every group of immigrants who have come to this country has desperately fought to obtain whiteness and avoid the plight of being a nigger.
Do not believe me? Irish, were not white in this country until they were. You saw the signs, no Irish and no niggers allowed. Italians were not white in this country until they were. Signs that said no WOPs and no niggers were commonplace in this country a hundred years ago. Yet, the Irish had to prove to the others that they were worthy of whiteness. They had to be extra cruel, extra murderous, extra inhumane to substantiate why they deserve whiteness. Have you ever heard of the New York Draft Riots? The movie The Gangs of New York, whitewashes it completely. The Irish were worried that if the Union won the war they would have to compete with freed black folk for jobs (at that time their place in life was dependent on being elevated over niggers). They did not want to fight to free the people they thought would would replace them, so the Irish went into the black neighborhoods and lynched black folk as an offering to white supremacy. Sometime after that, the Irish were granted whiteness. The fights between black and Italian teens are legendary in major cities. The turf wars that were waged to prove to everyone that Italians were better than niggers and worthy of whiteness raged on until the early 90s. Italians are now white.
Whiteness is a badge of protection, it allows its members access to housing, loans, better educational institutions, protection from the law, and more resources into their communities. Who would not love to obtain whiteness? Other ethnic groups vie for whiteness from Latinos to Arabs, Asians to Eastern Europeans, all have developed anti-black views and biases, which is the currency used to obtain whiteness.
Yet, whiteness can be mercurial. People attempt to strip whiteness away from various groups. Gay white men constantly have to their whiteness questioned. Jews are always finding themselves in the crosshairs of those who want to remove their whiteness. Every hail Hitler, every Nazi salute, every desecrated Jewish cemetery is a constant reminder that whiteness is a fickle mistress.
Right now you have had your whiteness stripped away and you are living the black experience and, in love, you are not doing so well. This is new for all of you, and you do not have a black parent who will one day, awkwardly, explain to you what it means to be black in America. So that is where I have fallen short. I have failed to have that cumbersome conversation with you.
Don’t believe me that you are black, fine. Right now we are at unemployment levels that rival the Great Depression. White people are finding themselves without employment. For some of you this is the first time in your life that you are in this disorienting position. These furloughs and layoffs are not your fault, just like not being able to get a job because an employer can screen your application and identify that you are black because your name is DeMarcus, Devin, or Deon.
Your government has failed you and you have never experienced this before. Many white folk have never had to rely on the government to meet their needs until the past 14 weeks. White people are still waiting for their stimulus check to hit their back account or mailbox. They see their friends and family members receive their check, but nothing for them. Just like black folk have seen justice administered swiftly for when someone who looks like them is accused of a crime, but slow when a white person commits a crime against them. The betrayal of your own government is the kindling of the flame of disenfranchisement that is currently being stoked in your chest.
For the past 10 or so weeks your child’s school has been trash, because you are now your child’s teacher. This failure becomes more pronounced the younger your child is, because there is so much more for them to learn. Many of you have resorted to busy work and using the TV to pacify your child while you work, or search for work, or do your best to function under the crushing cocktail of anxiety, depression and fear. Yet, black folks’ schools have been under-resourced for centuries in this country. My own mother attended a one room school for all of the colored children K-12, with one teacher for all the students in Chandler, Arizona. It was not until she was rescued by Brown vs. the Board of Education and liberated to a functioning school that she truly understood the injustice that she had suffered her entire life. My mother entered high school not knowing what a noun or a verb was. Did your parents enter their freshman year not knowing what a noun or verb is? That is why she became the first person in her family to graduate from college and she became a teacher, so no other child would have suffer such an indignity.
The schools in black communities have been economically starved by a funding model that is designed to maximize the lower property values associated with black neighborhoods. If the property values are low as a result of past redlining, homes that were zoned in toxic waste areas by all white zoning boards, homes zoned in industrial areas by all white zoning boards, and neighborhoods adorned with bars and liquor stores, then how can the schools be appropriately funded?
When the pandemic first started your grocery stores became the fuel of your anxiety for all those who never lived in the path of a hurricane. The shelves became more and more bare. Staples were soon depleted. Some of you went on an odyssey worthy of Odysseus to find Lysol, hand-sanitizer and toilet-paper. Overnight your fertile grocery stores had been terraformed into a food desert like those that dot the ghettos that blacks are trapped in. Many black folk have to travel large distances to find fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid the fast-food restaurants that have burrowed their way into the neighborhoods.
For the first time in your life you have been denied a loan. It is not that you were denied a loan, your loan was not even submitted to the underwriter, because the business that you have built, inch-by-inch, was not requesting the amount of money that would make the banker the most money. You saw publicly traded companies get the money that was intended to keep your business afloat. You were not denied because you were not worthy of the loan, you were denied because of who you are: a small business owner. This is the same experience that black folk experience each day when trying to get capital to expand their business, create a business, or acquire a business. They are denied with all sorts of colorful euphemisms to escape from the banker having to say the quiet part out-loud: I can’t give you a loan, because you are black.
You no longer have childcare and the strain of raising your child(ren) while working is exhausting, like being black. Due to black workers being denied fair wages or even the same wages their white counterparts get paid, childcare is a barrier for many black families. For the median black family, childcare for two children amounts to 42% of their gross income.
Your neighborhoods are now subject to more and more chaos. You have police in riot gear marching through your streets barking orders and “light her up” when you do not comply. Heavy Armor rolling through your streets, like the ghettos when the war on drugs raged. Even though peer-reviewed-studies show that white folk use and sale drugs at higher rates than black folk, black folk were the targets on this war on drugs and our neighborhoods were deemed acceptable collateral damage.
You watched stores, police buildings, monuments, and everything else that has been in your community get defaced, destroyed, and desecrated. I know you fear if they will rebuild or replace those things to make your life more convenient. This is the entropy that slowly corrodes a healthy and vibrant community into a ghetto. Without these stores and malls to anchor your neighborhoods the value of your home starts to erode. Soon, pawn shops, title loans, and liquor stores will start to sprout up and accelerate the loss of value of your homes, like what happened to black folk.
You have been confined in your home for the past 14 weeks. A life of watching Netflix, playing video games, reading books, baking bread and despite all of your comforts and amenities it was not enough. You longed for freedom. You longed to have brunch. You longed to be free, like the tens-of-thousands of innocent black folk who have been forced to take pleas to crimes they did not commit, because no one in their family could afford $800.00 to bail them out.
You are now black and to be black in America is to know profound disappointment. Disappointment in our government, in our leaders, in our institutions, in our schools, in our police, in our employers, in our history, and in our collective failure to form a more perfect union. To be black in America is to be weary. That weight you feel on your chest, is what we call Tuesday, or Wednesday or any day of the week.
Now that you are black your relationship with police has changed. They are wildin’ on white folk. I have seen so many unprovoked acts of violence against ya’ll, that I am deeply concerned for those who look like me. You need to know that the whiteness that protected you before is gone. When you get pulled over, you need to put your head on the dash and stretch your arms out. So that way the Officer knows that at that moment you will not be a threat. You cannot play your music loud, because it will attract the police. You have to be inside your residence when the sun is down or else you are subject to being questioned about where you were and what you are doing. When questioned by police you must stay calm, any perceived agitation can cause them to fear for their life and justifiably kill you, because you caused them to be afraid.
I want you to survive your encounters with the police. In Phoenix we have an estimated 2,900 officers. 2,610 of those officers will never have any incidents of misconduct. 87 of those officers will be cleared of misconduct. 100 will have less than five credible misconduct complaints. 74 will have over 10 credible complaints of misconduct in their career and 29 will have over 100 credible instances of misconduct.
2,610 officers allow themselves to serve with 29 officers who terrorize this city and disgrace the oath and badge that they all wear. If I gave you a bag of 2,900 Skittles and told you that 2,697. of the Skittles were normal, but that 174 of the Skittles would make you very sick and 29 of the Skittles could kill you, would you trust eating the Skittles?
I want you to remember this feeling right now. I want you to take it all in. I want you to understand that this is what it means to be a nigger. Your whiteness might be restored, but I will still be a nigger and I cannot change that only you can change that.
I do not want you to talk to your family about politics, because I know that is divisive. People have strong and differing opinions on whether a regressive or progressive tax strategy is best for our Country. People of good faith can debate, in earnest, the importance of our Nato allies contributing at the same level as our country. People of good will can differ on the roles of charter schools in our country. That is politics and politics can be divisive.
I am asking you to discuss your values at the Thanksgiving table: why is the future of a young white man who is convicted of sexually assaulting a woman more important than the need for that woman and the community to have justice? Why is it acceptable for a white man to be paid $0.13 more than a black man for doing the same job at the same level. Why is it acceptable for a white man to be paid .22 cents more than a white woman? Why is it acceptable to incarcerate 12 black people for every 1 white person in the states of Iowa and Minnesota, but no where else in the world? Those are values. We do not have to be unified in thought and purpose, but we must be committed to one another if we expect to make any progress. Our values are what guide us and if you cannot not communicate your values to your loved ones, what hope do I have? What hope do we have? If you do not love your family or those closest to you to feel free to express your values, not your politics, then, I say in love, that you really do not love that person. Love that thin is no type of love that can heal this nation and improve this world.
I love you that is why I will not provide you with absolution of your guilt or failure to know these things that have been deleterious on our body politic. I will not condone nor condemn, but only ask you, in love, what are you willing to lose for me to no longer be a nigger? Are you willing to be disinvited to Thanksgiving, because your family thinks that black lives do not matter? Are you willing to challenge your loved one when they make a remark that is not rooted in fact, but steeped in hate? What are you willing to do? Talking to black people about what you are feeling is not the best use of their time, but sharing your values and how they make you feel with those you love is appropriate and needed. Your friends and loved ones are not proximate to me, they do not know me, but they know you and love you and in love might we start to share our values so that you and your bloodline will stop being white and me and my bloodline will stop being niggers.
In the immortal words of Toni Morrison “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”