White People Are Racist Landmines
Last week on my personal Facebook, I posted an article about how white college women are less likely to help a Black woman at risk of rape. I commented that I was tired of these articles “proving” shit to white people that we already know but don’t believe about themselves. That comment resulted in a friend of my father’s having to speak up to tell me that my comments about white people are offensive.
To give you some background, my father was a school administrator and as such, worked with many white people. This woman was one of them. When she had health issues, he held her job while she took a leave of absence – this was before it was required by law. He often found himself being a confidant to many of the white teachers in his school, a role he respected. As a result, when he fell ill, many of the teachers he’d helped went out of their way to be there for him. Considering that he was sick for over a decade, that was a lot and this woman was one of the people who continued to visit until he passed.
Because of the care and consideration she gave my father, I kept contact with her. I invited her to my wedding. We chatted occasionally on Facebook. She was allowed access to me that I do not grant easily. That said, I knew she was problematic. She is a white woman in her 60s with an extremely racist family. She considers herself liberal because she cares about more than white people, yet I would routinely see her support xenophobic posts and align herself with pro-America (i.e. pro-white) sentiments. Not the super obvious stuff, but enough that you knew where her allegiances lay. I allowed her access to me because I figured she’d reflect and learn some shit. But then she decided to try to silence me, and that’s where I draw the line.
It's fucked up when you realize that white people are booby traps waiting to be tripped.
We went back and forth for a week where she “not all white peopled” me and denied trying to change how I speak/write while trying to change how I speak/write. She claims she just had to let me know, but had no goal in mind when she did it. She reminded me of what she’d done for Black people and my family, proving that she was not part of the white people I was referring to, then claimed that nothing I said bothered her at all and that I just couldn’t take people disagreeing with me. She closed out by saying that my father wasn’t prejudiced like me and would be offended by me too.
Oh, the delusions of white people.
My father was the one who told me never to trust white people. He was the one who said, “You’re going to have to work with them. You’ll have to play by their rules. But when it comes to them having to choose between a white person and a Black person, they will always choose the white person. Don’t trust them.”
That is not prejudice; it’s survival.
One of the infinite things white people refuse to admit to themselves but love to remind Black people of, is that they can fuck us up at will. How successful they are completely depends on how entwined they are in our lives and how motivated they are to wreck us. Some are direct about it – like police officers who shoot first and lie later. Or that random white person who calls you a n*gger in passing. Or threaten your life and/or employment when you step out of line.
Then there are the less obvious ones. The white co-worker who reports you as a problem for being good at your job – can’t make them look bad. Or the white people who feel free to touch you whenever they feel like it. The white people who live and work side by side with you but then are surprised that you’re good at what you do.
My favorite this year are the ones who think they aren’t racist because they consider me to be their friend. I’ve had a few fun conversations with them. We don’t speak anymore – they think I’m racist against white people. (For the record, “reverse racism” is some made-up shit that white people use to derail conversations and escape with their false image of colorblind humanity intact. Don’t be that asshole.)
What is amazing to me is how white people think their willingness to talk to a Black person means they aren’t racist. That is all it seems to take for them to absolve themselves of any complicity or wrongdoing. “I have Black friends” erases everything for them, including the need for reflection, self-examination, and self-analysis. It removes the need for critical thinking, much less thoughtful discourse. As far as they are concerned, their hands are clean.
But let a Black person challenge that and see what happens.
Stage one: they try to get you to change what you said.
Stage two: They try to get you to agree they are the exception.
Stage three: They try to discredit you.
Stage four: They try to destroy you.
See a pattern? It’s never about them examining themselves or their actions. It’s all about changing you, the Black person who dared challenge them. It’s about managing you, and if they can’t “fix” how you see them, then they’ll get rid of you because once you no longer exist, there are no challenges to how they want to see themselves. It’s why they say talking about racism creates racism – because they refuse to look at themselves and admit what they are. It’s easier to destroy the mirror than it is to accept responsibility.
I’ve had people start at stage one and others at stage four. Stage four is the scariest. These are the people who will remove your financial resources, bar you from an industry, and maybe try to kill you. And you never know what stage they’ll start at or what stage they’ll disengage. Some are especially motivated and will sacrifice their well-being to destroy you and what you represent – white people like Dylan Roof. My husband, when activated, used to cycle through stages one through three, but now he’s kind of settled at one and then starts reflecting on his actions. It took years of conversations to get us here and I think it’s mainly because he’s not a hyper-aggressive or violent person. That said, we hit stage four a few times and every time I had to stop and ask him what he wanted to see happen because that path meant destruction. Those were interesting times.
And that’s the shitty part about interacting with white people. They legitimately have to unlearn and fucking practice recognizing, suppressing, and mitigating their reactions to Black people. They are conditioned to silence us with extreme prejudice in emotionally and physically violent ways and they have to learn to stop. It’s honestly on them and most never learn because they don’t have to. They have infinite systems and millions of people conditioned to support their bullshit. And they love to lie to themselves about how monstrous they are.
Some parts of navigating whiteness are survival in america. It can be challenging to find spaces where it doesn’t impact your financial well-being. Mostly, it’s dangerous as fuck for Black people. You are emotionally and physically attacked for existing. White people are often condescending, dismissive, and cruel to Black people. You learn to numb yourself to their barbs and avoid their traps. You silence yourself because confidence, assertiveness, and honesty are punished. If you’re like me, you get fired a lot because that shit is hard, ridiculous, and complete bullshit. But I’m privileged to have a support network that helps me offset those challenges. Everybody can’t be me and talking about this shit is always dangerous - you never know when you’ll set off the white person who’s fucked up and resourced enough to destroy you.
Other Essays on Navigating Whiteness
- Surviving Whiteness
- To the Black Women Who Align Themselves with White Supremacy
- I Promised My White Husband The Space To Fuck Up On Racism — And It Hurts Like Hell
- Oppression Is Rarely One Big Defining Moment
- Becoming an Agent of Whiteness
- The Danger of Unchallenged Racism In Interracial Relationships
- Keeping It Real About Interracial Relationships: Part 1 and Part 2
- My Husband’s Unconscious Racism Nearly Destroyed Our Marriage