Faith, Love, Politics, and Social Justice

Dear White People Who Don’t Like Dear White People Posts

Dear White People,

It will probably come as no surprise, but I sometimes (OK often) get complaints about my “dear white people” posts. These complaints are sometimes phrased diplomatically. Other times not so much. But most seem to break down into the following categories. So if you are one of quite a few people who have recently written to me to bitch about my blog, here you go. (Others are welcome to listen in.) :

      1. Your words make me feel bad Please notice, I NEVER engage in personal attacks. I get piles of hate mail on a daily basis and have yet to respond in kind. This blog is safe space in that respect. Safe space means respecting the dignity and worth of all people and not letting anyone be personally denigrated. That said, there is a big difference between safe space and comfortable space. We are talking about racism here. It is not a comfortable topic. I can only sugar coat my words but so much. If I make the conversation comfortable so none of us white people ever need to feel bad about anything, it will become meaningless. So we need to make a decision. What matters more, white feelings or black lives? I believe black lives matter more than white feelings. So don’t ask me to sugar coat my words any more than I already have and let’s get past the need to feel good all the time and deal with this grown up topic like grown ups. This brings me to the next related objection
      2.  You are trying to make me feel guilty ashamed Actually, as I have said many times, I think shame, or sense of worthlessness as a person, is what STOPS white people from healing from our own internalized prejudices and working to end systemic racism, so no, I don’t want you to feel shame. Guilt is another story. Guilt means recognizing you have done something wrong and need to change it. Anyone with a conscience experiences guilt. Recognizing healthy guilt and taking action to change whatever it is we feel guilty about is called morality. Morality is a good thing. Let’s be moral.
      3.  Not all white people are racist. Let’s deal with some definitions here. Personal racial prejudice = having negative feelings about others based on their actual or perceived race. Some people have more personal racial prejudice. Others have less. Still more are really good at hiding their prejudices. Even more still aren’t even aware of the prejudices they have. I suppose it is theoretically possible for a person to have NO personal racial prejudice, but, frankly, I have yet to see it. I know for a fact, I am not there yet. There are still levels of unconscious bias I still have to work on. Systemic racism = social, economic, political, cultural, and other systems that have disparate impact on certain races. We all grew up in a racist world full of racist systems. We didn’t all personally create those systems, but we do all either suffer from or benefit by them and, those of us who benefit from systemic racism, i.e. white people with white privilege, have a special responsibility to be about the business of dismantling racist social systems. So, yes, we are all racist in SOME sense and it is not a personal attack to say so, nor is it shameful to admit it.
      4.  “Not all white people are horrible” First of all, I never said that. In fact, I am pretty sure I have been quite clear that I believe in the inherent goodness of all human beings, including those of us who society deems white. Without it, we would have no hope in the face of such an enormous and long standing national sin as racism. I am also quite aware that we are all in different places in our, hopefully, anti-racist journeys. However, regardless of where we are on our journey, we can still ALL do better. Overcoming racism isn’t just an item on a to do list that you can check off and move on. It is a lifetime commitment. Either you are in or you aren’t and, if you are in, you still have work to do. Furthermore, responding to anti-racist messages with a “not all white people” response is usually a way of avoiding an uncomfortable discussion that really needs to happen whether we like it or not. That brings me to the next objection.
      5.   Saying “white people” is racist because it labels people- “usually these comments come from the “colorblind” set so I will combine my response to this with my response to the related statement “I am colorblind.” No, you aren’t colorblind. None of us are. We are all capable of looking at another human being and making a good guess about how they are perceived racially. If you are trying to say that you try to treat people fairly, regardless of race, that is nice, but it is still not enough. As I have said before, there is a lot more to dismantling systemic racism than learning to be personally nice to folks. If you mean to say race is, basically, an artificial social construct, then I agree with you. It is. But it is a very deep seated construct that has led to the construction of many racist systems and simply pretending it doesn’t exist, or doesn’t matter to you, won’t make it go away. Furthermore, playing colorblind is not a loving thing to do. If you care about a person, you want to know something about them beyond the fact that they are some abstract humanoid. Part of knowing a person is understanding something about their racial identity and experience.
      6.   Racism is a sin of the past that had nothing to do with me a.k.a. the “I never owned slaves” defense I never owned slaves either. To my knowledge, neither did my ancestors. But I DO benefit from the white privilege that came from white supremacy and, because that is so, I am responsible for trying to change my society. If you are also willing to take responsibility and work for change, I invite you overcome these objections and get to work.

 

 

11 responses

  1. Frank

    Racism IS a sin of the past that had nothing to do with me and white privilege is a joke based on circular logic.

    January 18, 2016 at 11:32 pm

  2. John Barksley

    Amen Sista,!!!

    January 19, 2016 at 12:41 am

  3. Jonathan

    I found this post on my newsfeed as one of my relatives gave it a like and I had some thoughts on it. Well, on Dear White People posts in general.

    I despise posts like these, but not for the reasons you listed. I have some others for you.

    1. You are part of the problem. You are singling out white people, calling for them to make changes, but you are completely ignoring that racism goes both ways. That is intellectually dishonest.

    2. White people have nothing to be guilty of. So someone is white. So what? Unless that person has actively taken part in oppression of someone, they have no reason to feel guilty for anything. Your posts suggest otherwise. You are promoting white guilt, which is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard of.

    3. EVERY race has committed the exact same atrocities. Racism is a universal human issue, as are all of the actions associated with it. I am not ashamed of racism that is perpetrated by members of my race, or in the name of my race, because I am not the one perpetrating it. There is nothing for me to be ashamed of. I didn’t do it. The same goes for members of every race. Or are you going to start holding everyone accountable for everything a member of their race has done? Because if you are, then EVERYONE should be ashamed, all the time. That seems like a worthwhile use of time and effort, right? Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just dumb.

    I am not ashamed to be white because being white is nothing to be ashamed of. You on the other hand, ought to be ashamed of your actions. You are not helping. You’re simply making a bad situation worse. The ironic thing is, you are doing damage to your own message. For every sheep like my relative who buys into the nonsense you’re selling, there are dozens of people who are turned off by your antics and tactics, people who might otherwise have sympathized with your goals. Before Obama came into power, this country boasted better race relations than at any time in its history, something proven by the fact that he was elected in the first place. Thanks to his policies, aided by foolish ideologues like yourself, in the space of 7 years, the work of decades has been undone, and we are now more racially divided than at any time in my life. This is what your message has created. So tell me, are you ashamed of that, or are you a racist yourself, who always intended for that to happen?

    January 19, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    • Did you read my post? All these objections were already addressed.

      January 19, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      • 🙂 Ditto! and Thank you! ❤

        January 19, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    • Laura Jaques

      Jonathan, you make some interesting points, yet these points don’t in any way contradict the author’s posts.

      1. Saying that “racism goes both ways” does not exonerate white people from addressing their racism. That’s like saying “everyone is stealing from the grocery store so don’t hold me accountable for the fact that I am too.” Fixing problems on a large scale requires us to begin with addressing our individual actions, regardless of what others do. Also, I would like to point out that the author has clearly stated that ALL human beings have prejudices. The fact that she is currently addressing white privilege and prejudice does not deny the existence of racism from other cultures.

      2. She never said white people are guilty, that’s your own defensiveness at work. She is promoting awareness of white privilege, not white guilt.

      3. “Every race has committed the exact same atrocities.” Again, “everyone is stealing from the grocery store so don’t hold me accountable for my choice to also steal.” Also, you talk a lot about shame, and how you have nothing to be ashamed of. The author clearly addresses this issue in her second point. Try reading it again.

      As for your claim that Obama and his supporters have undone the work of decades and created racial division, I suggest that we borrow some clear thinking from the scientific community about “cause and effect.” Correlation is not the same as cause. My wearing a red shirt on the day I break my leg does not mean that wearing a red shirt causes me to break my leg, even if I have never before worn a red shirt nor broken my leg. I personally disagree with you that we are now more racially divided than before, but even if your claim is true, there will numerous factors influencing this change. Also, please keep in mind that increased publicity and AWARENESS of racial division does not mean that the division itself has increased, only that our awareness of it has.

      I realize that my response to you is more for my benefit than yours, as you are not at a point where you are willing to even consider these issues. However, if the day comes where you are willing to sit back with a cup of tea and honestly question whether white privilege may have benefited you, then maybe the points on this blog – which are meant to elucidate, not accuse – will be helpful things to consider as you ponder.

      December 8, 2016 at 3:43 pm

  4. Mac

    Privilege exists in every nation the world has ever seen. Further, by nature, we are social animals. Which is arguably the trait most responsible for our advanced society. Even going outside of our own species, all social groups of mammals are clearly hierarchical. Privilege does exist, and is itself a mark of social groups across all intelligent life.

    For any color of skin, I could instantly spout out a nation where that color represents the majority of privileged people. True communism does not exist nor can it, the nature of humans and all of the natural world is survival of the fittest.

    Privilege in social groups or nations is consistent, and cannot be changed or complained away. It is the mark of the intelligent mind to be self aware, and thus self-interested, and not merely a fish in a school. The color or characteristic which statistically dominates the privelaged category changes wildly with the population one chooses to examine.

    This proves only what most people already know, that racism is short-sighted and small-group-minded. In different social cauldrons, vastly different results will bubble, and that is the adaptive nature of humans and society. I challenge anyone to find a nation anywhere near the size of the US, where privilege is as equitably spread across colors, backgrounds and regions. I am offended and perplexed when I hear someone describe our country as an inherently racist, simple minded, mere bastion of white privilege, instead of what it is: The greatest nation the world has ever seen.

    January 20, 2016 at 7:14 pm

  5. Art Franke

    I have looked through your posts in vain for the Dear Yellow People posts. There don’t seem to be any, and I don’t understand why.

    If you intent is to divide up along racial lines and lecture the groups who are relatively advantaged, then you should really be posting lots of Dear Yellow People lectures. By any measure, financial, educational, family structure, incarceration rates or nearly any other metric, Asians are substantially better off than “White People.” Shouldn’t you be decrying Yellow Privilege in the name of intellectual consistency?

    Should you tire of dividing us by race rather than trying to unite us, perhaps you can later move on to divide us by religion. Future posts could decry Jew Privilege or Morman Privilege.

    The possibilities are boundless.

    January 23, 2016 at 12:57 am

    • I am a white woman writing to white people. Asians (who, by the way, do NOT refer to themselves as “yellow”) can speak for themselves.

      January 23, 2016 at 12:59 am

      • Art Franke

        My comment on your “Dear White People” posts does not fall into any of the six categories above. My comment is more that they are myopic, parochial and lack perspective. To offer the defense that you can’t address the relatively advantageous positions of Asians in this country while freely addressing the condition of African Americans and Caucasians is evidence of all three.

        I suggest that you avoid the topic because it does not fit with your narrative of a white dominated racist society that impoverishes those not in the majority. If that is indeed the intent, then whites are doing a pretty poor job of executing since, when viewed from a racial perspective, Asians in this country are clearly the ones benefiting the most.

        This conversation is clearly uncomfortable for you, but perhaps that is why you should engage.

        Judging only by your photo and title, I believe you are old enough to remember when what you now derogatorily refer to as privilege you once would have described as blessings.

        I am the beneficiary of many, many blessings. The most important of these is having had two wonderful and loving parents who tried their best to help raise the children they loved. After that, the fact that I have been blessed to have been born in the greatest, freest country on Earth that has provided me unparalleled opportunities to succeed to the extent my abilities, hard work and good fortune might allow, and having been born here at the best time in the history of the world is absolutely at the top of the list.

        I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon me, and wish for the same or greater blessings for all. Skin pigmentation doesn’t make the top 10 on the list. I understand that does not square with your desired narrative, but perhaps a broader perspective is appropriate.

        January 27, 2016 at 11:31 pm

  6. Pat Taylor

    Asians are befitting now, historically it wasn’t always that way. They held subservient positions in American societty, but were more acceptable than people of African descent.

    November 12, 2016 at 11:25 pm

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