There’s no debate whether or not racism negatively affects the lives of millions of Americans, particularly African-Americans, who are at least three times more likely to go to jail or be killed by police than Caucasians. While minority groups like homosexuals and atheists are making huge strides towards equality, African-Americans are still struggling with discrimination and police brutality, which is still so common that it recently inspired the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement.
It’s no accident that Black Lives Matter came into existence. It grew out of the need for a revival in the national dialogue on racism. African-Americans have been suffering in silence while the rest of the country goes about their business assuming everyone is doing more or less okay. As humbling as it is to talk about racial inequality, it needs to be addressed, because if it’s not, it will lead to more suffering, which will lead to more anger, which will lead to more disunity, and eventually the tension will be released through yet another American race riot.
America needs to overcome some major hurdles to cure itself of racism. The first is the apathy that stems from people being ignorant of how hard African-Americans have it. Many affluent Americans have a hard time accepting that African-Americans don’t have every opportunity and privilege they do. Until they acknowledge that reality, they’ll go on about their lives in a daydream having no motivation to change anything.
The second, and arguably bigger, hurdle is for African-Americans to accept that white people aren’t the problem, and not all white people are majestically privileged. Until the African-American community as a whole accepts that, they will continue to live in their own racially biased day dream that misdirects them from addressing the true source of their problems.
I’d like to give my personal testimony of what it’s been like growing up as a white male in America. Then I’ll tie that into the bigger picture and offer another way to end systemic discrimination besides hating white people.
Every year in school as far back as I can remember, I learned in my history classes how “the white man” slaughtered the Native Americans, enslaved Africans and pillaged the planet. Outside of school, I was exposed to documentaries, movies, and books about all the evil things the white man has done to other races. From the earliest age, I was indoctrinated to feel profound shame for the sins of every white person’s ancestors.
The only reason I had to grow up coping with this baggage is because the lottery of fate gave me white skin at birth, which made me guilty by association. Unlike anyone else born with any other skin color, I was forbidden from celebrating my skin color. Every year I sat by and watched as all the other ethnicities celebrated government sanctioned heritage pride months. They even got their own magazines, television channels, and schools devoted to celebrating their race while I was taught the worst thing I could do was celebrate mine. It hurt my feelings watching shows like “Roc” and “Undercover Brother” that unambiguously mocked white people, and that was totally socially acceptable.
I’ve never asked for sympathy for carrying the white man’s burden, because nobody cares. I don’t deserve mercy because of my skin color. Society tells me I already have more privilege than anyone else. To celebrate anything about my arbitrary skin color would be disrespectful to everyone else. The most righteous thing I can do is resent the color of my skin and all the privilege it bestows on me.
As a child, this was impossibly confusing to me, because I grew up dirt poor. Before the age of 11, I lived in a trailer house in the middle of nowhere. I wore homemade clothes made from cheap curtain fabric. I threw up bile on several occasions because I was so hungry my stomach had begun digesting itself. My father and my older brother beat me so many times I stopped counting somewhere around 250. I didn’t spend my formative years in an ivory tower. I spent them in fear and pain.
I went to a predominantly Mexican elementary school, where I was the racial minority. My best friend in elementary school was a Mexican boy named Luciano whose mother wouldn’t let me come to his house because she was unapologetically prejudiced against white people. In high school, I went to a predominantly African-American school. The black students would punk me at lunch and steal my money. They’d throw basketballs at my head in gym class. I lived three blocks from the projects and couldn’t walk the streets at night because I would be beaten or killed for being white in a black neighborhood.
My parents couldn’t afford to send me through college. So I sold my soul to the military because that was the only other way I could advance my life besides going into a lifetime of debt. I had a conversation with an Asian American officer and an Asian American enlisted woman about whether or not we should try to get commissioned and become officers ourselves. The officer told the woman she should definitely apply for officer school because her minority status will guarantee quick promotions.
I left the military and got a job at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board where my boss was a Mexican woman with zero credentials other than a degree from an online diploma mill. She lied about her qualifications and ruined everything she touched, but management wouldn’t fire her, because they created her superfluous position for no other reason than to say a minority female worked in our department. I’ve worked for other minorities who got small business loans, scholarships and other opportunities that I was excluded from because I just happen to be born a white male. All I got was told to apologize to the world for my privilege.
Growing up in Texas I got called “gringo” by Hispanics and “cracker” by African-Americans. While stationed in Europe I got overcharged by businesses on a regular basis for being American. Political activists called me a Yankee pig for being in the military. While stationed in Hawaii, I got called “Haole” by Hawaiians. I immigrated to New Zealand for a few years where I got called “Pakeha” by Maoris. Radical feminists tell me I’m nothing but a chauvinistic, rape-hungry meat dildo. Christians and Muslims tell me I’m so horrible I deserve to burn in Hell for not believing in their God. Rich customers walk all over me at work and treat me like a second-class citizen. Country folks talk down to me for dressing like a city slicker.
Far left liberals tell me I need to constantly “check my privilege” and admit that being white automatically makes me a racist who can’t comprehend what anyone else is going through. I’ve even been told I should feel guilty for feeling white guilt because white guilt is racist. Nobody has any sympathy for the fact that I was born into this bizarre, no-win situation, because I’m white, and that overshadows any hardships, sacrifices, missed opportunities or attacks I’ve had to endure. Someone reading this will label me a racist for bringing any of this up.
I’m not a racist. I’m nothing. I’m just a poor white trash kid who has spent my life struggling to pay my bills. I never murdered, enslaved or attacked anyone because of the color of their skin, and to my knowledge, neither has anyone in my family tree.
I’m nobody’s problem, and I have zero power to change the system for the better or worse because I spend all my time just trying to survive. Any time spent casting blame on me for anything is time wasted that could be used addressing the actual source of the world’s problems.
If you want to know why cops and judges are so unsympathetic to the African-American community, ask them directly. There’s no centrally orchestrated conspiracy within the justice system. Every time a cop or judge throws the book at someone, it’s a decision they made independently. The main reason a cop unholsters their gun, is if they believe there’s a threat to their life. The main factor in their decision to be hard or soft on a criminal, is whether or not they believe the person will be a repeat offender.
Imagine being a cop working the street beat in a metropolis. You’re looking around you, scanning the faces of everyone you see, looking for danger. Looking for a repeat offender with a gun. You’re not going to care about scrawny white kids who listen to Pearl Jam. You’re going to be looking for people of any color who dress like gangsta rappers, because if you walk, talk, and dress like a gangster, then you probably identify with gangster culture, which normalizes and glorifies crime, violence, arrogance, and disrespect for the law.
Not all African-Americans are dangerous or gangsters, but police are too quick to stereotype them that way. Many employers are too. You can blame them for being ignorant, but half the blame rests on the gangster culture that created this negative stereotype to begin with.
As long as gangster culture is synonymous with mainstream African-American culture, people will continue to stereotype African-Americans negatively. Gangster culture exists because it’s a response to the desperate living conditions and lack of opportunities in the ghetto. If you fix that, then the worst aspects of gangster culture will fade away. Until you fix that, no amount of social activism or hard-on-crime policies will make the problem go away.
The cause of economic oppression isn’t the skin color of the majority. The problem is the predatory nature of our economy. Blaming white people will never fix the economy. The solution lies in creating a more sustainable, equitable economy. Once everyone has unlimited access to education and doesn’t have to live in fear of being able to afford to survive, then everyone’s complaints against each other will fall to the wayside as we all just get on with celebrating life and the fellow humans we’re blessed to share this planet with.
Hopefully, that happens in my lifetime. In the meantime, I’m done apologizing for being white. If you’re not done blaming me for the color of my skin, then you’re a part of the problem.