Yes, I did read it, after this tempest was already spun up.
When we write about things that white people do, we use the generic phrase “white people” as a catchall (see also: wypipo). We use it to represent the type of collective whiteness that unites white people even when y’all aren’t all on the same page or following the same agenda or falling into the same category. It’s that “general you” versus “specific you” type of thing.
And that article, really an editorial, examined why that language shortcut is part of how The Root goes about characterizing “white people”. Maybe Oxford can take that up in their next edition.
Thank you to everyone who bothered to jump on the bandwagon for your remedial tone. I appreciate the opportunity to conduct your electromagnetic vitriol into equilibrium.
::hops on bandwagon::
Well there goes your right to complain about condescension.
For real though, the complaint which lies behind the creation of wypipo is the same which generates the exasperation people are experiencing in conversation with you: white people built white supremacy, have used it to treat PoC with extreme shittiness for four centuries, and still can’t even bring themselves to talk about it let alone godforfuckingbid do something about it (repackaging does not count.)
Yeah yeah yeah. Not all white people. What the hell ever. The not all white people haven’t really done fuckall, they’ve (we’ve) no real standing to contest the phrase.
Oh, do I detect a willingness to take your fingers out of your ears for once if dear old Oggsford is speaking?
You might then have a listen to them on the topic of “white fragility” – you’ve been displaying it here most splendiferously, ever since you began your (common white) efforts to turn a discussion about racism directed at black people into one about (supposed) white victimhood.
Because when I see Chris, I don’t make a big deal about it, but if I were to just pop off with “Hey, I can I have a cookie?”, he might get that I’m extending his joke, but the current atmosphere, being what it is, he’d probably wonder what the fuck is with me, speaking up now and saying that, of all things. And he’d probably wish to put some distance between us.
“White people do X” on the surface offends the sensibility that many [white? I honestly don’t know, where I grew up everyone was white…] people had driven into our heads by well-meaning elementary-school teachers, guidance counselors and the nicer subset of Sunday school teachers that all people are unique and equal and that the worst thing you can do is generalize. Of course, this is bullshit, there are a lot worse things you can do than generalize, such as prop up a system of racial inequality using racial generalizations as a justification. (see also, the watered-down definition of racism that ignores power structures)
But instilling a knee-jerk, Pavlovian response to generalization and stereotyping is/was the best they could do, given their level of acceptance of history, their knowledge, the amount of flexibility they in curriculum design, or the amount they thought they could get away with without setting off white backlash. I mean, they aren’t exactly equipped to give a lecture on Aime Cesaire and colonialism. To me, this [white] optimism that generic, safe lessons about basic human decency could solve brutal, painful, historical divides while not actually talking about that history peaked in the 90s (see the opening monologue of Portlandia for more on the naive hopefulness of that era, or the caricature dichotomy of MLK and Malcom X) specifically with Bill Clinton’s (in hindsight super fucking cynical) “Can’t we all just get along?” We’re now dealing with a generation, a large slice of whom cling to this non-solution as the One True Path. Basically the seeds of the Civility Liberal.
Of course, this is a popular political strategy conversation now. We’re dealing daily with politically motivated trolls aggressively using the civility liberal’s own hand-wringing self doubt about whether they are being fair an nice against them. In this context, is it backsliding, disempowering and humiliating to try to coddle the large portion of the indifferent/undecided voters who are not sure if they’re ready to believe that black people don’t deserve to be shot in the street? To me the only even semi-legitimate conversation around the wisdom of saying “White people do X” is a strategic one, along the lines of the argument that black/brown/queer people should temper their fight for equality in order to build a coalition with the racist/racism-fence-sitter wing of the white working class. But even that feels like a deadly compromise to me, AND insulting to the non-racist white working class who are already on board with a bold, progressive political platform.
I really appreciate your post, HMSGoose—it’s a lot of words to digest but makes so much sense. (As do so many others here—I don’t mean to imply that other posts here aren’t valuable and helpful!)
So…how did you get on board? I have trouble imagining that you got on board as a result of people being insulting and uncivil to you…??? Serious question. How did you learn, how did you make the switch?
Unfortunately, college. I’m not sure what would’ve happened to me had I stayed in Maine, though there are many with-it folks there my sisters and their kids are pretty irredeemably horrible on Facebook (so I hear…I’m out of that scene). My mom is a smart, caring and educated person and went through a heavy new-age phase, but has slipped into the “calling out my racist tendencies is worse than racism” state of whiteness.
Confession time, *gulp* as late as freshman year of college, I gave an impassioned argument to a fellow student about why it’s reverse racism that white people aren’t “allowed to say” n***a since it’s in the pop culture lexicon.
That was before I took Welfare States in Comparison, Black Thought: Beyond a Boundary, Immigration Perspectives, Latin American Relations (United Fruit, et al…) etc, etc… and marrying a mixed Chinese/Jewish girl from the hard streets of the 80s lower east side who never let an opportunity go by to shake her head at my arrogance/ignorance. I wish I had a formula, but I feel like I just got lucky.