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Est. April 5, 2002
Jan 09, 2020 - Issue 800
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The Ongoing Poisonous Reality
White Fragility

By Dr. Elwood Watson, PhD
"Keeping it real, the truth is that the majority of Whites
who throw racist shade on critics of White racism do so
from old fashioned racist rhetoric. The message is that
people of color should keep their mouths shut, be humble
and 'know their place.' Do not offend our fragile sensibilities.

On December 30, the ItsOkayToBeWhite hashtag was posted on Twitter. As can be imagined, it did not take long for controversy and intense debate to follow. The meme had many people texting, typing, discussing and weighing in on the topic. Boards were filled with ample commentary ranging from those who were outraged, to some who were indifferent to the outright amused. This was not all that surprising, depending on your point of view.

Truth be told, this is an issue/controversy that has been in the public domain for the past few years. Numerous colleges and universities(including the one where I teach) have found “it’s okay to be White” posters plastered all throughout their campuses. In a number of instances, the perpetrators have been caught and disciplined accordingly. Others culprits have escaped any sort of discipline. Indeed, it seems that Americans from varied walks of life and across political and economic spectrum have been more that adamantly willing to weigh in on the most recent controversies to rock, rattle and roil the social, cultural, and public domain.

There is no doubt that the past several years with the evolution of Black Lives Matter, the election of Donald Trump, fear of ongoing third world immigration and other related factors have resulted in deep levels of consternation among specific sub cultures of Whites in our nation and has culminated in significant levels of consternation, resentment and anxiety among more than a few (not all) White people.

As a consequence, many White Americans see the nation they grew up in (wrongly) as a land that has been dramatically infested with hordes of non-White individuals who are threatening to redefine the once great nation they so fondly remember and redesign it as a land that is a potpourri of foreign languages, multiple religions, rampant levels of incoherence and mass confusion. Thus, the overwhelmingly homogeneous nation they have such fond memories of (the fact is that such a nation never really existed ) is rapidly being displaced and dismantled by undisciplined hordes of people of color who are barely one generation beyond human species. Again, these are values and belief systems of reactionary bigots, not mine or other progressive minded human beings.While not all White Americans (perhaps even the majority) harbor such deplorable viewpoints , the truth is that more than a few actually and sincerely do.

Those Whites (and some misguided non-Whites) in the latter category have been indoctrinated by diverse swaths of right wing commentary. From far right radio personalities, to right wing media, politically right blogs, racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic politicians and other White nationalistic forces. This combination of retrograde influences has resulted in more than a few center right men and women to look over their shoulders and under their beds for illegal aliens.

While not all conservatives harbor racial animus, the fact is that the “people of color as boogeyman” argument is one that has been historically propagated by the parochial, isolationist, political right for decades. From the cold war era to the Reagan Years to the present. Non -whites , in particular, Black People and more recently, Arabs (who certain racist Whites derisively refer to as sand niggers), have always bore the brunt of such of fear and hostility. While many of the attitudes harbored by this segment of Whites was/is irrational and unfounded, such pre-conceived notions, fears and suspicions were rampant. Moreover, many White people proudly touted such beliefs without apology. This includes some so-called White liberals as well. A number of them (white liberals) who are not nearly as progressive on race as they deem themselves to be.

Much of such a regressive and reductive mindset can be traced directly to White denial and White fragility. The undisputed truth is that many people of all races and ethnic groups, and that includes White Americans, are deftly astute to the unyielding fact belief that American society has failed to live up to the principles that it espouses in the Constitution. To put it more bluntly, they are well of the indisputable truth that America as a nation has historically mistreated and abused its Black and other non-White citizens. This is why whenever a person , non-White person overtly espouses such truths, reaction from certain segments of the White populace is swift and callously fierce. The usual major forces of social media of White Facebook and twitter (along with some non-White conservative apologists) frantically nosedive into excessive commentary, much of it highly critical of those Black , Latino/Asian, Arab, Native American and in some cases, Jewish individuals who dare to speak to power.

Comments usually range from “ungrateful,” “unpatriotic,” , “incompetent” “affirmative action hire” “racist loser” to more, disgraceful, deplorable , scurrilous, sinister expletives. Not surprisingly, much of the juvenile criticism directed toward people who call out past and present injustices perpetrated upon people of color routinely come from Whites, many who are not above engaging in racial slurs, threatening or advocating violence and other forms of racial invective. The sad part about it is that there are usually some non-Whites who are more that eager to jump on the self-flagellation “yes, I agree with you bigots” bandwagon.

Rather then give the mentally disturbed (in some cases, crass opportunists) any publicity by mentioning them in this column, I am sure you can visit any right wing website that stops short of blatantly virile racism, anti-Semitism etc… and you will be able to locate them proudly proclaiming their supposed “exodus” from the supposedly “liberal plantation” so-to-speak. As I see it, they have hardly liberated themselves. Rather, on the contrary, they have become conservative sharecroppers and/or right wing indentured servants.

Keeping it real, the truth is that the majority of Whites who throw racist shade on critics of White racism do so from old fashioned racist rhetoric. The message is that people of color should keep their mouths shut, be humble and “know their place.” Do not offend our fragile sensibilities. Period!

The not so subtle (in fact blatantly racist ), profoundly ignorant and arrogant argument being made here is that people of non-European heritage / non-Whites, are not legitimate citizens of America and that our very existence is supposed to be periodically reviewed and verified by others. Guess what? The 14th amendment settled this questioned once and for all in 1868. Singed sealed and delivered!

It is very troubling and telling that many of these same racist individuals who would deny people of color the right to utilize our first amendment rights are the very people who have no apprehension engaging and exercising their constitutional rights no matter how vile, unprofessional, racist or disrespectful.

Moreover, many of them are the same people who enthusiastically cheer when Donald Trump engages in vicious diatribes in his criticisms of America and other individuals he dislikes. It is evident that these people see dissent and free speech as reserved for Whites only. In essence, free speech for me, but not for thee. Please! I don’t think so!

The obscene level of hypocrisy is staggering. The fact is that many of these so-called patriotic Americans have been so adamant in their efforts to proclaim their own moral (in some cases, racial) superiority, dismissing the viewpoints of those they personify as “the other,” vilifying them for their positions, that they have failed miserably in their efforts to even listen to or consider others. This is the classic example of White supremacy, White fragility, White arrogance and White privilege manifesting itself. In short, to all you fragile, racially pathetic bigots, get over yourselves!

An earlier version of this article appeared on Guest Commentator, Dr. Elwood Watson, PhD is a Professor of History, African American Studies and Gender Studies. He is also an author and public speaker. His forthcoming book, Keepin' It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America will be published by the University of Chicago Press later this year. Contact Dr.Watson and BC.
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