One thing that can make talking about racism and anti-Blackness difficult is the feeling that there’s a ‘backlash’ or that ‘things should just be equal now,’ with strong push back against discussions of privilege. This can quickly spiral into the same accusations of reverse racism that we saw discussed yesterday, or as discussed in the post below: that “that’s just racist against white people.”
This Everyday Feminism post does a great job of thinking through the language carefully as a way to examine whether personal discomfort because of ‘interpersonal slights rather than about the larger systems of oppression’ .
The worst of white folks makes this link to unperceived privilege and whiteness even clearer, where Kiese Laymon writes about how the worst of white folks “conveniently forgot that it came to this country on a boat, then reacted violently when anything or anyone suggested it share.” It’s sobering and a good way to keep us moving.
Next, we encourage you to watch the full video of the 1965 Cambridge debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, Jr.
The participants attempt to address the question, “Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro?“ which has never lessened in relevance. We’ve provided some commentary, which recommend you read after watching.
Baldwin contends that the assumptions with which we approach this question are critical to the ultimate interpretation. The systems of reality, to which we owe our identities, and that are with us our entire lives, shape these perspectives. Black America has learned hard truths about itself, about its system of reality and about the America that refuses outright, and through utter apathy, to share this country equally, let alone equitably. Black people have learned about the America that cannot accept the reality that its prosperity, economic and otherwise, is literally made possible by the continuous dehumanization of an entire people.
In addition, he finds that there is a tragic and terrible irony that corrupts the American identity and racks the soul of Whites America, who has not even deigned to learn what about itself, about its own identity in this shared reality, permits or even requires the unending subjugation of Black life. What is it that allows whites in America to not listen with urgency to their brethren, to commit such sins of omission that threaten to relegate to tomorrow forevermore a struggle 400 years too long?
How does this tragedy corrupt the vaunted american dream itself?
Subsequently, Buckley’s sleepy, gilded, and ill-prepared response represents generations of apathy, and utter mistrust, of the voice of an entire people. He whimsically careens from minor detail to red herring, winding around corners of blame in search of excuses.
What would you say to dreams of equality, hopes of justice so long deferred?
One thought on “White Fright”
This whole series has been amazing so far. I truly appreciate you putting together these blog posts. I found particularly moving, the article posted today written by Kiese Laymon. Thank you again.