The White Liberal Burden

 Zoey, our two and one half year old mini-golden doodle, saw her nephew Ranger, a 16 week old black lab puppy, walking away out of the room.   He stepped on her blanket, which was in his way.   She loudly protested, and we shushed her.   In a brief moment she had been very jealous, and a minute later they were playing happily together.


We, white liberals, are supportive of Black People.   We were horrified at the killing of George Floyd, and strongly protested in the weeks that followed.   Then things just went too far!   Police clashed with protestors, as businesses were trashed and fires torched businesses.


We need change, but those people need to not do things that alienate white people.    They need to have some patience!


Racism is a key issue in our lives!   It is a very different thing for different people.


I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color.  I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the “choir” or already “gets it.”  White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived.  None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awarenes, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice.  White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.

  • p.5, White Fragility - Robin DiAngelo


Many of us carry wounds from our childhoods.   I did not bond with my parents as a young child.   I grew up autistic (asperger’s), though I was not aware of it until recently.


Am I a victim?    Is what I’ve experienced for much of my life comparable to what my Black, queer identified wife has experienced in her life?


For many of us Covid-19 is very threatening to us!   The perceived threats vary greatly.   For some being told to wear a mask in public is unacceptable.   


For others the threat is personal in a very different way.    They may work in a nursing home, where Covid-19 is a serious killer.   They may live in a multi-generational household with a lot of people, and relatively little space.   


Covid-19 may be a daily threat in their lives!   Masks may be required or their employer may be lax in having them wear masks.


For many younger, upper-middle class white people, Covid-19 may seem like a minor issue that they don’t need to deal with.   For them, and for others, the daily interference of issues related to Covid may seem unfair.   They are not used to being told that “the world is unfair”.


Reactions to this vary.   For some white people Covid-19 is a challenge that they are struggling with.    Many realize that things will never be the same again.   Their visions of the future may vary significantly, but they all recognize that our lives will be more complicated.   Some things will be challenging in ways that they’ve never faced before.


For a lot of white people, though, their reactions are very different.    Some of them believe that Covid-19 is itself wrapped up deeply in conspiracies.    Some theories relate to China.   They and others relate to Biden and other Democratic party figures.


A lot of these people are core supporters of the Republican Party, and particularly Donald Trump.


Contrasting with such people, many other white people are very happy that Joe Biden has been elected president.   I would split these people simplistically into two, often very different, groups.


For one group of people, “liberalism” often is a dirty word.   They may, for example, recognize that Barack Obama was a totally mixed bag as president.   They may be angry that he didn’t seek to prosecute bank executives, who were significantly responsible for the financial meltdown of 2008-2009, with their (home) loan sales practices.   They may also be angry that his administration forced large numbers of undocumented people to leave the U.S., in many cases splitting up families.


These people are much more “anti-Trump”, than “pro-Biden”.


For a significant majority of these people, we face long-term crises in the U.S. which relate to systemic racism, sexism and classism (as well as other “isms”).   “Intersectionality” is a popular word in their mouths.    They may also be deeply concerned about issues related to the growing power of right-wing forces over the past 50+ years.


The other group of white people generally strongly support Joe Biden!   They appreciate various things about him, including his calm civil manner, his support for: choice regarding health care,  Roe vs. Wade, tax policies that will raise taxes on the very wealthy, and similar.


Some of these white people readily acknowledge that racism is a major problem.   Many of them, however, believe that racism is not “their” problem.   The problem, they believe, rests with others.   


How we don’t see racism as “our” problem, can vary greatly.   My (Black) wife has a quite high salary at her job.   Some may see racism as Not greatly affecting B  because of her economic/class privilege.    Some individuals are adult survivors of childhood abuse or are rape/domestic violence survivors.   They may see what they’ve been through as in a sense “competing” with what B has experienced.


Some white people believe that they understand racism and are not racist because of ties that they may have to Black People, including (even) some being family members.


Many white people believe that racism was a major U.S. problem, but that it no longer is a serious problem.


(1959) In the Missouri case, an African American couple had attempted to build a home in the white St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur.  Again, permits had been approved and work had begun when the town discovered  that the purchasers were African American.  A hastily organized citizens committee then raised contributions to purchase the property. … As in the Hansberry drama, the Creve Coeur couple refused the offer.   The city then condemned the property for recreational use.

  • p.125, The Color of Law - Richard Rothstein

In 1969, a Methodist church-sponsored nonprofit organization proposed to construct a federally subsidized, racially integrated complex for moderate- and low-income families in Black Jack, an all-white suburb in unincorporated St. Louis County.   In response, voters in Black Jack incorporated their community and adopted a zoning ordinance that prohibited future developments of more than three homes per acre.  … Eventually it did, and a federal appeals court ordered Black Jack to permit the pro-integration group to proceed. .... The uncontradicted evidenced indicated that at all levels of opposition, race played a significant role, both in the drive to incorporate and the decision to rezone. … The Methodist organization, however, did not win its legal victory until 1974… .   By then, financing was no longer available, interest rates had climbed, and the federal government had become less supportive of subsidized integrated housing.   … ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ was the frequent experience of African Americans having to fight legal battles to obtain housing in white neighborhoods.

  • P.125-6


Four years earlier, though, the Supreme Court had ruled that covenants (restrictive covenants that required that purchasers/residents be “Caucasian”) were not enforceable, so Hogan sold his property to Wilbur Gary and his wife.  … Soon after the Garys arrived, a mob of about 300 whites gathered outside their house, shouting epithets, hurling bricks (one crashed through the front window), and burning a cross on the lawn.  For several days, police and county sheriff deputies refused to step, so the NAACP found it necessary to organize its own guards.

  • p. 139-140


Built post Shelley (Supreme Court decision that stated that restrictive covenants were not enforceable), the Pennsylvania project did not have restrictive covenants, but the FHA continued to support Levitt and other developers only if they refused to sell to African Americans.

-p. 140 


The attacks on African American pioneers, sanctioned by elected officials and law enforcement officers, could not have been attributable to whites discomfort with a lower social class of neighbors.  Wilbur and Borece Gary and Bill and Daisy Myers were solidly middle class.  Because more affluent communities were closed to them, the African Americans who were victimized by such mob action often had higher occupational and social status than the white neighbors who assaulted them.   This circumstance belies the oft-repeated claim that resistance to integration has been based on fears of deteriorating neighborhood quality.

-p.143


A close examination of wealth in the U.S. finds evidence of staggering racial disparities. At $171,000, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family ($17,150) in 2016. Gaps in wealth between Black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception. The Black-white wealth gap reflects a society that has not and does not afford equality of opportunity to all its citizens.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/02/27/examining-the-black-white-wealth-gap/


There remain common perceptions that we have moved from being a “racist” country to one where at least upper-middle class Black People have equal opportunities.   Indeed, a lot of white people believe that upper-middle class Black people are favored over them in many ways, particularly in getting jobs.    These people commonly believe that such Black People do not face racism in their daily lives.


I will try to give several simple examples of racism that I have seen, related to my wife within recent years.


During the week between Christmas and New Years Day in late 2018, my wife and I were walking on a very, very crowded sidewalk in South Beach (Miami Beach, FL).   Every few seconds we had to consciously move, to avoid colliding with others coming towards us.   After a few minutes of walking, we found somewhere to sit down.   


My wife then told me that during the walk, not a single white woman had yielded to her, always requiring her to let them get by (to avoid colliding).  She told me that this was far from the first time this had happened to her.   I was upset, because I had been next to her, the whole time.  I hadn’t noticed this at all.  (I later googled this and discovered that this is common.)


April, 2019 - my wife was not “seen” - by a white woman when she sat between me and the woman in New Orleans - http://georgesworldonthewater.blogspot.com/2019/04/racism-today-jazz-fest.html


--------


You will Not


get anywhere


calling me - Racist


Racism is an Issue


for you


Because


Your Wife - -  is Black


http://georgesworldonthewater.blogspot.com/2019/02/can-i-believe-regarding-white-fragility.html


(note - the poem, partially quoted above, referenced me being with three (white) male, high school classmates in 2019.   I had suggested that these men watch the at least the beginning of a video of Robin DiAngelo - on White Fragility.)


This seems very ironic.   My parents’ neighbors as newlyweds in 1946 in NYC included James Farmer (co-founder of The Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) and his wife.   Mr. Farmer, then the highest ranking Black person in the Nixon Administration, had dinner at our house in 1969, before speaking that evening at Purdue University.   I was in a Civil Rights March in Lafayette, Indiana in the summer of either 1961 or 1962. 


An academic book - of several years ago - discusses in great detail the structural racism of Evanston Township High School, only a few miles from where I live.


This book should be particularly of interest to Chicago Area readers, because the "Riverview" High School is clearly Evanston Township High School.   The book is excellent and well-worth reading


Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools, by Amanda E. Lewis and John B. Diamond, Oxford University Press, $27.95, ISBN: 978-0-19-534272-7

https://workingtowardsendingracism.blogspot.com/2020/01/despite-best-intentions-evanston-il.html


I have my issues I’ve mentioned already which certainly affect how I view racism (as well as sexism, classism and other isms).   I had a clear choice - whether my life experiences would serve as an excuse, for minimizing racism, or as a motivator to see the need to proactively work for positive change.


Sexism will not end until we men - recognize it as an important - “men’s issue”.    

Racism will not end until we white people recognize it as The important “white people’s issue (“Problem”).


I am racist!   I am anti-racist (also).   Growing up with racism all around me, I could (and can) not escape taking a lot of it in.    Not working (as white people) to end racism, delays further the day when it will no longer be so important all around us.


Reparations - for Black People - are important.   “Reparations” - are efforts helping to make our world - truly non-racist.   Specifics - as to how we will do this take a lot of dialog and a lot of compromise.    Giving up our privilege is Not a simple, linear thing.


“De-funding the police”, “Black Lives Matter” and similar are important words for us to really hear!   Simplistically - they are an “attack” on us.  At a deeper level, they are an important part of us learning about others, who are different from us, recognizing our common humanity, and joining with "them", starting to end our hurting  and destroying others’ lives.


Tactics are important!   Words are important!   Caring is very important!   Being honestly, seriously committed to work for positive change is very difficult!   It is also very necessary.


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