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November 2012

A Predictable Reaction From Whites To Social Justice Writing

Do White people realize that when they respond to social justice-related writing (often from someone Black) that is thorough, passionate, and historically accurate, regarding…well anything since 1619 for starters, and they reply "well, stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something in real life!" they’re exposing their racism to the world? Like a VH1 version of Behind The Racism or something?

One, who said that writing is not “doing something?” They think words don’t have power? Media doesn’t? Interpretations of the written words of history don’t? Where have they been for the last…almost forever since the first words surfaced? The truth is, of course they know how powerful words are. They’ve been using them to reinforce White supremacy for centuries. This is simply a derailment tactic. They want us to think that words have no power, and silence us, while then using words and media to dehumanize us. Even in simple spaces like blogs and tweets—spaces that actually have more power than most people assumed they would when they first started—they want our voices silenced. Further, the implication that institutionalized racism, overt racism, White supremacy and White privilege evaporates by Blacks “doing something” and Whites sitting back like racial infants waiting for an intellectual diaper change is actually the work of White privilege.

Two, why is the assumption that the emotion that the Black writer feels is “pity?” What do they know of the nuanced expression involved in being truly human, if they view only other Whites as human? So naturally, they “allow” an emotion into the mix, “pity,” which doesn’t even remotely connect to or encapsulates what a Black writer is feeling when they write. Pity implies something internalized for the Black person, and thus, the White person making said accusation can further excuse themselves from whatever that writing contained.

And finally, why is the White assumption that said Black writer hasn’t done anything with their life? What evidence is this based on? Reading an essay that hurt their little White feelings and seeing the Tumblr avatar of the person who wrote it? Ah, but White privilege means absolutely no evidence is required. Also, at the root, this response is tied into the history of calling Black people “lazy.” It’s very old school racism meets social media.

What’s really happening is that essay hit them. They felt something. They are angry. They don’t have the words or the tools to express their feelings. They feel disgusted. They lash out: "no, it must be that writer who is just ‘pityful’ and ‘lazy.’" Those words put their backs up against the wall. Further, they decide that historical facts concerning this construct of Whiteness and this problem of White supremacy are no longer facts, just “pitiful” emotions of the Black writer who expresssed them. And, they didn’t like it.

Related Posts: Why Whites Hate Affirmative Action, Conversations With White People About Race,  My Experiences With White People and Social Media

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