Dear White America:
“We didn’t have racism until Obama was elected”?
“Blacks hate Whites because Whites are successful and Blacks are not.”?
“If you’re black and haven’t succeeded in the past 50 years, it’s your fault.
You’ve had every opportunity.”?
“Black communities are in worse shape than ever, ever, ever!”?
Wow! Why are we hearing this line of deficit thinking from educated Whites
after 246 years of slavery and more than 100 years of Jim Crow? I believe most
Whites do not understand slavery; ergo, most do not know what racism feels like,
looks like, taste like, and sounds like. Of course, there are exceptions.
At the age of seven, I experienced what racism looked like, sounded like, felt
like, etc., by watching my very pregnant mother being pushed to the ground and
spat at by a tobacco-chewing, Mississippi cotton plantation row walker. And as she
lay holding her belly, moaning in pain, tears dropping into the Mississippi mud, he
spat at her; had she not moved her head he would have spat in her face, tobacco
spit. I stood gazing, not knowing what to do. That moment of racial violence
against my pregnant mother still replays in my heads over and over. I still hear the
sound of his mean, hateful, racist voice as he yelled the N-word. Racism is
Think about it. Almost daily an unarmed Black is shot dead with impunity.
And how many shots does it take to kill a man? Laquan McDonald was shot 16
times as he lay dying; Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times; Walter Scott, shot 8 times
as he ran. Why so many shots in one man’s body? Is it racial hatred? Is it anger?
And though the kill list is long, we must engage this destructive and deadly
Why don’t we engage it, talk about it, and cry about it? I believe there are
four reasons we don’t engage it: first, it is very hard and we don’t have the
courage. We are afraid we’ll have to give up power, privilege, and image. Second,
our ignorance about it will show. Ignorance, by the way, is among all of us, some
more than others. Third, most don’t have the language/grammar to talk about it.
Can we discuss physics without knowing the language and the associated
grammar? Try it. Fourth, I believe most Whites, not all, do not want to share: a)
cultural space, b) community space, c) educational space, d) occupational space, e)
political space, d) fiscal space, plus. The list extends; point is, I believe most Whites
do not want to share this beautiful country and all its glory with nonwhites, though
we all help build it. Not wanting to share comes from deficit thinking which results
We can ameliorate ignorance by gaining knowledge, building vocabulary by
reviewing literature on slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights Acts, Voting Rights Acts, etc.
In my view, most Whites know very little about slavery; some think it wasn’t that
bad. Both Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and Former Governor Barbour of Mississippi
stated, “Slavery wasn’t that bad.” Well, I want you to think about this: Imagine
your penis being whacked off and you’re made to chew on it until you lose
consciousness. How bad do you think that was? How about an iron yoke around
your neck as a collar? One more: Babies of slaves were used for alligator bait!
These are just a very few atrocities against slaves. Whites have created and
participated in something they don’t understand. Many don’t understand that
slavery was a business decision with concomitant atrocities; it was a decision of
dominance, White supremacy, control, greed; that list too extends. I believe most
Whites don’t see how slavery relates to hatred, violence, and racism; how it relates
to denial of space sharing as mentioned above. The few Whites who want to
equitably share this country are perhaps afraid of taking sides. We can overcome
that with dialogue.
Dialogue is not about siding; it’s about listening to each other which we do
very poorly, if at all; it’s about putting our judgments on hold which is challenging
for most, but not impossible. Dialogue will help us build capacity for new behaviors;
gain language and grammar to listen to each other’s stories about racism and its
consequences; understand what racism feels like, taste like, smells like, sounds
like, and looks like. Given how destructive racism is, has been, and will be, I
believe dialoguing about it will help ameliorate it, enrich our human relations, and
improve the survivability of this great nation.
It is high time we come to the table and start the dialogue!
U. S. Veteran (Viet Nam—68’-69’)