Subtitled: ‘No comment’ to the article title
A recent news article mentioned that a Kent State undergraduate received notice from the FBI that an opinion piece of hers had attracted the attention of a white nationalist internet group. In “I am not a white bitch,” [link broken, read full text here] senior Beth Rankin complains about being “ostracized” for being white. She claims she wants to be “united” in the “fight against prejudice.”
The problem is that the black people are being mean to her. No, really! And undoubtedly that’s what’s stopping her from being a good anti-racist.
But read through Rankin’s piece, and you see the condescension, the arrogance and the privilege that too often are the hallmarks of the “white anti-racist.”
First, Rankin believes that she should be welcomed everywhere and is shocked to find that is not the case. She attended a Black United Students event four years ago and it is still fresh in her mind:
From the moment Justin and I entered the ballroom, the tension was palpable. We received puzzled stares from students sitting around us, and though we couldn’t put a finger on why, we felt incredibly unwelcome. I left feeling uncomfortable and unable to make sense of what had happened.
Many white people are unaccustomed to being the minority in a group. They are used to being made to feel welcome, and are shocked and dismayed when this is not the case. They conclude, as Rankin did, that it is because of racism!
She goes on to write that she confronted members of the Black United Students:
“… but that’s racism …” we were told that as the majority, we were unable to feel racism. We just couldn’t understand.
Two years later, I was forced to understand.
She was “forced to understand” because on two separate occasions she claims she was called a “white bitch.” By black people.
Because she experienced two or three acts of prejudice, she now claims to understand racism. And it apparently stung her deeply. Not only did black people not welcome her at their university event, but she was told that she might not have the life experience necessary to understand a viewpoint and people were mean to her to boot!
I would laugh if it weren’t for the fact that so many discussions of racism end up with white people similarly claiming all the air in the room for themselves. Once during a discussion of systemic institutionalized racism, a white man talked about the racism he too had suffered. He talked about how black people were racist too. And when asked what he was referring to, he said a black boy had thrown pebbles at him once when he was walking down the street.
I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.™
At another community meeting convened to discuss problems of racism in the schools, a white woman took up a large portion of time while she cried. She said that she had tried, really tried, to be nice to black people. But sometimes they were mean to her.
And of course, people of color should be extra-nice to white people who deign to come and help us out with our “plight.” We should give them cookies and be very grateful. Because of course, racism isn’t their responsibility.
Unless, of course, their feelings have been hurt. “Racism” is an issue to white people when they believe that they have been on the receiving end. For example, why did the FBI contact the writer of the original article? Because she had received attention on the St0rmfr0nt website? How often are people of color threatened there? Has the FBI contacted them as well? I don’t recall ever hearing about it before, but maybe racism isn’t important unless it’s reverse racism. You know, racism that is going in an unexpected direction. That’s why they call it “reverse” racism–because it’s not supposed to happen that way.
Additionally, racism really isn’t the problem of white people. So give them cookies for wanting to help out, y’all. Cookies are what they want, but they’re not always going to get them. As writer Kil Ja Kim notes:
… white people need to be willing to have their very social position, their very relationship of domination, their very authority, their very being…let go, perhaps even destroyed. I know this might sound scary, but that is really not my concern. I am not interested in making white people, even those so-called good-hearted anti-racist whites, comfortable about their position in struggles that shape my life in ways that it will never shape theirs.
But you get the feeling instead that they want to hold hands with us and sing “Kum Bah Yah.”
Good heavens! Don’t those black people understand that they should be grateful that a Well Intentioned White Woman like Rankin has come to tell them what racism is all about? Because she knows it more intimately and has a deeper understanding of it as a white person whose life has been affected by racism.
This is just one of the arenas in which white people demonstrate their inability to relinquish their dominant position. So even when they want to do anti-racist work, they replicate racist behavior. Rankin writes as follows:
So this is what I say to you, current members and leaders of BUS: Tell me again. Tell me again what your goals are. I certainly hope they differ from those expressed to me in 2004.
Tell me what you are doing to reach out to non-black students who support your cause. As a straight girl, PRIDE!Kent has always welcomed me to their meetings and functions because they knew I supported their cause. I want to be able to attend BUS functions and feel the same love.
Racism is still a problem in this country, and it will never be solved if we continue to divide black from white. I have been called names and ostracized for the color of my skin, and I have been ridiculed for sharing my life with a man who is not white.
Got that? She demands to know BUS’ goals, and she “certainly hope(s)” that they are different from what she heard in 2004. Because an organization formed for the empowerment of black students should be held accountable by a white woman. And because the great problem of racism in this country is centered around the racism directed at white people.
Got that? The single greatest problem of racism today is the fact that black people are mean to white people. You can see this is true because black people are the CEOs of all the big corporations. They tend to own the majority of the wealth in the United States. They tend to get better education and go to better schools. And not only do they have all these privileges handed to them, but they additionally get to be mean to white people and nobody ever gives a damn about it! Except Beth Rankin, who is fighting tirelessly to end racism against white people.
(While you have the cookies out, give her one for having a non-white boyfriend! Because that’s so open-minded! Really, she picked a boyfriend of color when she probably could have gotten a white one.)
She repeats this demand in the comments: “What are you going to do about it?”
Kim addresses this as well:
Now I am sure that right now there are some white people saying that non-white people cannot understand what is going on, that we do not have the critical analysis to figure stuff out, or that we have fucked up ideas. This is just white supremacist bullshit because it is rooted in the idea that non-white people have not interpreted our experiences and cannot run things ourselves. It is also highly elitist because it assumes that only those who have adequate access to institutional and educational resources (whites) are able to understand reality. It also assumes that there are not internal conversations within and between our communities—which I do not think white people need to be privy to or participate in—in which non-white people struggle over these contradictions, debate about our own visions for society and how to go about achieving them. In short, this perspective by whites that non-white people cannot be in control of our own destinies is rooted in a paternally-racist approach to non-white people.
So if you want to call yourself a white anti-racist, start by giving up your privilege. Of course, this is a trick request. Because the privilege isn’t even visible to you. Yet it, and you, are sucking all the air out of the room.
Edited to add: Apparently the “discussions” about race in the campus paper are part of a series called “The Changing Face of Prejudice.” Really! IANMTU!™
You can read the full piece here.