This is the first in a series meant to express feminist solidarity with the black community. I am not black and it would not be appropriate for me to diagnose, advise or otherwise claim the problems of the black community. The most appropriate thing seems to be to get in the way of hostile whites and hostile white institutions that are informed by white hostility as they advance on the community, from the point of view that we are responsible for the shape that the white community takes.
I’ve heard a number of people make claims of reverse racism over the years. Mainly, but not entirely, the claims center on affirmative action. The speaker states that college admissions unfairly denied them entrance due to racial favoritism or that they were unable to hire someone or get hired due to “quota” filling. Other people have claimed that they’ve been pulled over by police for “Driving while white” in majority black areas and warned that it would be best for them to leave. Another popular thing is to tell stories of being harassed or singled out by people with criminal intentions in urban black areas. If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re one of those.
For the sake of transparency, I will state that I admit never believe these stories. I think that the majority of them are the result of someone taking creative liberties with history. When someone claims to be a victim of affirmative action, I generally suspect them to be a victim of simple inadequacy. I’ve served on search committees in AA institutions, and no one would consider hiring an unqualified person for a job because of race. There is an HR screening process to ensure that every applicant is qualified, and the most an AA department will do is ask you to interview one among those applicants that you may not have chosen as the best of the crop. They will not make you hire that person. Similarly, academic admissions departments who go to the trouble of the slightest “weighting” of grades based on race will also weight them based on other things, including the quality of your school, which generally benefit people with a higher socioeconomic status. That and other fishiness aside, for the sake of argument, I will assume that these stories are 100% factual.
Let’s drill down into these a bit. Why would an employer feel comfortable in denying a white person employment on the basis of their race? Why would a college admissions officer feel okay with it? Why would a white person be singled out as an outsider or a target in an urban black area? At first blush, the impulse might be to assume that folks hate white people and want to punish them, but this is actually not the case. The common theme in all these scenarios is that the white person is assumed to be doing well. The white person is assumed to be attractive for many jobs and entrance to many colleges, and not to be in need. The white person is assumed to be more affluent and valuable against the background of urban blackness. The white person’s treatment in all scenarios occurs because the white person is understood to be law-abiding, non-threatening, well-intentioned, capable, intelligent and financially well off. The problem with complaining about that image is that it grants its subject loads of preferential treatment, save the most specific and infrequent circumstances. When a person projecting this kind of image walks into an establishment as commonplace as a shop or as important as a police station or court, they can expect that people will go out of their way not to cross them. If you as a white person think you’re still being mistreated at any shop or by a policeman, or whatever, just imagine what they would do to someone they assumed to be up to no good.
So, this assumption that white pockets are spilling over with money and that white people are trustworthy, harmless creatures, full of great potential is not the result of “reverse racism.” This perception is the result of plain old white racism. This assumption is a place of favoritism in which white people live and frolic, although many just don’t think about it. It is also a reality that white people ARE privileged to have money and employment and education and freedom from the penal system at a rate much higher than their black peers. That is a reality that white racism created and it remains in effect. So if you find yourself in a position where you don’t live the life of privilege that people assume you deserve, don’t use that as a cudgel to bludgeon black people. If this is the one thing that you want to change about your relationship towards the rest of the world, then work for race equality. One day you may live the reality where white people are not assumed to default to awesome at life. Advancing opportunities for black people will help you achieve this objective.