May 27, 2014 in Editorials, On... by

On: I Don’t Care About Ending Racism

I didn’t want to write this. But at some point, you can’t let people keep trying to make you care that Mark Cuban is scared of Black boys in hoodies.

Younger, wealthy, white people can be racist too? Who knew?

Truth be told, I could care less about ending racism. Ending white supremacy? I’m with it. Ending systemic inequalities? Absolutely. Empowering people so we’re not dependent on shady loans and castrating grants? No question.

But just ending racism? Naw.

Sure, it’d be nice. I’d be as happy as anyone on the day racism is defeated once and for all (Chances are, that will come when we’re all Brown, rather than because of some mass change of heart).

In the meantime though, I don’t need old, wealthy racists to like me. Or young, oblivious hipsters for that matter.

The real battle is over resources. The quality of education. Housing. Accessible health care with speedy service. Being able to own and operate a business without constant harassment from government-backed agencies, trying to fleece you for your property.

Or…

We could try to “end racism”, which is now code for “cure white people of their white guilt.” After all, “racist” has somehow become the worst thing you can call a white person these days. It’s like the “slur” many have been looking for—the one that’s guaranteed to fuck up someone’s day.

Let the media tell it and you’d think racism was a capital crime. If you think I’m exaggerating, compare the outrage over Donald Sterling to Michael Dunn, the old white guy who killed Jordan Davis over loud music, or if you want to bring it closer to home, the cops who murdered Aaron Campbell and Keaton Otis.

People have excuses for murdering Blacks for days but are quick to demonize some 1940s style racism caught on tape. You know, because they wouldn’t want to associate with that kind of thing.

As much as I’d love to fight for the day when white people can roam the world, no longer fearing that someone will call them racist, I can’t help but wonder, what about all the pleasant, smiling white people? What about the ones that couldn’t be any further from bigots?

I can only speak for Oregon, but here, white people have a monopoly on both sides of the racism game.

Of course you can have the old school, stock news footage racists—the skinheads, the (thinly) veiled Klansman, neo Nazis, and old money families who don’t want to “lower property values.” But the cold part is white people are killing the game on the other side too. Organizations and agencies like the Portland Development Commission, or PDC, who are largely responsible for gentrification are also the biggest funders for many of our favorite Black nonprofits and other resources. Even white people trying to do the right thing have an inordinate amount of control over the information spread about Blacks. Really, it’s a white supremacist’s dream.

I worked at a Black newspaper. We had PDC ads running on our site’s front page all the time while trying to write articles about gentrification.

Furthermore, what does it say when the Black newspapers all have white editors? What about how excited we got for Whitelandia, a film documenting the sad story of Black people in Oregon, produced by a white couple?

Don’t get me wrong. These are all good people, doing what they do for all the right reasons. But that doesn’t change who is controlling the news and, in the case of Whitelandia, trying to teach us our history, not to mention profiting from it. I’m not knocking anyone for working, but you have to admit, when you stop and think about it, it’s as good a metaphor for Portland as you can find. What does it say that we now call the Black owned papers “Historically Black Newspapers?”

What is ending racial hatred going to do about that? White supremacy doesn’t even require racism anymore. Many instances of it in “liberal” Oregon don’t contain any malice at all.

But the real question is, when did eradicating the world of people saying ignorant things become the goal? Have we really lost this much context of our history? Integration for integration’s sake was never the point. It just happened to be one path to accessing better resources. Before anyone was even talking about integration as a policy, Black communities were developing thriving business districts (Can you say Black Wall Street?) and effective schools, despite the disparity in resources compared to their white counterparts.

In all our celebration of Brown v. Board of Education, we never talk about certain side effects. Think about all the Black schools that were closed down, the people who lost their jobs because of it, and the loss of the cultural awareness that those Black schools provided.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Well, if you want to get this done you’re gonna need some white allies.” Not, “We can have white allies.” No, it’s, “We NEED white allies.” Subtly (not really), we’re further institutionalizing low self-esteem.

But we’re supposed to be outraged because Mark Cuban crosses the street when he sees Black kids in hoodies?

Garvey weeps.

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  • These days, slavery is a choice. But I guess if it’s a choice, it’s not slavery anymore. It’s something else.

    • Radio Fa Fa

      I’d suggest that slavery is and always has been a choice.

      • I disagree. According to historical agreement, slavery is forced labor. Force happens by threat, deception or coercion. Though choice is always a possibility, having to choose between forced labor and death of oneself or loved ones cannot, in my opinion, be fairly referred to as “a choice”.

  • Prince Ra Hotep

    When people of that stature (money) make comments like that its a form of control, sometimes people speak out due to someone controlling them seeking attention to take the attention off more important matters. Lets face it, if your making less than $5 mill per year for the past 30 years your poor which makes you a slave no matter what hew your skin tone is, be it light or dark or in-between. Therefore if you are responding to this attention getting controlled person then your a slave to his words… lets all agree that this world country and society need some elevation so lets get it.

  • Bob Zybach

    This is an excellent essay and makes a number of very valid points and observations. I have been reading about and dealing with race issues for more than 50 years (as have most other people my age) and I think this is the best summary I have seen that shares my own perspectives. I think it should be required reading for our City employees and High School students.