I wish I was black: on racial inequality + white guilt

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Hi. My name is Hannah. I am a white, young, middle class woman living in the Midwest. And for the last 6 months I have been wishing I could be black.

Yeah, I recognize that’s a super weird thing to say. You’d think in light of Ferguson no one would envy black people. It’s a dangerous way to be born these days. But as our country becomes increasingly aware of racial tension, I’m wishing I could be black. Because as awful as they have it in our country, I am still just as lazy as ever.

A privileged white person who would rather be oppressed than do the tough work of advocating for equality.

My university hosted our National Student Leadership Conference last weekend, and Christena Cleveland came and spoke about inequality. (If you’ve never read anything by her, make sure you do because she is AMAZING.) It was moving. And even though I’ve learned so much in the last 10 months about race and what privilege is and the current state of our Western culture, I’d rather point fingers and cast blame at the general white population than recognize my own part in allowing privilege to still exist. Because every single white person who doesn’t actively try to end white privilege is participating in its existence. And that knowledge is convicting, and difficult, and HECK NO I don’t want to have to deal with that. I don’t want to be that white girl who won’t stop talking about racial inequality, because why do I even care so much? I’m not black.

But that’s the point. I’m not black. This is not just a problem for black people. Whenever a minority is oppressed, it is the responsibility of the OPPRESSORS to change – not the oppressed. So it’s not a black people problem at all – it’s a white people problem. Race is a white person’s problem, because we’re the ones responsible for changing it.

And shouldn’t we, the People of the Cross, be leading the charge?

This week I had one of the best coffee dates I’ve ever had on our college campus with one of the funniest, most genuine women I know. It’s one of those friendships that has been so long in the making that I apologized for not asking her sooner. I said it so earnestly that she laughed, but we both knew it was true. And we talked about racism and authenticity and silence and choosing to be kind over “nice”.

And I am learning every day what it means to be responsible for my place in this country, this town, among these friends and in this internet world with you, my friend, reading this.

And I hope you ask those questions too: What am I responsible for? In this town? In this community? In this country? In this world? What am I responsible for changing? What am I responsible for giving? And don’t wait until you’re older or married or wealthy to do those things.

Do them now. Because there is an urgency to equality that can’t afford to wait until your life has fallen into neat little rows. Because people will die for this while you have the privilege to wait until you can pay rent. And that’s not really a fair toss-up.

So we who fight for equality will continue to do so until we lay in our graves. And this is the work we take up, the cross we carry, for those who do not have the power that we do. That even though only 13% of the U.S. population is black, they make up 26% of people killed by police in 2014. That the city of Cleveland decided a dead 12-year-old black boy is responsible for his death because he didn’t avoid being shot, and the police force is in blind support of the officers who did it. And so many more that the list would take up an entire blog post by itself.

I hope you’ll fight with me. Thanks for doing that tough work. And I hope we’ll carry each other, when we’re weary and frustrated and discouraged. Because that’s what community is for, after all.

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16 thoughts on “I wish I was black: on racial inequality + white guilt

  1. “Whenever a minority is oppressed, it is the responsibility of the OPPRESSORS to change – not the oppressed.”

    According to official FBI statistics for homicide a black is almost 8 times as likely to commit murder as a white person in the United States and it has been that way for about a quarter century now. Also a black person is about 6 times more likely to be murdered (and almost always by another black person, not a white policeman).

    And if you look at other violent crimes captured in FBI statistics you find that blacks are almost always way overrepresented as the offenders. It is only in white-collar, non-violent crimes that whites predominate for the most part.

    Clearly black Americans are suffering severe problems in America today, and in many ways worse than when I heard Martin Luther King give his “I have a dream speech” live on a black and white TV. Here is something you might find helpful in trying to understand why.

    Look at all the places (including Ferguson, Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, etc.) where poor blacks seem to be suffering the worst. What is the common denominator? White privilege? Bullshit.

    All of those places have been run by Democrats almost as long as anyone alive today (longer in Chicago than I have been alive for sure, and I am no youngster – I personally saw “Whites Only” signs over drinking fountains in my lifetime in the South).

    My guess is that those who really run things there prefer blacks remain as they are, and convinced they are victims of white racism, as long as they will deliver the votes to the Democratic Party. Back before the Civil War black slaves harvested cotton. Today they harvest votes for the Democratic Party. Harsh? Yes. Truth? Yes.

    I have lived long enough to see enormous changes in society. Today the vast majority of whites do not racially exploit blacks on purpose. Just the opposite in reality. Many whites, and you sound like one, assume unearned guilt for nothing you should be ashamed of.

    The real problem today is not white racism but rather black racism and black hatred, and black unwillingness to look at their own sick culture of violence in the inner cities (read black author Thomas Sowell’s book “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” if you really want to understand).

    If you want to actually help black people then 1) you need to stop accepting unearned guilt (because _that_ is racist too) , and 2) stop excusing blacks for killing each other at record numbers while blaming everyone else for their problems.

    In fact Western Civilization, that is, dead old white guys, should be extremely proud of its record in regards to slavery. Slavery has existed in this world since beyond recorded history, before the Pyramids were built. it was only Western Civilization and ideas and ideals of men like Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, that finally ended slavery in the Western world.

    Some other facts you might find enlightening. Before the Civil War in New Orleans particularly, and other parts of the South generally, there were more than a few free blacks who owned other blacks as slaves. And just about no blacks were sold to white slavers to bring to the Americas (including a ton to S. America, Brazil, and the Caribbean) who were not _first_ enslaved by other blacks in Africa to be sold to those white slavers. And even more blacks at that time were forced into slavery in the mideast than the Americas (and a ton died getting there, even a higher mortality rate than the Atlantic route to the Americas).

    Slavery still exists in Africa (often practiced by Muslims). But America fought its bloodiest war to end slavery and Great Britain expended a whole lot of its national treasury stationing warships in the Atlantic to stop the slave trade to the Americas (a lot then to S. America before they stopped it).

    Again, as Americans we should be proud of our accomplishments in ending slavery, not ashamed. Our problems today are more complex, but at root can be found in the beliefs and philosophy of the Left which runs large parts of the Democratic Party. If you are buying the “white privilege” argument then _you_ are a big part of the problem.

    • lwk2431-
      Those were my thoughts (though much more thorough and well spoken) exactly. Thank you for your comment. I can love people of another race (we are all just one race -humans- anyway) but I am extremely wary of white guilt, because it plays so squarely into the liberal goals of keeping whatever black babies make it out of the womb alive, fatherless and impoverished. You are right to say that they harvest votes instead of cotton, and Democrats will have much to fear when more people make that realization.

    • One of my multiple problems with your comment is this one “blacks unwillingness to look at their own sick culture.” Well since you back peddled into the past, so will I, Christopher Columbus (a European immigrant) killed millions of Indian settlers then brought plagues, raped Indian women, and had them as slaves. Moving forward to current times since you have the slavery aspect down. The mass shootings by non blacks in schools in churches and on streets. So when you want to call a entire culture “sick” you should look at your own first and make sure everything is squeaky clean.

      Now, the FBI statistics are complete bullshit. I will explain why, if you haven’t noticed blacks are the smallest minority in America, ( Caucasians being the largest race) I’m hoping you’re excellent at math seeing that blacks being a small minority when you compare the number to blacks who commit crimes to the blacks who do not, the number will ALWAYS be larger with a smaller amount of people. Now if you do that to a larger population of people the number will be smaller…don’t believe me? Do the math yourself (I’m talking number now)

      Pretty late reply but who cares…

  2. ” I can love people of another race (we are all just one race -humans- anyway)”

    Don’t disagree. There is a concept called “tough love” that often in the long run is a lot more effective and loving than turning a blind eye to real problems that have largely destroyed a segment of our society.

    “I am extremely wary of white guilt,”

    As you should be. It is highly unlikely that you have any justifiable reason to feel guilt for something you did not do (or some “privilege” some idiots claim you should be guilty for). This kind of guilt has been used by religion and politics to control people. You cannot be free as long as others can make you feel unearned or unjustified guilt.

    Assuming unearned guilt does nothing to help black people. In fact more than likely it is a great evil that helps perpetuate the failed policies of more than half a century championed by those on the Left. You may have heard that one definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That is what the Left wants to do, just double down on their failed policies, including those that destroyed the black family in the inner city.

    You really should read Thomas Sowell’s book and his other writings on race. Of course he is absolutely hated by the Left.

    • p.s. Just to clarify, I am a different Hannah than the author of this blog. I just realized my comment may have been confusing, given that I am in disagreement with the author, but have the same name.
      I absolutely agree with you and think that trying to make ourselves feel bad for the poor choices of other people is counterproductive at best, and detrimental at worst.

      • Yes, I confused you with the author. I thought it seemed a surprising turnaround of opinion! 🙂

        Guilt is a major mechanism used to control other people. I think the Hannah who is the author is indeed very much controlled by guilt that others have forced on her and which, like many, she has accepted.

        What she needs to learn is that as long as she does accept this unearned guilt then she is a tool that helps propagate the situation as it is, and in no way part of the solution.

        • Hi lwk2431. I hear what you’re saying with black-on-black crime – that’s a very real thing. However, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed of being white in any way. As people who care about other people, we have a moral and social responsibility to play our part in advocating for equality in all areas, whether that’s for those in poverty, the disabled, those in sex trafficking, or people of color. Privilege at its best is a platform, and we should be using it for good rather than selfish purposes. It would be easy to just stay in our comfort zone and let “them” figure it out, but is that kind? Is that really reasonable, or are we just lazy? Then it becomes a question of our character. What I wrote is not political in any way – I’m not talking about our government or how it invests its money. I am talking about the intersection of social issues and moral character. How can we stand by while people are suffering, and still consider ourselves good people?

          • Hannah Schaefer wrote:

            “As people who care about other people, we have a moral and social responsibility to play our part in advocating for equality in all areas …”

            “Equality in all areas” can only exist if we extinguish individual freedom. That kind of equality can only be achieved by laws that discriminate against the individual in favor of legally advantaged groups, for example the principle of affirmative action.

            The concept of “white privilege” is fatally flawed by the assumption that you can use statistics to discern the truth based on unchallenged assumptions, for example, that a disparity of result _must_ be the result of white racism and privilege. If you start with a conclusion then you will in the end find what you started out looking for, regardless of the truth.

            If you are truly for freedom then you should work to insure that the law is not a barrier to anyone based on their race, and then let the cards fall where they may. If more whites as a percentage qualify for college admission based solely on merit, so be it. If as a percent asians do better than whites, then so be it. The principle of true freedom is that there should be no barriers in law based on race. Affirmative action is inherently anti-freedom because it turns it around and does give some an advantage based on their race.

            Real freedom is based on the individual, not on statistics about groups of people.

            With real freedom where no group is enfranchised in the law, there will _always_ be disparities of result. You cannot guarantee equality of results (“equality in all areas”) and have individual freedom.

            “Privilege at its best is a platform, and we should be using it for good rather than selfish purposes.”

            Intelligence, morality, and motivation are also “privileges.” You can’t mandate them by law. The first comes from nature and the last two most often from culture. A large barrier for many blacks is their culture (best described by Thomas Sowell in his book “Black Rednecks and White Liberals).

            The incredible civilization we live in today, and which the Left seeks to destroy, is largely the product of selfish people who discovered, built, and sold the products most people take for granted.

            Selfish motivation channeled correctly is in fact a great moral virtue and one of the foundations of the modern civilization.

            “It would be easy to just stay in our comfort zone and let “them” figure it out, but is that kind?”

            In reality a lot of white people with exactly that view are a large part of the problem. The underlying assumption in “let them figure it out” is the very real belief that they can’t figure it out for themselves without your enlightened help and sympathy.

            In reality a lot of the problem with many blacks, for example those protesting in Ferguson, is their own virulent racism and hatred of whites (and the conviction that all of their problems stem from others, and not in their own world view).

            One of the greatest sins of whites today as a group is a sin of ommission, the sin of not holding blacks accountable and instead finding excuses. In the 1950s in any confrontation between a black and a white the black was often assumed guilty with little consideration of the evidence.

            You see that exactly reversed today where a white in a confrontation with a black is most often assumed guilty with little consideration of the evidence, and many people hold on to that view despite masses of evidence to the contrary, the Martin/Zimmerman affair and Ferguson being just two of the latest examples.

            Rational people with good motives can help others, but not as long as their view is clouded in illusion. A friend of mine once suggested that one of the most powerful ways to find truth is to see which way the majority is looking, and then turn around and look in the opposite direction.

            This is a problem as old as humanity. Thousands of years ago the Israelite prophet Isaiah described it perfectly:

            “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

            Isaiah 5:20

            Nothing I have ever read more perfectly describes what I see on TV and news almost every night.

  3. Hannah, the author of the above post wrote:

    “…though only 13% of the U.S. population is black, they make up 26% of people killed by police in 2014. ”

    And yes, blacks are somewhere around 13% (13.6 I think in the 2010 Census) yet according to official FBI statistics they commit over 50% of all murder in the United States where the race of the offender is known. And in fact they probably kill even significantly more than 50% of the time when you consider that race if figured in only when the race of the offender is known officially. Look at all the people killed on the south side of Chicago, or New Orleans, and other places with violent black ghettos where the offender is never officially identified.

    Indeed blacks are outstanding statistically in the U.S. in murder, and many other highly violent crimes.

  4. Hannah Schaefer, I just wanted to say thank you SO MUCH for posting this. I literally just googled “I wish I was black” and your post was the first thing to come up. I feel exactly the same way as you; I often find myself wishing I wasn’t white because I know that I did NOTHING to deserve the good fortune that I was born into. And what’s more, my students, the majority of which are black (at least 80%), in an inner-city charter school (in one of the capital cities of our USA), did not do ANYTHING to deserve the unfortunate situations they are born into. Anyways. I just wanted you to know that I fully support your beliefs and values and again, so glad you have written it for everyone to read. And finally, I just had to write something after reading all the negative and disagreeing comments. You do have support!

    Also, to everyone else out there who is still on the fence and also to answer some of the counterarguments brought up:

    a comic: http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/the-pencilsword-on-a-plate

    the unequal opportunity race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX_Vzl-r8NY

  5. Pingback: South Park and Social Justice | Artificial Angels

  6. I’m a black woman and I don’t buy into the idea of white privilege. I believe that I am responsible for whether or not I do something meaningful with my life. I am personally responsible for teaching the children in my life to be decent people. I find it strange that anybody would seek to force an entire race to solve its problems. My life has not been without struggle; but is that not the case for most of the world in some capacity? I’ve had some hurtful things said to me in regards to my ethnicity. It’s a little bit disturbing to know that some people are going to judge my character based on statistics and stereotypes instead of on my actual character. That same thing is going to happen to whites, Hispanics, Asians, Europeans, Canadians, Africans, women, men, LGBT, the elderly, etc. Therein lies the problem: we’ve not matured in the way that we handle our perceived differences. We’ve traditionally used some form of force convert “other” to whatever it is that we are. This has been the case for every group at one point or another. It fails because the heart and mind of man cannot change without his consent. He may give temporary compliance; overtime, compliance will lead to resentment. As much as I hate all racism, racists are within their rights to be racist.

    **** Side note: here’s a great reason for let go of the so called white-guilt: there are plenty of racist black people. It has always frustrated me to hear black people say that black people can’t be racist. Not true; and only an irrational person would believe that it is.****

    One of the things that I appreciate about the Constitution is that it was meant to provide an objective governing structure. Adjustments have been made to accommodate many of the pivotal changes that have taken place in this country; however, it isn’t about mind control. It goes “Here’s is the code of conduct. Here are the consequences of breaking that code.” That seems like an effective approach to dealing with inequality. Feel free to be racist! Discuss it with your friends. But keep your hands to yourself, or you will be prosecuted (because there are clear laws against harming another living being). What murder isn’t a hate crime? Whether the defendant commited the crime because he was owed money, or because he didn’t like the victims religion, he’s receiving the same sentence. Four people who are four different ethnicities, on trial for four separate crimes in which the circumstances of each read exactly the same, should be prosecuted exactly the same. There it is. Our founding fathers knew that objective structure was necessary because humans generally don’t agree on everything.

    To The Internets:
    This is the problem that I have with Black Lives Matter: Will they be there to support the brown, impoverished white, and Native American lives who suffer brutality at the hands of corrupt/poorly trained law enforcement?

    To The Reactors:
    I’ve also noticed that white people who are frustrated with being told to feel guilty tend to resort to “blacks murder more than anyone”. Oddly enough, another statistic that gets thrown around is that Mexican immigrants rape and kill more than anyone. This addresses what issue? It only shows that the people who choose to cite statistics– instead of apply logic– are incapable of seeing individuals as individuals. I’ve encountered racism from white people; however, I don’t believe that all white people are racist. I chalk those specific interactions up to the early environmental conditioning of the offenders. So, for anyone getting ready to sling (malleable) statistics in reaction to an inflammatory media blurb, remember this: I’m a relatively quiet person, I choose my friends based on the content of their character and our compatibility, I graduated high school, I’m a chemistry major – w/minor in physics, I didn’t have the best start in life but I’m making the best of it, I’ve never been pregnant, I’m not on drugs (that includes alcohol), I’ve no desire to murder anyone. My brothers have never murdered anyone. One of my brothers speaks fluent Spanish and Japanese. Two of my brothers were once pulled over by the police and forced at shotgun point to lie on the ground, where one of my brothers was cracked in the head with the butt of the gun. He was on the ground in handcuffs; neither of them resisted. They weren’t arrested because they weren’t who the police were looking for. They didn’t bad mouth the police afterward. We don’t believe that white people owe us anything. We don’t believe that white people are oppressing us. We believe that we’ve been dealt our hands in life, and need to play them to the best of our abilities. From a black person who is simply trying to get by, please try not to lash out at everyone who happens to share the pigment of some individual or organization who pissed you off. The real world equivalent of that would be you walking up to me in a grocery store and shouting “Fifty percent of you people commit all murders!”, because you’d previously had a heated discussion in a forest with some black guy. Wouldn’t that be weird?

    To Hannah:
    It seems to me that we need to fight together as “We the people” to inject integrity into this country’s governing bodies. The lack thereof affects all of us to some degree. I’m fairly certain that you haven’t oppressed anybody, and you seem to have a good heart; it’s not to you to shoulder the burden of an entire ethnicity. Just continue to be a decent human being. Decent human beings inspire lasting change. I certainly appreciate you for that much.

    I recognize that I am:
    1. All over the place
    2. Bound to encounter some soul crushing typos in post production of the message
    3. A year late to this party

    • Hi! Thanks for joining the conversation–no worries about being a little late. 🙂

      I hear you about people of color being able to be “racist”, but it’s really only prejudice—people of color can’t be racist because you don’t have a social and governmental system on your side. Racism certainly affects white people negatively too, but in the sense that we miss out on having our communities thrive in a multiethnic setting and we miss out on the opportunity to learn from people of color. I don’t feel responsible for all white people, but I do feel responsible for the role I play, and I think I should. That responsibility is motivating for me to do work that challenges and stretches my community to better and healthier things.

      There’s a lot in your comment so I’m not totally sure where to start—I think I’ll leave it at that for now. If you have any more comments or responses, feel free to add. 🙂

      • ” … people of color can’t be racist …”

        That is pretty much politically correct double-talk. Anyone can be a racist, black or white. Racism is ultimately judging other people first on the color of their skin.

        “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

        I saw that speech live on a black and white TV, by the way. A person who is not a racist first looks to the content of another person’s character. Any person black or white who starts hating an individual because of the color of their skin first is a racist.

        “… don’t have a social and governmental system on your side.”

        Actually we have lots of the “governmental system” on the side of blacks, and a President who condemns police before he knows the facts as long as a black and a white policeman is involved. We have a Dept. of Justice that recently has tried to jump into a lot incidents on the side of blacks, e.g., in Ferguson.

        I would agree however to a certain point. We have a Democratic Party that is largely responsible for what we see today, and quite honestly, the real leaders of that party don’t have the least problem with blacks staying where they are for another century as long as they vote Democratic. Advancement of blacks into the middle class would be a disaster for the Democratic Party.

        “I do feel responsible for the role I play”

        I am sure you have good intentions, and want things to get better, but as long as are accepting guilt just because you are white, then you are a big part of the problem.

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