The Concern With Modern White Liberalism
One disturbing aspect that has surfaced amidst the public response to the recent events of Mike Brown and Eric Garner has been the lack of perspective among seemingly liberal white people. My Facebook feed is a racial smorgasbord of articles, videos and personal posts. But the meat and potatoes of each entry is the comment section… Oh the comments!! Watching CNN and MSNBC is not nearly as entertaining or informative as reading Random Randy from Pittsburgh or Susie Homemaker from Lake Tahoe give their two cents. Here is where you really get a glimpse of race relations in America (or lack thereof). I would argue that most people of color aren’t alarmed (or at this point even disturbed) by the amount of vitriol spewed online. Accounts of prejudice are almost to be expected from strangers. I mean, they probably live on some farm in the middle of nowhere and the only interaction they have with black people are the characters on their TV screens… right?? But over the past few weeks that prejudice has been hitting closer to home. Warnings of “unfriending” have been issued by friends to anyone with insensitive rants on their timeline. In a previous article I touched briefly on the danger and disillusionment of prematurely accepting the notion of a post-racial society. Namely because in doing so we address only the conscious symptoms of our preconceptions and we glaze over the crevasses where hatred and bigotry live. This is how statements such as; “Mike Brown was a thug”; “Eric Garner was overweight and resisting arrest”; “It’s time to move past this”; continue to slip into the national dialogue. However, these statements aren’t coming from the far right or racist publications but rather liberals who claim to have moderate views. I have to admit that trying to place this in the proper context has been extremely difficult. But a long night of Netflix documentaries and pizza brought about some clarity. Consider that during slavery there were politicians who fought for the abolition of slavery, but who never intended to grant these newly freed people the right to vote (or women for that matter). At the time their beliefs were “radical.” But now? It’s almost unconscionable to consider a world where any group of people could be disenfranchised their constitutional right. Imagine the Civil Rights Movement. Visions of mobs of angry whites hurling rocks and obscenities at young African American children attempting to integrate schools come to mind. But move past those boisterous characters in the crowd, focus on the casual bystanders. Those persons that don’t subscribe to violence. (They also aren’t preventing it.) They don’t consider themselves racists. After all, they aren’t burning any crosses or peppering their speech with intermittent “N-words.” Feelings of “I don’t mind ’em having an education, even a good one. But, wouldn’t it be better for Blacks to be among their own?” wouldn’t have been considered as being racist then. In fact, compared to some, it might even be revolutionary. The evolution of our perspectives over time tells a story of not only how far we’ve come, but also how stagnant (or primitive) we once were. As I continue to engage with white people over the issues of race, quite honestly sometimes in bewilderment of their dogma, I ask myself, “which white person in history would you have been?” Slave master? Disgruntled mob attendee? Casual activist? The challenge must be to extend your liberalism to uncomfortable depths that not only speak to today’s crises, but stand the test of time for equality in future generations. Otherwise, as you continue to place distance between the outmoded thinking of your parents and their parents, so too may your children do the same of you.