Fellow White People: What Are You If You’re Not Antiracist?

I grew up White in a pretty comfortable suburban community of Levittown, PA in the 1970’s and 80’s. I never considered race. I never had to, because all around me, at school, at church, at the store, on the playground, at the pool, in the back yards, the mall, everywhere, there were only other White people like me.

I never thought about how we all shared a collective Whiteness, or that being White in America provided privilege. It was never something that I thought about growing up because my community was pretty effectively segregated. Oh sure, there were some Black families sprinkled here and there in the community, but not many.

Now, in 2020 as a grown man, it’s hard to look back and realize not only was I a privileged White child in a racially segregated America, but the racism that was all around me was largely invisible to me. If you’re White, you can’t see the racism that you breath in and out on a daily basis. You just don’t notice it.

For example, during my childhood, while playing in the neighborhood, we would often pick sides for games using a popular counting song:

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers, let him go
Eeny meeny miny mo

Thinking back, I recall that the word tiger was never actually part of that song as we sang it. It was the N-Word. Sung by privileged White children. While playing. In suburban Philadelphia, PA. In the 1970’s.

Black people and other people of color were somewhere else. One or two might be in school, or at church, but they were largely absent from my childhood. Unseen. Not even considered. I now know that I grew up in a racist society. I now know that American society is still quietly (and often not so quietly) racist. I believe that for many White people, racism may still be largely invisible because White Americans don’t usually live at the pointy end of the racist stick. It’s with some hope that I also believe that, in our hearts, most White people in America will probably agree that only terrible people want to be racist. The ones that don’t are, well, probably terrible people themselves.

So what do you do as a White person wrestling with the idea that you have lived a lifetime of racial privilege? Well, it’s actually simple in theory, you know, on an intellectual level. However, in practice, some may find the follow through hard. I know I have.

Here’s the simple theory as I understand it (many thanks to Ibram X Kendi):

Racism is not the product of bad people. Racism is instead the product of racist ideas and racist policies that increase or maintain racial inequity. Racist ideas are those that lead us to believe that people of different races are different on some fundamental level, and that these differences create a hierarchy of value. Racist policies are based on these racist ideas, and serve to increase racial inequity.

To combat racism, we must actively adopt antiracist ideas and support antiracist policies. Antiracist ideas are those that accept that there are no meaningful differences among different races, and that people of all races have equal value. Antiracist policies are based on antiracist ideas, and serve to increase racial equity.

Putting this theory into practice, however, is not going to be easy for many White people. I tell you this from first hand experience.

First, we must change our thinking and understand that there is no such thing as “not racist”. Racism has a logical opposite, and it isn’t an absence of racism. The opposite of racism is antiracism. Ignoring race, or pretending that there isn’t racism in society is inadequate. That path leads to more racism and racial inequity. No, to properly counter racist ideas and racist policies we must be actively antiracist. We must put ourselves in opposition to racism and support racial equity. Actively. Constantly.

Second, active opposition to racism begins with calling it out when we see it. It makes me uncomfortable to write this, but I think it’s important to note one difficulty White people will have with this. If you’re White, and you encounter racist ideas and policies, it’s most likely that these ideas and policies are being espoused and supported by other White people. Recall when I mentioned that White Americans don’t usually live at the pointy end of the racist stick? That’s because White people are most often the ones pointing that stick at Black people and other people of color. The people that benefit from racial inequity will be the ones holding that stick. They will be people that are close to you. They might be your colleagues at work, or your neighbors. These might be your parents, or your spouse. Your aunts or uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces or nephews, or friends. They’re people that you love and respect, and even though you know they can be racist at times, you tolerate it from them. Or let it slide. Or sit uncomfortably silent while they do their racism. You don’t hold them accountable.

To create an antiracist society, one in which there is no hierarchy of human value based on skin color, one in which we finally put down that pointy stick that White people have carried for so long, we must both adopt antiracist ideas and support antiracist policies. In addition, we must call out racism when we see it, even if we see it in our loved ones (maybe especially if we see it in our loved ones).

So fellow White people, since the only options are to be racist or to be antiracist, what are you going to be?

Your Beliefs About Global Warming Are Still Irrelevant

Note – I originally posted this back on January 29, 2007 in response to a letter in our local paper. I find it interesting that some of the points I made way back then are still relevant today. I have added some footnotes, since I wanted to both edit the original text, and keep this as close to the original post as possible.

Original Title: Your Beliefs About Global Warming Are Irrelevant

This letter appeared in today’s Mobile Press-Register, and it raises a few questions about the science and politics behind the so-called global warming “debate”. I’ll present it in it’s entirety, and will then address some specific issues.

Global warming claim a ‘hoodwink’

Nancy Pelosi, in addition to being speaker of the House, has apparently become a climate change expert. Her proclamation that global warming is an undeniable fact is bold, authoritative and for the most part correct, except that human activity cannot be proven to be its cause.

Continue reading “Your Beliefs About Global Warming Are Still Irrelevant”

Unemployment Sucks

This is my first real post on my newest blog.  I used to write on michael-peacock.com and on a few other blogs, but work became pretty demanding and I didn’t feel quite like making the time to sit in front of a computer and write in my spare time. That’s probably because I spent much of my workdays in front of the very same computers that I would blog on. You can do that when you telecommute, FYI.

All that ended last October when, after more than 15 years with the same employer, they decided that my services were no longer required, so I was “separated” from my position.  That’s the word they use now. Not fired, nor let go, nor laid off. If your position costs too much, your employer may decide that a separation is in order. One might not often see comparisons to a shaky marriage in a relationship between an employer and employee, but when that relationship ends, some of the parallels come into stark relief.

So what’s an unemployed IT geek to do? Find a new job is still number 1 on the to-do list, though I am not going to hold my breath on that score. Yesterday marked my 4 month anniversary of not working, and while it was nice for the first couple weeks, it stopped feeling like a vacation months ago. I know I’m not alone, and there are folks out there who have had it much worse than I have. I salute you all.

I found this list of reasons why unemployment sucks, and I have experienced many of them already. While I don’t want to experience all of those items, I think one thing I can do as an unemployed geek is go back to writing. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads this. This is my blog, and it’s going to be part of my strategy for coping with being unemployed.