Choking in Seattle racial smog

March 14, 2014

Seattle smog

I am an angry white person in Seattle, having trouble breathing. Thick racist smog is in the air, choking life out of espoused ideals for equality. Diversity is a catch phrase for empty gestures. Justice is ridiculed by inaction and apathy. Racial smoke distorts truth and hides complicity.

A predominantly white basketball team hurls racist slurs at the winning team with darker skin. Cognitive dissonance. White is supposed to win. It gets ugly when it doesn’t.

News editors craft a headline about a community college: “Whites unwelcome at diversity ‘Happy Hour.” Their clouded vision fails to include documented stories of how people of color are often treated on a predominantly white campus. Valid reasons why they might want to talk to each other. Alone.

White has might. It determines how the story shall be framed.

The white racialized frame is too narrow for a headline that says, “White people threatened by people of color having private dialogue about their daily experiences of racism.” The Master is still fighting for total control. Every day. Inflicting great harm.

Where are the angry white voices calling out for authentic racial justice? Lost within the strident whining of white supremacy about reverse racism? Or simply silent.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. still ring true today. The silence creates a vacuum that continues to be filled with racist behaviors in our streets, schools, workplaces, churches, courts and government.

Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change (Audre Lorde in The Uses of Anger).

If you are white, I hope you are angry. Angry enough to take action to balance out the white chorus of ignorance that thickens the smog (207 mostly racist and hateful comments in response to the news article above). What letter can you write, what conversation can you have with other white people, what action can you challenge?

Good intentions are not enough. I have a wealth of good intentions.  They are a safe place in which to hide. Meanwhile, the racial smog builds. Breathing is threatened.

Anger has positive power when channeled effectively. We need more angry white people actively challenging the pervasive system of whiteness that is choking the life out of all of us.

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