White supremacy, not just the KKK or Nazis, is a power structure that is harmful to us all. It demeans people of color and deprives them of education, voting rights, employment, and many opportunities. This system is enforced by financial, political, judicial, and social norms, legal and illegal. It has been endemic, persistent, and pervasive in all aspects of our lives since 1492. This cloud hangs over people of color 24/7, every day of every year.
This poison harms white people morally, spiritually, and emotionally, from not following Jesus’ teachings, and erodes self-esteem, consciously or unconsciously, with guilt and hypocrisy from avoiding the recognition of the unearned “white privilege.” It isolates us and deprives us of the rich and open communication with our sisters and brothers of color.
So it is the structure of white supremacy that “poisons the water,” causing interracial anxiety and hostility. It may be more constructive to speak less of racism and more about this power structure. “Racist” is a label that judges people and is not conducive to dialogue and problem solving.
Historic progress has been made through legislation to weaken white supremacy, but laws can only do so much. We have preferential arrests of black people who possess marijuana, and other law enforcement actions that target blacks over whites, resulting in their mass incarceration.
People of color often have to be much better at what they do than whites to get jobs and promotions, and have twice as good a credit score to get a loan. To be a black president, you have to be very mild mannered, easy going, have a model family, and no hint of corruption in your administration. John’s and Mary’s applications get attention first, and Shamika’s and Tyrone’s resumes get shoved to the bottom of the pile, (with no identification of race). These are a few of the ways legal discrimination occurs. Also, since it is “who you know” that gets you positions and opportunities, the blacks and the low income whites are often left “out of the loop.”
We could ease the burden of both black and white working class people by curtailing off shoring, limiting automation, making trading practices fairer, and requiring re-training of laid-off workers. If working class blacks and whites will unite against the wealthy corporations that oppress them both, instead of opposing each other, all will gain.
We need facilitated workshops for people who genuinely want to air their frustrations and listen to others about racial issues in a safe environment. We need more assistance to people of low income for better access to better jobs, education, housing, and massive workforce re-training, to partly compensate for the “out of the loop” restricted access to these opportunities. Maybe we could levy a special “de-facto” discrimination tax on large corporations, banks, lenders, and real estate firms to pay for this.
Personally, we can remember to speak respectfully and politely to people of color, and we can refuse to collude with other whites’ slurs, smirks, eye-rolls, and derogatory remarks about people of color.
We all need to work together on this.
David G. Schwartz
Editor’s Note: This has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the March 29th issue of the Central Virginian.