Some friends recently posted comments on Facebook that they don’t hate Black people (or words to that effect). My first thought was: “The political positions that offend you and the memes you share tell a different story.” Upon reflection, I realized that these people honestly believe that they aren’t racist. I’m beginning to understand that for many of them, their feelings may be based on white resentment—a resentment they may not even be aware they harbor.
Carol Anderson’s recent opinion piece in The New York Times: “The Policies of White Resentment,” explains much of this mindset. She wrote:
“If there is one consistent thread through Mr. Trump’s political career, it is his overt connection to white resentment and white nationalism. Mr. Trump’s fixation on Barack Obama’s birth certificate gave him the white nationalist street cred that… has sustained him in office — no amount of scandal or evidence of incompetence will undermine his followers’ belief that he, and he alone, could Make America White Again.”
Ms. Anderson went on:
“The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage… White resentment has long thrived on the fantasy of being under siege and having to fight back…” and “…to justify the policies that thwart the upward mobility and success of people of color.”
Demonstrations of white nationalism in Charlottesville, VA and the resulting protests provide evidence of what can happen when this previously-contained white rage erupts in America’s cities.
I’ve always been a supporter of diversity in the broadest sense of the word. Not because it makes me feel noble, but because it adds layers of color (no pun intended) to my existence. My life is so much richer because of my gay friends, my friends of color and of a variety of ethnicities and religions. You can get a measure of this by scrolling through the faces and names of my Facebook connections (but please don’t).
Out of curiosity, I did a count of how many of my FB human connections are people of color. It’s about 14 percent. Based on the latest census information, that figure should be 25 percent. This tells me that even with my appreciation of diversity, I have room to grow my circle of friends to be more reflective of the rest of our country. I’m certainly not going to set racial quotas for my Facebook friends. But I will pay more attention to how enthusiastically I reach out to people of color as I meet them in my daily activities.
I challenge anyone reading this to similarly take account of the diversity of his or her own connections. You may be surprised to uncover a hidden racial bias in your life. How you react to that knowledge is up to you. But if you choose not to take account of your own biases, don’t act so surprised when you’re called out as a racist.
The truth is: we all can do better. And if we don’t want more Charlottesvilles, we should.