Giving Up “Whiteness”

Not long ago I watched a short clip on Twitter of a black man pleading for white people to give up their “whiteness.” To illustrate, he said that as much as he tried, he couldn’t understand the daily struggles his wife goes through as a woman, and white people can’t understand what he goes through as a black man.

So far, I’m with him. I get it.

But then he said that what white people needed to do for the black community was give up their “whiteness.” He said he didn’t mean they should give up blue eyes and blonde hair, but they should give up the power they possess as white people.

Now I’m lost.

He never defined exactly how white people should go about giving up whiteness, but he seemed certain that if we would just give black people more power (however he defines that), then the condition of black people would improve.

Here’s the thing: Slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, and all the other horrible things this country did in order to subjugate the black community were initiated and implemented by white people. But it was also white people who corrected those wrongs. It was white people who passed civil rights legislation, gave us Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, enacted affirmative action policies, and ensured that those acts were enforced. So, white people have been giving power to black people for decades in various ways. And let’s not forget the Great Society programs that a white president, Lyndon Johnson, created to pull the black community out of poverty. The welfare support many in the black community receive today comes from the accumulation of taxes paid by white citizens (and others) from coast to coast.

I know, I know. The previous paragraph reads like the preface to a white supremacist brochure. But there is no racism in that paragraph, only facts. If a black man claims that white people should give up more whiteness, it is only fair to recount the power that has already been given to the black community by white people.

But the question remains: What is meant by giving up “whiteness”? Well, I don’t really know. But I know this: There are millions of white people who have no power to surrender to the black community. The white people who live in the Appalachian Mountains have no power. Elderly white people in nursing homes are powerless. White teenage single moms notice little power in their lives. And so on. “White power” does not exist, which is something both white supremacists and black activists need to know.

Power in our society is not black or white–it’s green. It’s money. The more of it one has, the more freedom one has. When a black person recognizes that and does the moral and ethical things needed to earn more money, he or she will have no need to expect power to come from another segment of society.

Hand wringing does not create financial independence. “The Blame Game” does not lift someone out of poverty. Pitting races against one another does nothing but breed resentment. We cannot move forward as a society until we stop thinking that one group is responsible for the success of another group. “I am responsible for me” should be the mantra of every American.

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