Our good friend Brian Jefferson posted something on his MySpace Blog that meshed with some recent thoughts of mine. This is a slightly edited version of what I posted there in response, a few typos fixed.
I've been thinking about this a little bit, since the Obama speech a few weeks ago.
George Carlin said, about the end of slavery, "So we freed the slaves. But not so you'd really notice, just sort of on paper." A lot of people say that the end of slavery was a long time ago and we ought to put it behind us, but the problem was that it didn't just end. It changed into Jim Crow.
And that stayed with us long enough that it was only in 1967 that the Loving case overturned miscegenation laws - and they were still on the books in Alabama until 2000. And 40% of people voted to keep them!
So how about reparations for Jim Crow? There's *still* a *whole* bunch of people out there who got directly screwed by government policies of segregation. Anybody who had to a "separate but unequal" school, or wasn't allowed to vote, or couldn't get married to the person they loved, ought to be given an apology and a check. And if they're dead already, send their kids a check.
(And yes, that marriage thing means gays ought to be getting some apologies and some checks. And this ought to be the case for other government racism too. I know a Mohawk guy who got taken away from his parents and given to "a good white Christian couple". Both he and his birth parents ought to get a apology and a big pile of money from the government that came up with that one.)
But that's just the shit the government's done. That's (mostly) done with now, but racism didn't go away when segregation ended any more than segregation ended when slavery ended. A lot of white folks do seem to think that it did - and what's funny is that the people who tell you that racism isn't a problem any more, are often the same ones saying and doing racist shit.
It's like they think, "what's the problem with these lazy shiftless n*ggers, don't they know racism doesn't exist anymore? They should just get up and get a job already. I'm glad I don't work with people like that!" It'd be funny if it wasn't fucking up people's lives.
So, yeah. You've got a right to get a little pissed off. And hell, if you weren't, there'd be people accusing you of being an Uncle Tom. Just like a few months ago, Obama wasn't black enough, now suddenly he's some kind of black radical. It's ridiculous and I'm sorry you have to deal with it, you sure do a better job than I probably would.
On the other hand...
One thing I hear sometimes that sets my teeth on edge - and I think a lot of us crackers would agree - is people talking about "white privilege". (I don't hear it from you, of course, I'm just saying in general.) That sounds like somebody gives me something I didn't earn, because I'm the same color as the people in power.
I don't buy that. And I think it's counter-productive because it says to us regular white guys, "Hey, you've been getting this unfair, unearned privilege and now we're going to take it away." And we think, "WTF? Nobody gave me this, I worked for it. You're going to try to take away what I worked for myself? Bring it on!"
(Of course there are people who are privileged and didn't work for it, silver spoons up their ass and all. But that's different.)
Rather than "white privilege" I think maybe we need to think about the "non-white penalty". It's not that us white guys get unfair extra breaks, it's more that if you're not white, you get unfair extra shit, you get breaks taken away from you.
But there's enough breaks - enough Slack - to go around. Because giving Slack makes more Slack, and trying to steal other people's Slack burns up your own Slack...