Hopefully this post is not the pain meds speaking. I had my rotator cuff repaired yesterday. The pain’s not bad, but I’m taking a low dose of meds as a cautionary measure.
After reading yesterday about the umpteenth racial incident making national news in the last year, the “Napa Valley wine train eviction,” I started wondering (again) why the incidents just keep on coming. It seems that there’s been zero change in the collective behavior of white America.
Why is that?
My crazy construct for understanding this: White Americans can be placed into four categories, with the potential for movement from one category to another.
1. Supremacists: Whites who are overtly racist and see themselves as members of a superior race.
2. Subliminal Racists: Whites who engage in racist acts and think in racist terms, but don’t recognize the racist nature of their acts and thoughts. This group, unlike the first, would condemn outright racist actions, but might seize on specious logic to explain away or justify those actions.
3. Dreamers. I’m borrowing from Ta-Nehisi Coates here. This is the group that are not racist in their conduct, but don’t recognize that they, as members of white society, have benefitted from white privilege (at the expense of blacks). Dreamers are the group most critical to real progress.
4. Strugglers. These are the so-called “guilty whites,” the ones who recognize the extent of the wrongs committed over four centuries and struggle with what needs to change to get to the right place.
To understand the reaction of white America to the non-stop news of racist incidents over the past year, it’s helpful to consider the impact on each of the four groups.
The Supremacists are unmoved, or perhaps even moved in the wrong direction.
The Subliminal Racists are barely moved, if at all. An example of a Subliminal Racist reaction was that of Joe Scarborough to the failure to indict Wilson for the slaying of Michael Brown. when he explained it on the basis of Brown being a “thug.” Indeed, the use of the term “thug” in this context is characteristic of a Subliminal Racist. Nonetheless, the awareness Subliminal Racists have of the extent of the race problem America faces has moved in the right direction.
The Dreamers either are unmoved, or they’ve become Strugglers. An example of unmoved Dreamers would be the supposed progressives who are annoyed by the disruptions orchestrated by the BLM activists.
The worldview of Strugglers has solidified. They’re acting and speaking out far more now.
With that as background, it makes sense that the incidents have continued over the past year. Is there hope? In the long-term, I think so. The Supremacists largely won’t change, but they will die over time. They do tend to be more concentrated in the older generations.
The ultimate challenge will be to convert Dreamers into Strugglers and to guard against the conversion of Strugglers to Dreamers in times of perceived quiet. After all, being a Dreamer is the most attractive place emotionally of the four groups. Dreamers won’t stand in the way of lasting progress, but they won’t cause it to happen either.
But Black America can’t wait, and hope, for White America to get it right in the long-term. In the short-term, changes must be forced, by whatever means available. Here, the challenge is different. It’s not a matter of growing the ranks of Strugglers, it’s about forcing the Subliminal Racists to stand down while artificial yet necessary mechanisms are implemented to provide for the safety of Black America. Which means it was not logical for me to be surprised the incidents have continued. They’ll need to be stopped by force, and that force has yet to be applied.