toronto star desmond cole

We Need to Talk About Whitey

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There’s no good way to write a piece like this, especially in today’s world of awareness, where a small group of white people have decided that being white is the same as being evil, and being male is the equivalent of, well, also being evil.

Add to that the fact that I’m not gay and you have the Luciferian trifecta of being a horrible person.

This combination – white, male, straight – is currently the enemy of self-righteous preachers in the modern realm of social justice. There was a time not too long ago where repugnant men on the right, guys like Rush Limbaugh, would cry incessantly about it being open season on white men. These complaints always seemed so pathetic to me, mostly because I didn’t notice any unfairness towards whites, and partly because I knew white people had run things for so long that any complaints of injustice seemed misguided.

I’m 39 years old, and I have never felt the need or inclination to defend myself for being white. It just seems like such a bizarre thing to do. I don’t really have pride in my whiteness, but, much to the dismay of many of my peers, I don’t have any white guilt either. I do not identify with pieces of shit that enslave, marginalize and oppress people of colour, other than we share the same skin tone. At the same time I’m competent enough to know that I could not possibly identify with non-whites and their experiences in this world. After all, the world is a very complex place. I understand how the oppression of people of colour is the counterweight to the privilege white people enjoy, and I am fully aware of the imbalance North America still fosters after hundreds of years under this system. I won’t pretend to know all of the answers as to how to correct this injustice, but I think I have discovered a tragic reality that has fostered the prolonging of this white supremacist system. Namely, the white people who have spoken out most forcefully about racial inequality are the very people who guarantee its survival.

I have a young son. He’s still too young to understand the nuances surrounding race. Hell, he doesn’t even talk yet. Lately I’ve been thinking how lucky he is not being able to speak, because it won’t be too long before random people, mostly bitter activists, and mostly white, will be badgering him, asking him to stop mansplaining or whitesplaining. He will soon learn that there are large contingents of people out there who will want him to know his place, and that if he can’t parrot their talking points and self-admonishing postures, he should just shut up.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Tea Party of the left has emerged, and they have taken the form of the verbally abusive, incredibly judgmental know-it-alls who have collectively decided that racism is bad, but blanketing one particular race with unadulterated hatred is acceptable, expected, excused and justified. White people who live in a white supremacist society have two choices; be an ally in the army of self-loathing peckerwoods, or be an enemy of progress.

I know, you think I sound like Rush Limbaugh. Hey, I get it. Not too long ago if I read what I just wrote I would have said the same thing. But then something happened. I began to notice a widespread trend of openly calling out white people simply for being white. These days, calling someone ‘white’ is an insult on par with calling them a dickhead, an ignorant piece of shit, or just plain evil, especially in the world of the young, hip bloggers and commentators who fill up our newsfeeds and inboxes with the latest trends in social justice.

Recently, a fairly well known editor and media personality tweeted that she was looking for writers to pitch her web site some stories. She mentioned how she was specifically looking for ethnic writers, an understandable request given the complexion of writers in Canada being a pretty pale shade overall. But then, inexplicably, just after she communicated what she was looking for, she felt the need to point her finger specifically at who she wasn’t looking for. Namely, white men. She just said it. She went on, after getting a little bit of heat, to compare white men to demons and then suggested that white men be placed in the garbage.

This female editor was threatened with rape and murder after tweeting those ignorant tweets. This is obviously an overreaction, a criminal one at that, and should be admonished in the strongest terms possible. Nobody deserves to be threatened with rape and murder after saying stupid things. Unfortunately, many people failed to see the stupidity in her words. Worse, many people said that by comparing white men to demons, what she was really doing was trying to uplift non whites, which is about as logical as me wanting to uplift lesbians by calling gay men ‘faggots.’ Yes, it’s that stupid. And finally, the white saviors amassed, telling anybody who criticized this editor that by doing so you were co-signing the death threats made against her. Yay social justice!

Even more recently, a co-founder of Toronto’s Black Lives Matter Movement tweeted the following: “Plz Allah, give me the strength not to cuss/kill these men and white folks out here today.” Predictably, the media overreacted, devoting more segments to this person’s tweet than they had to many of the stories revolving around police antics against black people in the city. But one other thing struck me; many activists, black and white, did not see any problem with making a public statement about killing a group of people who all had the same skin colour. There is no room for debate on this point – that because we live in a white supremacist system, this means it is acceptable to openly muse about killing white people. Their logic is that only one race rules, therefore that ruling race is available to be a target of hate speech. Only, it isn’t hate speech because white people run things. Make sense?

So what is a white guy who has never held racist ideas but still wants to support his family supposed to do when the industry he is trying to find work in is telling the world not to hire him? Am I supposed to fall on my sword? Furthermore, what am I supposed to think when an activist, who is part of an organization I support and respect, makes it clear that my skin tone makes me an acceptable target of violent hate speech? Is it vengeance against white supremacy? Is this all part of the complexities of social justice? Should we be organizing lynchings against white folks at The Drake? Will these white folks merely volunteer their heads be placed in a noose as a way of doing their part? Look, I don’t know how to quantify what white guilt is, and I know I’ve had it a lot better than most non whites, but I can’t reconcile the self loathing required to champion a hypocrisy of morals. I can’t get to a place where I nod politely whenever I am lumped in with the people who enable my privilege.

And I don’t like speaking like this. I hate it, in fact. I’ve been told countless times by white people who “get it” that all I have to do is understand that white people have had it good for a long time, and I should align myself with people who openly disparage white people because of my white privilege. My privilege, which I know exists by the way, apparently isn’t potent enough to spare me from having to hear about how my skin colour makes me disposable, why my opinion is no longer needed, and why my appearance sometimes disqualifies me from applying for work in my field. I suppose that when a straight, white male speaks the world believes he is speaking for all straight, white males. I don’t know about you, but I had always believed no race or gender was monolithic. Apparently, there is an exception to that rule, and I guess to many people that exception is grounded in status. I profoundly disagree.

I sometimes wonder if the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of decency and liberalism will grow out of this phase where progress is not just measured through new opportunities for minorities, but also through the hyperbolic discourse levied at the exact demographic you will need to help facilitate real change. It shouldn’t be controversial to point out that if there is to be a shift in privilege in North America, the keepers of that privilege are going to have to be a part of that shift. Personally, I would love to be on the front lines working towards an egalitarian system where nobody is left behind based on their heritage and skin colour. The problem is I’m not welcome at that table unless I conform to a belief system I find self-deprecating and the exact antithesis of what I want to instill in my son.

White people who want to help create this shift are everywhere, by the way; but we are feeling intimidated. And it isn’t non-whites who are intimidating us; it’s other white people. The frantic, over eager, self-hating honkies that agree with everything a person of colour says might sound dope, but a good ally they do not make. Trust me, these douche bags are the most annoying white people…to other white people. They are cowardly, bearded hipsters who the rest of us will never, ever follow. Sure, you think they got your back, but you could tell them almost anything and they’d just nod with a furrowed brow, their stuttering blinks tipping you off that they don’t know shit. Worse, they are probably wearing a Public Enemy t-shirt with penny loafers.

But don’t worry; you are right to mock them when they’re not around (we both know you sometimes do, it’s all good), despite their semi-endearing qualities. But at the end of the day my non-white brothers and sisters, you had first pick in dodge ball and you ended up taking the fat kid. Don’t get me wrong, they mean well, but they are a bad combination of being incredibly shallow thinkers and fierce ideologues. They have managed to create a debate killing, Orwellian paradox, claiming to be for freedom while snuffing out free speech. Yes, rabid right-wingers have the exact same complaints about these white guardians of the left, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong, it just means the right are motivated by something other than progress. Free speech, which these same white lefties will cite whenever they defend systems like the Boycott/Divest/Sanctions movement, is not dependent on ideology or opinion. Aligning with the prototypical white activists, especially the commentators and online vigilantes, guarantees a longer incrementalization process for achieving true equality. White activists engage in relentless browbeating, and the condescending style they use to explain why Caucasoid people need reprogramming will never work if the goal is racial harmony. You can be right about all the main issues, ancillary issues, or even have a multi-generational demand for racial reparations…all that is great. But real progress is currently being bogged down by the relentless pursuit of other people’s moral infractions, executed by a group of self appointed white saviors, infecting social networks and weakening the very fabric of mainstream political discourse.

Toronto Star columnist Desmond Cole called me a racist the other day. I shrugged. Not because I agree with him, but because that label is tossed around so arbitrarily these days that I couldn’t summon up the energy to actually get upset. If that isn’t a sign of ineffective activism, then I must be as oblivious as the activists I criticize.