Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

When Will White People Quit Waffling?

         When I first read about “Obama Waffles” being sold at the Family Research Council Values Voters Summit, my honest reaction was that it wasn’t real. The confusion about the reality of white power being flashed proudly at a Republican conference as well as the belief that racism no longer exists shows how deeply entrenched I am in racial smog. It is useless to paint a story about a few individual racists, while claiming that I am a good white person writing about this bigoted act. Authentically I wanted to separate myself from the Christian Right, Bob DeMoss and Mark Whitlock who created this product as well every person that supported it in silence or out loud. Then I let my heart lead rather than being trapped by my mind. I felt disappointed, embarrassed and angry. Joe Barndt in his book, Understanding and Dismantling Racism, states that, “Every system and every institution in the United States was created originally and structured legally and intentionally to serve white people exclusively,” (p. 93) I look back to the media’s outrage at Reverend Wright’s sermon, when he was quoted to say, that the U.S is under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan. The media’s reaction reflects the loss of critical thinking within white culture. Reverend Wright shows us white folks through example, that people of color have no choice but to confront the silence of white power. One does not need to look further than Santa Cruz, CA to see the truth of Rev. Wright’s statement. KCBS reported July 10th, 2008 that two white men had been found distributing fliers asking white people to join the KKK to preserve the “white Christian civilization.” The County Sheriff’s officials did not arrest these men because they were not “breaking any laws,” and were in fact found that same night distributing more fliers. The lack of accountability of these KKK members by County Sheriff officials shows us plainly how white power operates to keep white power in place. The media outrage at the promotion of “Obama Waffles” still to this day being sold online, is completely void.

 

        It became evermore clear that it is essential for us white folks to open our eyes to the way white power operates in the U.S. Joe Barndt states that, “while white power is supposedly no longer approved or openly supported by law, it continues to not only exits, but to thrive. The evidence being, the U.S. Congress and our state legislatures are still mostly white. The CEO’s and boards of directors of most of our major corporations are still mostly white. The presidents and faculties of most of our universities are still mostly white. And even far worse, the underlying mission, purpose, values structure and culture of most of these institutional structures are still defined in the same terms as they were when they were legally serving only white people,”(p. 94).

 

 

        Although it is easy for liberal white folks like me to simply point the finger at conservative white folks, it is essential that we take this opportunity to look at the larger system of white power without getting immobilized by guilt or shame. Barndt points to the years 1492 to 1865, to see the two fundamental assumptions that were the building blocks of white power. The first assumption is that, “white people were the only humans. We were civilized. We had souls. We were Christian. We were in charge. And all the land and resources belonged to us….” (p. 92). In contrast, “people of color were not considered human.” Native Americans and African Americans were both legally considered to have no souls, no human rights had no rights, therefore justifying slavery and genocide. As a way to enforce white power and reinforce the non-humanness of Africans Americans during slavery and afterwards, white people depicted African Americans through caricatures. White folks bought Aunt Jemima syrup bottles, depicting a black woman who is jolly, passive and content to be a servant to a white family. These caricatures of black people were meant to keep white folks believing that white was superior and to reinforce that African Americans were non-human. “Obama Waffles” instills the same message that white is superior, where as people of color are inferior.

 

         The question that I am grappling with is how can we as a white culture begin to heal this legacy of white power without merely blaming a few white folks for their individual racism? How has this legacy of denying humanity to people of color hurt us white folks? I experience a sense of separation on the daily with white folks, as we operate in a culture of individualism. I experience isolation from friends, room mates, and family from our collective present inability to perceive how institutions here in progressive Santa Cruz , California are operating to exclusively serve us white folks. The privilege of being able to not think critically about the implications of holding Santa Cruz KKK members accountable, nor the creators and buyers of “Obama Waffles,” severs my ability to experience close relationships with people of color. The desire to blame a small group of white folks for their racism, only perpetuates white power. The false sense of perfectionism within white culture that has me trying to find the perfect words to inspire my white friends, roommates and family to open our eyes and our mouths; to begin dialoguing through the smog, through the hurt and collective loss of humanity.

 

 

 

 

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