Tuesday, August 5, 2008

There is Something Black People Don't Really Know About White People

There is something black people don’t really know about us white people…

There is no white community.

“What” you say. “I know plenty of places, organizations, events, activities, that are nearly all white, how much more white can a community be? In fact this country works on a foundation of whiteness, how can you say there is no white community!?

Sorry, there just isn’t a “white” community.
With the small exceptions of the lunatic fringes, we white people don’t relate to other whites on the basis of skin color. I once spent over a year living in an all black place doing nothing but going around and talking to nothing but black people all day. Even in this environment, when I would chance upon a stray white person, nothing inside me yearned for them or assumed I had anything remotely in common with that person. Now this is not because I had lost my identity (my whiteness was constantly pointed out), but I just never identified myself, or any other white person by their color.

Now many may argue with me or recite theory on “white privilege”, but this is classroom knowledge not common or practical knowledge. Try this: ask five white people to pick five words that best describe themselves. I have done it more than five, much more, and not once has “white” made the list. All but a few black people I have asked to do the same thing have listed the word “black” somewhere near the top.

This difference makes sense in that any minority group has some shared experience in whatever it is that makes them a minority, but white people are not a minority. Now some may identify with things that are associated with whiteness, as in: Irish, German, polo player, etc. but this does not mean skin color has registered at all in their own mind.

I say this to enable communication and interpretation across racial lines.

Black people as a whole, assume some similarity, at least in how others treat them, with other black people. A black person should not assume that a white person relates to another person on whiteness, and when referring to the white community, be assured that the white person in question will balk, or simply assume you are wrong.

This is part of what is at the root of white people’s defensiveness when whites are accused of racism. They are forced into considering their race as a whole, for which they have no experience, and will harp on how they do not fit into whatever generalization has just been made, thus side tracking from the original topic.

If you wish to communicate, explain, or even accuse, try breaking down your comments in the same way the white people themselves divide themselves, i.e.: rural Southern men, cowboys, NYC investment bankers, country music fans, hippies, yuppies, surfers, democrats, republicans, or Catholics.

Try using any one of these definers and you may be amazed at how much more constructive or honest your interactions will be.


Corbie said...

I actually agree with this notion and I think it is a byproduct of being in the majority. When you are in a majority, you are free to self-categorize around things other than your majority-status. If I were a black person, I believe I would, without a doubt, categorize myself as 'black' on my top five list. As a white woman, female comes to mind much quicker than 'white', as does country music fan...which may sound silly to a black person that I would categorize myself as a country music fan before skin color. White would be quite seriously dozens of descriptions down the list for me. I suppose there is some benefit to this in that I can spend less time focusing on skin color (or at the very least, my own skin color) and more time focusing on things that I believe are more important. In no way do I mean to insinuate that black people should think this same way...as stated above I think that if I were black I would undoubtedly associate as such before my preference in music as I believe this kind of association is a byproduct of years of struggle and persecution. It becomes a shared and very important history and affiliation amongst black people (in my opinion - a white woman raised in white Utah so people with a better understanding of this are free to disagree).

Anonymous said...

I (and most black people I know) agree, there is nothing called the 'white community'. It's usually referred to as 'American' or 'mainstream'.

tristanjh said...

I agree with everything except the last part. Unless you use a qualifier such as 'in my experience' or among the ____________(insert group here) that I have known' then you are still making generalizations that will not be true of the whole group. Not cool, dude.

John Doe said...

There is a white community. When a certain area reaches a critical mass of minority residents, mostly blacks, whites leave. Most suburban whites live in all white neighborhoods and gravitate to other whites, they just don't think about it.

As more and more immigrant groups come here whites will either for a more racial community or be displaced.

brohammas said...

As I said in the post, while there are many areas or organizations that are all white, the mas of white people do not relate too, or organize around, their whiteness.
White flight is an example of white people's response to minorities, not the proaactivity of white groups.

If white people had been a more defined community, white flight would not have happened (be happening). They would have been able to keep the minorities out in the first place. This wa not the case. White people did not stick together out of some affinity for each other, they left because of their LACK of affinty toward minorities.

Anonymous said...

Of course you don't think there is a "white community"...you are never identified first as white or otherwise because you and your colour are of the mainstream.

When those in the media or, for that matter, the lady next to me in the grocery sees me, the first thing she can say about me, to describe me is 'she was a BLACK person". A white person's hair colour is more readily identifiable that their skin colour.

To blame black people for wanting to be around others similar to them is ridiculous. As the earlier post mentioned, white flight was not because white people were just dying to move from their homes, they made a conscious decision not to be around others who were dissimilar, i.e. of a DIFFERENT COLOUR.

Please remember black people were not the first to make a distinction between races, we were the ones who were classed a different set/type of people. Segregation was not a black idea!

Beleive it or not, I know I am black and it's not the first thing I think about each day but I am definitely made to feel "black" when I step out my front door.

Phila said...

Good post.

OneBrownSnowPea said...

So White folks stick together not because they like each other but because they don't want to be around minorities.

So doesn't that mean they only want to be around other white people anyway?