Sunday, April 5, 2020

White Folk: You Must Own This!


by Sylvester Brown, Jr.
April 5, 2020

I’m sorry. I feel compelled to write this: White folk, this is on you. And I pray you realize it. I hope that now that some of you or ones you know and love are sick or dying; now that incompetence is on public display; now that the whole country faces an economic collapse, I hope you see the folly of your ways. I hope you understand that racism, like a double-edged sword, can kill the victim and wound the aggressor at the same time. I hope you realize that you have squandered your great power, traded your core principles, mainly, because of your race-based biases and fears.
According to data from CNN’s Edison 2016 national election poll, white voters, who made up 69% of the total, voted 58% for Donald Trump in 2016. White men opted 63% for Trump while 53% of white women gave him their vote.


I hope you understand that racism, like a double-edged sword, can kill the victim and wound the aggressor at the same time

Please, don’t allow your insecurities to let you disregard this message.  Don’t write me off as just some kind of Farrakhan wannabe who you assume hates all whites. I don’t. Your myths, your movies, your religions have shaped me, molded me, influenced me. I know it sounds trite, but I have many white friends and supporters. I was married to a white woman and we have two children. I like to think that most know and trust my intentions. It’s largely because of them that I find the courage to write this. They understand that I’m not including them in this piece. I’m addressing whites who put Trump in office.

 I know it sounds trite, but I have many white friends and supporters.... It’s largely because of them that I find the courage to write this. 

Therefore, whites need to own this! Because many of you simply hated the idea that a black man was elected president 12 years ago, you catered to your baser instincts and anxieties. You spent all those years bashing, ridiculing, stereotyping and demeaning this man, his wife and children even though they were the epitome of intelligence, dignity, class and “American Family” values.
Because of your disdain for Obama, many of you voted for someone you knew wasn’t qualified to lead this country. And you can’t place all the blame on your barely educated, low-income, white supremacists, confederate flag-waving brothers and sisters either. According to data from the CNN/Edison poll, one in three of white Americans who earn more than $50,000 annually backed Trump. Also, of white male college graduates, 54% voted for Trump, as did 45% of white female college graduates. Of white voters between the ages of 18-to-29, 48% voted for Trump.
So, it was older, younger, upper, middle and lower-class whites who placed Trump in the White House. It was doctors, lawyers, teachers, judges, cops, farmers and factory workers. All of you backed someone you knew the Ku Klux Klan also supported. Before you stepped into that voting booth, you knew this candidate was a liar, a womanizer, a cheater and a man whose business reputation was built on fabrications and falsehoods. But you didn’t care. He wasn’t Obama; he wasn’t black. He called Mexicans “rapists and murderers.” And that’s what mattered most to you.
I hope now you see that you’ve been victimized. Before Obama or Trump even sought the presidency, some very savvy, very unscrupulous people recognized that you were ripe for plundering. They created a news network backed by a powerful alternative media force. Like Hitler’s main man, Joseph Goebbels, CEO of Fox, Roger Ailes, created an all-powerful propaganda machine aimed at legitimizing your fears, prejudices, woes and downright wacky ideas. The network validated you, codified you, made you feel that someone cared about you-the ignored, the maligned and the underserved majority.

He wasn’t Obama; he wasn’t black. He called Mexicans “rapists and murderers.” And that’s what mattered most to you.

You were unknowingly programmed to elect someone who reflected and echoed your ideas and feelings. He wasn’t that smart, but neither are you. But he made it OK to be snarky and uninformed. In fact, he made it cool to ignore, malign or mistrust facts, science, common sense and anyone deemed “too educated.”
White folk who aren’t necessarily “racist” but tolerate racial inequities and oppression are at fault. Those who sincerely believe, as polls have shown, that whites are the new victims of racism also shoulder the blame. The whole country is paying a huge price for your toxic misconceptions. 

He made it cool to ignore, malign or mistrust facts, science, common sense and anyone deemed “too educated."

Oh, and black folk, don’t you get too comfortable. There’s a small pack of you complicit in this mess. I’m talking about the Candice Owens, the Diamond & Silks, pastors like Darrell Scott and all those blacks promoting the illusion of Trump as “our savior.” You’re also to blame but only partially. For you are just a product of generational conditioning. Like the twisted house slave Stephen, in Django Unchained, you uphold the shameful legacy of being tethered to the oppressor. I get it.  You want to eat and live comfortably; you want media attention and the rewards that come with siding with the rich, the powerful and the almighty.


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I know it’s hard to admit when we’ve made mistakes. It’s a human thing. But, it’s also OK. The world will not end if we confront the folly of our ways.
But the world, as we’ve known it, just might, if we don’t. 

Like the twisted house slave Stephen, in Django Unchained, you uphold the shameful legacy of being tethered to the oppressor. 

Isn’t it way past time to stop covering up and enabling someone who’s invited foreign countries to meddle in our elections; who’s placed children in cages; spat on the Constitution; placed the accumulation of wealth over the well-being of people; whose foolish decisions and public denials has contributed to the loss of American lives…seriously, isn’t it time to just say “enough?”  
Trump is not responsible for this pandemic. He should, however, be held accountable for his failure to respond immediately and efficiently. We now know that in 2018, when his administration fired the U.S. pandemic response team to cut costs, experts warned that the government would be unable to respond effectively to a pandemic.  That prediction is now our reality. His supporters must own this tragic fact.
The president and his army of GOP minions, media gasbags and loyal sycophants are desperately trying to rewrite history. They want you to doubt your lying eyes and deceitful ears; to ignore what they and the clown prince has carelessly said publicly about this pandemic.

Trump is not responsible for this pandemic. He should be, however, held accountable for his failure to respond immediately and efficiently. 

Please don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Now that this unqualified “leader” has seriously stumbled in this time of crisis, isn’t it time for reflection and correction?
I know the mere mention of “race” and its role in our current predicament, will alienate many.  I suppose most of this could have been written with the omission of race. But to do so, would be a cowardly disservice.
Why? Because the demographic I’m addressing are vulnerable and susceptible to a replay of this disastrous scenario. Right now, as the economy crumbles, many are arming themselves, preparing for the downfall of a fool or the darker-skinned uprising. Right now, our xenophobic “leader” is placing blame for this pandemic on China and stoking the embers of war with Iran.  

Right now, as the economy crumbles, many are arming themselves, preparing for the downfall of a fool or the darker-skinned uprising. 

It will be so easy to fire up his base with a another campaign against “foreigners,” a bold stand for “Christian or American values” or irresponsible police. A revised “drug war” aimed at “illegals,” blacks or other marginalized people would be a convenient distraction for a bungling president and an inept administration.
Let’s face it, at this moment, whites hold the economic, voting, media and political power in this country.  As the saying goes: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Real Talk: your decisions, your actions are what really matter in America.  Racism played a huge role in where we are today. The only way to change that, negate that in the future is to own that reality today.


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Sylvester Brown, Jr. is a former columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, founder of the Sweet Potato Project, an entrepreneurial program for urban youth and author of  “When We Listen: Recognizing the Potential of Urban Youth.”