Because apparently it needs to be said.
Note: I’m turning this twitter thread into a post because apparently it needs to be done. So this is mostly that, with other thoughts interspersed. You’ve been warned.
“It’s okay to be white.” It’s a phrase that you’ve probably heard someone say or seen on a sticker or a poster or online somewhere. It’s one of those things that sounds really innocuous at first, until you realize it’s actually a white supremacist slogan. Here’s why you shouldn’t say it.
“It’s okay to be white,” as a saying, is based on the idea that white people are in some way an oppressed group. It’s like saying “all lives matter,” in that it’s not so much wrong, as deliberately missing the goddamn point. Yes, all lives matter. Sure they do. But they’re not all treated like they matter right now, which is precisely why we have to say out loud, right now, that Black lives really do matter.
“It’s okay to be white” implies that society is somehow biased against white people, that society is somehow making it not okay to be white, when in fact today, in America, in 2019, whiteness is a status marker that carries privilege and power. Yes, even if you are white and think you don’t have any power. You have the privilege of your skin colour in a country that implicitly gives whiteness the benefit of the doubt in many ways that People of Colour aren’t given.
Right now, the only thing attacking whiteness is antiracism, which is (per the name) trying to undo the systemic forces that have led to white people having massively more wealth as a group than non-white people, having more opportunities for advancement, more of the playing field automatically tipped in our favour.
The idea that antiracism oppresses white people is fantastically racist.
So, is it okay to be white? I don’t know. I don’t much care, either. I don’t think it’s a very specific question, for starters. What does “okay” even mean? Allowable? Of course it’s allowable to be white. But does being white come without responsibilities? Is that what “okay” means? Okay to live in white skin without effort?
Here’s what I can tell you: being the recipient of white privilege in 2019 carries with it the ethical burden of trying to use that privilege to deconstruct racism and the oppression it entails.
“Is it okay to be white?” as a question, in America in 2019, is like asking “is it okay to have undeserved power?” It’s a problem that that power has been given over in the first place, but since that’s how things are, the question then becomes “well, how are you using it?”
Here’s what I can tell you: it is NOT okay to be white and to simply accept the status quo of the privilege that whiteness carries. And I can tell you that even aside from the racist dogwhistle of it all, it is NOT okay to proudly say “it’s okay to be white” as though that were an unproblematic statement.
Live and learn, white folks. If we don’t, a whole lot of people are going to continue to get hurt.
Signed: The Remixologist.
Featured image is an abstract white textured background, called “White Texture 004″ by Craig Leontowicz, released under a CC-BY-2.0 license.