White people only, please. If you’re Black, read no further. Black people already know what I’m about to say, and worse, they have been saying it for decades. This is not about Jim Crow water fountains, peanut galleries, or lunch counters. This is about non-hooded, “benign” white supremacy and privilege. So… not Jim Crow, but crow nonetheless.
I assert that it’s way past due for whites to “eat crow.” And if you’re not familiar with the phrase, Wikipedia says: “Eating crow is a colloquial idiom, used in some English-speaking countries, that means humiliation by admitting having been proven wrong after taking a strong position.”
What have we, dear white reader, been wrong about? That Black people could end racism without our partnership? That racism was over with the election of Barack Obama? That enrolling your kids in an exclusive private school has nothing to do with perpetuating racism?
It is time to eat and digest Jane and Jim Crow and what that has meant to our friends and relatives and their ancestors. We have criminally neglected to step up and condemn the damage done by slavery, apologize and make actual amends like reparations. We broke our word. And while we’re at it, how about including the 500-plus first people nations in the reckoning of karmic scales and perpetually broken treaties?
I’m yelling UNMUTE YOURSELF to white people, and not just on Zoom meetings. If this comes across as scolding, so be it. If you’re triggered by this column or by recent events, feel the feelings of what you are experiencing and see if you can pull up your big girl and boy panties and get on with it. Our Black sisters and brothers have been, and continue to be, literally triggered — as in, shot at. Maybe you being triggered and breathing through it will give you entry to a new realm of empathy. Now that I think of it, I’ve never heard a person of color (POC) use the phrase “I’m triggered” as an excuse for not witnessing degradation and cruelty. Consider that avoiding feelings of discomfort is often white privilege in disguise, something we should at least put on pause.
If someone tells you they are not a racist, that’s often shallow and unexamined; if they’ve lived in a bubble their entire life… maybe. I am racist. I am not proud of that. And at the same time, I am anti-racist. I am not “woke,” because I know that being true to other people regardless of who they are is not a done deal. I am willing to call myself “awakening” and plan to awaken more every day until I die.
I assert that we live in a de facto apartheid country — it’s a reality and in many places accepted or encouraged, even though it is not the law. For a long time, South Africa was de jure apartheid, as it was codified into their laws. Next time you’re on a flight (when will that happen?), you can see de facto segregation at play in first class. It’s almost always cis white men with an occasional cis white woman with them. There are always exceptions, of course, and people who are of color or single white women are exceptional: they stand out.
I have mostly lived in communities that are not majority white. So far, I love Altadena the best; it’s so integrated that no one really “sticks out.” We have neighborhoods all over this country where if you are Black or Brown, you stick out. Similarly, white people can stick out, too. I stuck out like a sore white thumb in the MacArthur Park-adjacent neighborhood I lived in for 14 years. After a few months of death threats, “We’re going to kill you, blondie,” I left when the Brown and Black drug dealers threatened to kill my dogs. That was my limit. And who were the customers of the drug dealers? White professional men whose patronage perpetuated the dangerous conditions of my neighborhood.
I know I’m a dreamer, but really, wouldn’t it be a great way to begin reparations by providing free tuition to colleges and universities for students of color? How about examining the most dominating supremacy of all: male supremacy? Youth supremacy? We have dismantling of all forms supremacy to do. We can look at Scandinavian countries for inspiration.
Napkins tucked; forks aloft. Let the crow-eating begin… with white sauce and white wine, of course. n
Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for decades. She coaches writers all over the world. Contact her at Ellensnortland@mac.com.