Something is wrong with white people

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio. 

Everyone has a theory about what’s wrong with Black people. 

Social scientists, researchers and people who read books believe racial disparities can be explained by employment discrimination, the legacy of slavery, a biased criminal justice system, an unequal education system and the constitutionally sanctioned, legally approved racial discrimination permitted and practiced in every American institution for most of this country’s existence. Of course, non-scholars will whitesplain inequality by ascribing it to the negro’s “victim mentality” (Vivek Ramaswamy), the contagious homosexuality brain disease (Dr. Umar Johnson), CRT-induced “cultural Marxism” (Ron DeSantis) or satanic music (Jason Whitlock). In any case, there is no shortage of theories on what ails Black America.

I do not blame racism

The little boys who gathered wood to burn Sam Hose alive in 1899 were probably too young to believe that “race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities.” The grown men who cut off Hose’s ears, fingers and genitals were exhibiting “behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster…racial discrimination or prejudice” when they doused Hose with kerosene and burned him alive while the crowd watched “with unfeigned satisfaction.” But it is impossible to know if the who women thanked God as Hose screamed out, “Oh my God! Oh Jesus!” thought “racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Who knows if the merchants across Georgia who sold pieces of Hose’s bones, knuckles and skin, did it to perpetuate “the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another.”

White supremacy didn’t do it either.

The men who got away with killing 15-year-old Willie James Howard in 1944 for giving a white girl a Christmas card likely believed that “the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.” The Klansmen acquitted for bombing the home of 6-year-old Donal Godfrey for integrating a Jacksonville, Florida, school surely wanted “white people to maintain power over people of other races.” 

Racism is a belief. White supremacy is a system,

It is impossible to diagnose the intentions or feelings of a group or a system; feelings are not as deadly as the actions they create. Intent is less important than the results it produces. White supremacy didn’t murder 10 shoppers in Buffalo, N.Y., in May 2022. Racism didn’t kill eight people in Allen, Texas a year later. 

And neither of those beliefs killed three people in Jacksonville, Florida, this weekend.

White people did.

What is wrong with white people?

He hated black people.” 

That is the explanation of Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters about the man who shot and killed three Black people inside a Jacksonville Dollar General on Saturday. Before ending his own life, the alleged gunman reportedly left a racist manifesto explaining why he targeted Black people in the attack that Waters called “racially motivated.” Investigators believe that the shooter wanted to commemorate the anniversary of another Jacksonville shooting when a white man opened fire during a video game tournament five years earlier. 

 “There is absolutely no evidence the shooter is part of any larger group,” Waters added. 

Because of a concept I refer to as the “privilege of individuality,” investigators do not connect this triple homicide to the fact that 80% of extremist murders in 2022 were committed by white supremacists. Apparently, it does not matter that 75% of the 444 extremist-related murders since 2013 were committed by white supremacists. To put that into perspective, over the past decade, more people have been killed by white supremacists (335) than Antifa, Black Lives Matter and critical race theory combined (one).

Even though these people share a common ideology, motivation and worldview, their actions are disconnected from their whiteness. Unlike “Black Identity Extremists,” white supremacist killers are motivated by their belief system, not their identity. 

Although your local news reporter may lament about how “divided” this country has become, America is more politically and ideologically united than we give it credit for. Aside from white people, most Americans agree on most issues.

America doesn’t have a gun problem. White people are the only demographic who don’t think that “gun violence is a very big problem.” More than 80% of the people who believe that the 2020 election was stolen are white. When it comes to racial issues, white people are the ones who are more worried about critical race theory in schools than they are about Black Lives Matter, police brutality and racism. And for most of this country’s history, it was white people who perpetuated the narrative that Black people were the violent, ignorant thugs who wanted government handouts.

And to be fair, it is not all white people.

Most white people are not killers. Most white people have never participated in a lynch mob. Most white people do not possess the power or ability to oppress non-white people on a day-to-day basis. But most white people choose not to dismantle the system. Most white people do not actively try to fight racism. It is impossible to believe that no white person knew that the Jacksonville shooter was a violent white supremacist. 

Then again, most white people did not kill Sam Hose. Some simply shopped for lynching souvenirs. Most white people did not murder, rape, torture and terrorize Black people for the totality of our existence in this country that we built. It is strange, however, that so few white people seem to be aware of these racist and white supremacist beliefs that every Black person in America has experienced. 

W.E.B. Du Bois, the father of American sociology, believed there was an inherent humanity inside most people. The father of American sociology thought that making people aware of the brutality of America’s anti-Black bloodlust would actually make the country less racist. He was so sure of it, that one day he decided to take a walk to the local newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution, to see if he could publish a piece about the national lynching epidemic.

“I found that this Negro, Sam Hose, had been caught and lynched and that in the meat market, which was on the way I had to pass, his fingers and toes were being exhibited,” Du Bois recalled. “Well, I didn’t deliver the letter. I went back to Atlanta University. And then I made up my mind that knowledge wasn’t enough, that even if people were ignorant of essential matters which they had to know, they wouldn’t correct their actions without more realization of just what the difficulties were. They had not only to know, but they had to act.”

So much for that theory.

If one were to believe the prevailing narrative, anti-Blackness is the only thing in the history of America that most white people want to erase but, for some reason, can’t achieve. Perhaps racial superiority and privilege are the intent of white supremacy. Maybe apathy is a feeling that perpetuates racism. But inertia is an active choice. Silence is as much of an action as speaking out. Maybe white people feel that they cannot individually end the terror that this nation has inflicted upon Black people. But if you can witness America’s brutality without trying to destroy it …

Something is wrong with you. 

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in September.

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