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Why White People Are Afraid from Alternet

Sean 2011/12/08 07:26:36

http://www.alternet.org/story/36892/



Why White People Are Afraid from Alternet



What do white people have to be afraid of in a world structured on white privilege? Their own fears.



AlterNet / By Robert Jensen



June 7, 2006



It may seem self-indulgent to talk about the fears of white people in a white-supremacist society. After all, what do white people really have to be afraid of in a world structured on white privilege? It may be self-indulgent, but it's critical to understand because these fears are part of what keeps many white people from confronting ourselves and the system.



The first, and perhaps most crucial, fear is that of facing the fact that some of what we white people have is unearned. It's a truism that we don't really make it on our own; we all have plenty of help to achieve whatever we achieve. That means that some of what we have is the product of the work of others, distributed unevenly across society, over which we may have little or no control individually. No matter how hard we work or how smart we are, we all know -- when we are honest with ourselves -- that we did not get where we are by merit alone. And many white people are afraid of that fact.



A second fear is crasser: White people's fear of losing what we have -- literally the fear of losing things we own if at some point the economic, political, and social systems in which we live become more just and equitable. That fear is not completely irrational; if white privilege -- along with the other kinds of privilege many of us have living in the middle class and above in an imperialist country that dominates much of the rest of the world -- were to evaporate, the distribution of resources in the United States and in the world would change, and that would be a good thing. We would have less. That redistribution of wealth would be fairer and more just. But in a world in which people have become used to affluence and material comfort, that possibility can be scary.



A third fear involves a slightly different scenario -- a world in which non-white people might someday gain the kind of power over whites that whites have long monopolized. One hears this constantly in the conversation about immigration, the lingering fear that somehow "they" (meaning not just Mexican-Americans and Latinos more generally, but any non-white immigrants) are going to keep moving to this country and at some point become the majority demographically.



Even though whites likely can maintain a disproportionate share of wealth, those numbers will eventually translate into political, economic, and cultural power. And then what? Many whites fear that the result won't be a system that is more just, but a system in which white people become the minority and could be treated as whites have long treated non-whites. This is perhaps the deepest fear that lives in the heart of whiteness. It is not really a fear of non-white people. It's a fear of the depravity that lives in our own hearts: Are non-white people capable of doing to us the barbaric things we have done to them?



A final fear has probably always haunted white people but has become more powerful since the society has formally rejected overt racism: The fear of being seen, and seen-through, by non-white people. Virtually every white person I know, including white people fighting for racial justice and including myself, carries some level of racism in our minds and hearts and bodies. In our heads, we can pretend to eliminate it, but most of us know it is there. And because we are all supposed to be appropriately anti-racist, we carry that lingering racism with a new kind of fear: What if non-white people look at us and can see it? What if they can see through us? What if they can look past our anti-racist vocabulary and sense that we still don't really know how to treat them as equals? What if they know about us what we don't dare know about ourselves? What if they can see what we can't even voice?



I work in a large university with a stated commitment to racial justice. All of my faculty colleagues, even the most reactionary, have a stated commitment to racial justice. And yet the fear is palpable.



It is a fear I have struggled with, and I remember the first time I ever articulated that fear in public. I was on a panel with several other professors at the University of Texas discussing race and politics in the O.J. Simpson case. Next to me was an African American professor. I was talking about media; he was talking about the culture's treatment of the sexuality of black men. As we talked, I paid attention to what was happening in me as I sat next to him. I felt uneasy. I had no reason to be uncomfortable around him, but I wasn't completely comfortable. During the question-and-answer period -- I don't remember what question sparked my comment -- I turned to him and said something like, "It's important to talk about what really goes on between black and white people in this country. For instance, why am I feeling afraid of you? I know I have no reason to be afraid, but I am. Why is that?"



My reaction wasn't a crude physical fear, not some remnant of being taught that black men are dangerous (though I have had such reactions to black men on the street in certain circumstances). Instead, I think it was that fear of being seen through by non-white people, especially when we are talking about race. In that particular moment, for a white academic on an O.J. panel, my fear was of being exposed as a fraud or some kind of closet racist.



Even if I thought I knew what I was talking about and was being appropriately anti-racist in my analysis, I was afraid that some lingering trace of racism would show through, and that my black colleague would identify it for all in the room to see. After I publicly recognized the fear, I think I started to let go of some of it. Like anything, it's a struggle. I can see ways in which I have made progress. I can see that in many situations I speak more freely and honestly as I let go of the fear. I make mistakes, but as I become less terrified of making mistakes I find that I can trust my instincts more and be more open to critique when my instincts are wrong.



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  • Evil 1 2011/12/08 13:42:01
    Evil 1
    +9
    Well from this BS you posted it is evident that racism is alive and fourishing within you. All this ridiculous post does is show how pathetic and racist the author of the article is as well as the individual who chose to post the worthless drivel.

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  • ancientmath 2012/06/19 22:59:13
    ancientmath
    +1
    You have what is commonly known as the guilt syndrome. You seem to think that all "white people" (specidfically American white) owe something for past history or hate what your ancestors did. You shouldn't feel guilty nor should you continue the myth that it's a "white supremist" society, it isn't.

    I am caucasian, but I do not carry this guilt (nor fear or hate) of my ancestors. Being from the Northwest (Seattle/Portland) where the bums are "white people" and it's been argued they are scarier than other races (likely because of views like yourself that continue to keep the separation of cultures fed by racist views). We in the northwest (and Canadians) weren't in the silly war between the states. We call it silly because it (war over human rights and slavery) shouldn't have been (nor should it be now) a question of whether it is right or wrong in the first place...of course it's wrong to enslave and racism isn't tolerated; certainly not here nor should be anywhere else.

    Each individual, of any race, creed, or color has their own path and their own responsibility to maintain...to themselves....to each other.....to society in general. I.e., finish elementary thru high school, obtain more schooling as needed thru college or vocational means (grants are available to all ...



    You have what is commonly known as the guilt syndrome. You seem to think that all "white people" (specidfically American white) owe something for past history or hate what your ancestors did. You shouldn't feel guilty nor should you continue the myth that it's a "white supremist" society, it isn't.

    I am caucasian, but I do not carry this guilt (nor fear or hate) of my ancestors. Being from the Northwest (Seattle/Portland) where the bums are "white people" and it's been argued they are scarier than other races (likely because of views like yourself that continue to keep the separation of cultures fed by racist views). We in the northwest (and Canadians) weren't in the silly war between the states. We call it silly because it (war over human rights and slavery) shouldn't have been (nor should it be now) a question of whether it is right or wrong in the first place...of course it's wrong to enslave and racism isn't tolerated; certainly not here nor should be anywhere else.

    Each individual, of any race, creed, or color has their own path and their own responsibility to maintain...to themselves....to each other.....to society in general. I.e., finish elementary thru high school, obtain more schooling as needed thru college or vocational means (grants are available to all as you noted), be productive in a good trade (not dope dealing), raise families (not beat them).

    Other countries with prominently "white people" (Canada, UK, Australia, Scandinavuan et.al.) have already gone through their own "society grows up" phases and don't have racism as a consistent political issue raised over and over to win voters. Where racism is still rampant seemingly (note, seemingly, not factual) however is where there 'are' more non-caucasion voters than not....the Middle East, Africa, most southern States (including Hispanic ones) where this fear you speak of is not of non-white people, but that the oppression of old will reappear. Trust me, it won't....us other "white people" won't allow it.

    AMERICANS (black, white, asian, hispanic, et.al), need to quit feeding into this separation by color. You need to stop being afraid of your own race, stop giving in to the guilt (you didn't enslave, did you?), and stop hating what your ancestors did or didn't do. Move forward with your live and stop referring "Americans" as "white people" or "not white people"....all you do is feed the racism and reveal your own...the very thing you're afraid of being revealed (your hatred of your own race).
    (more)
  • bettyboop 2012/06/19 16:52:41
    bettyboop
    +1
    According to your color wheel I am white, regardless of my heritage. Lemme tell you I am not afraid. I have grown up in the gutters of America, and I am not afraid Sean!
  • Beccy 2012/01/23 01:22:39
    Beccy
    +1
    I didn't know they were
  • justnotsaying (: 2011/12/11 03:56:09
    justnotsaying (:
    +1
    What's your take on the article?
  • Sean justnot... 2011/12/11 16:39:27
    Sean
    I don't believe that everyone who comprises the global power elite class has a racist agenda, however, the evidence shows that there are factions within that do have a white supremacy agenda, for example when we look at Planned Parenthood, and how Margaret Sanger the organization's founder was able to get people like J.P. Morgan, the Rockefellers, etc to front her the money she needed to start that organization, the fact that over 60% of the prison population is black, and hispanic despite the fact that black people only comprise 13% of the population in America, Planned Parenthood performs nearly 40% of their abortions on black women despite the fact that black women in America probably don't comprise more than 7 or 8% of the female population in America, I can assure that is no accident.

    Frances Cress Welsing author of the Isis 3rd generation physicion in her family (psychiatrist) believes the reason for the white supremacy system, and why still to this day there are some white people who seem to have disdain for people of color is out of fear of genetic anihilation from people of color because white (which is actually a shade of pink) people have recessive genes, her theory is that is why we have seen events like the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and why people of color across...



    I don't believe that everyone who comprises the global power elite class has a racist agenda, however, the evidence shows that there are factions within that do have a white supremacy agenda, for example when we look at Planned Parenthood, and how Margaret Sanger the organization's founder was able to get people like J.P. Morgan, the Rockefellers, etc to front her the money she needed to start that organization, the fact that over 60% of the prison population is black, and hispanic despite the fact that black people only comprise 13% of the population in America, Planned Parenthood performs nearly 40% of their abortions on black women despite the fact that black women in America probably don't comprise more than 7 or 8% of the female population in America, I can assure that is no accident.

    Frances Cress Welsing author of the Isis 3rd generation physicion in her family (psychiatrist) believes the reason for the white supremacy system, and why still to this day there are some white people who seem to have disdain for people of color is out of fear of genetic anihilation from people of color because white (which is actually a shade of pink) people have recessive genes, her theory is that is why we have seen events like the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and why people of color across the world are still under oppression today.

    However, it would be intellictually dishonest to say that all white people are benefiting from "white privelage" because clearly that is not the case, there are white people living in abject poverty in the west, and in places like Bulgaria.

    We shouldn't ignore racism because it is real, however, we also shouldn't ignore clasism because the economic system that is in place is based on clasism, it's built right into the system, and an economic system that is based on clasism makes it easy for phenomenons like racism to exist, that's why I firmly believe the answer to all of these symptoms of the sociological disease we have on this planet is to eliminate the cause of the disease, not to focus too intensly on the symptoms, and the causes of the social disease are MONOGAMY, AND THE MONETARY SYSTEM!
    (more)
  • justnot... Sean 2011/12/11 16:58:47 (edited)
    justnotsaying (:
    +1
    Interesting point of view. Do you think the problems will still be there, even if monogamy and the monetary system were gone?
  • Sean justnot... 2011/12/11 17:04:24
    Sean
    +1
    Change never happens overnight, overtime yes the problems will go away.
  • justnot... Sean 2011/12/11 17:42:05
    justnotsaying (:
    +1
    Being that humans have always been violent, do you think people of color would then try to do the same to white people, and desire to be in power?
  • Sean justnot... 2011/12/11 17:46:42
    Sean
    +1
    If it did occur, it would be out of revenge, people of color don't have recessive genes so there's no reason there would be a genetic war waged by people of color against white people.

    I think once we change to a sustainable economic system everybody's behavior will be positive, and conducive to human developement.
  • justnot... Sean 2011/12/11 18:07:35
    justnotsaying (:
    +1
    Since the beginning of time people from different tribes and racial origins never got along when cohabiting with one another, and still don't. That's why I asked.
  • Sean justnot... 2011/12/24 04:04:40
    Sean
    +1
    I can't say it the problems would go away overnight, that would be an unrealistic expectation, there would certainly be a transition period, and adjustment period, how long that would be is hard to say.
  • justnot... Sean 2011/12/24 04:27:09
    justnotsaying (:
    +1
    I think things would repeat itself, and end up back to where we are now. I'm not sure if you're talking about the U.S., because everyone in the world would have to be on board, for the same goal. Even if it's unrealistic, it's a nice thought.
  • Sean justnot... 2011/12/24 05:26:37
    Sean
    +1
    I'm talking about the whole planet, I don't recognize these things called countries, and in a sane world these things called countries would not exist.
  • justnot... Sean 2011/12/24 06:36:50
    justnotsaying (:
    It would be nice if everyone in the world could live among each other in peace and harmony. People would still fight over territory, and there would still be greedy people taking resources from people, and people of color would seek revenge.
  • Jane Constant 2011/12/11 01:23:18
    Jane Constant
    +1
    Every race has it's racists. I am white and I totally oppose racism. Unfortunately countries like America naturally get more bad publicity because they are always in the spotlight. In Africa, you have tribe against tribe, which is just another form of racism. I have been 'assumed' to be a racist, on occasion. Just because I have white skin. I hate that!
  • Pakki 2011/12/10 23:17:57 (edited)
    Pakki
    +1
    This article is complete nonsense.

    At no time in American history has the playing field been more level.



    If by "racial justice" you mean using quotas and lowering the bar for a black person to pass a class then you are a racist. Then you believe that blacks can't compete unless you lower expectations for them.



    The problem with this country and race is a hard one to fix.

    Its how to encourage people to rise above stereo types and utilize the opportunities offered to them.



    Don't go off on a tangent calling me a racist.

    My family came over from Ireland just before WW1.

    So don't blame me or my ancestors for any past history.

    And, if you are familiar with history at all you will know that blacks were better off in America than the Irish.



    I also employ many Mexican and Jamaican workers.

    I find them to be hard working and loyal.
  • jere.chievres 2011/12/10 17:14:44
    jere.chievres
    +1
    I am not afraid I am heavily ARMED with Concealed Carry Permit.
    And no one has ever seen they gun, YET!
  • Steve 2011/12/10 16:30:49
    Steve
    +2
    The piece is rather self-absorbed, and a bit simplistic about the politics of white males who have historically had a dominant voice in the nation's political life. Still, I think he's basically on an accurate perspective.

    The Nativist instincts of the anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, anti-minority crowd (e.g., Tea Party) really aren't so calculated. People's view of justice and fairness is colored by their own interests, but their positions are usually totally sincere. What drives such small-mindedness isn't so much calculated selfishness as a kind of blindness to the perspectives and experiences of other people.
  • Pakki Steve 2011/12/10 23:24:30
    Pakki
    +1
    There is a big difference between being "anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, anti-minority" and being Pro American. The Tea Party basically doesn't think America should absorb other countries social problems. Its not racist. I'm sure they would not want Canadians or British unemployed to move to America and on Welfare with Americas huge deficit.
  • Andrew 2011/12/10 02:08:01
    Andrew
    +2
    hmm bs
  • Dandydon 2011/12/10 01:55:55
    Dandydon
    +2
    Nice try "White guilt" didn't get me to vote for Obama the first time....
  • Quazimoto 2011/12/09 22:43:51
    Quazimoto
    +3
    Your first problem is that you work at a university, that blows your credibility right out of the water.
  • Mordecai Jones 2011/12/09 15:26:07
    Mordecai Jones
    +3
    I find it interesting that while you apparently didn't write this article many of the people posting comments are attacking you as if you were the white racist who is the subject of the article. I suppose your being accused of "vicarious bigotry".

    The author of the article purports to be a non-black academic in the USA. OMG - horror of horrors! Can you imagine the tremendous guilt of a white academic who cannot become non-white?

    There is a reason that the phrase "thats all academic" means that something mostly just mental masturbation.
  • Adakin Valorem~PWCM~JLA 2011/12/09 04:40:51 (edited)
    Adakin Valorem~PWCM~JLA
    +3
    Sean, what is this author whining about? I was born and raised in the same country as each of these other SUCCESSFUL AMERICAN BUSINESS WOMEN & MEN... so what's his problem?

    Tracey Travis  CFO   Senior VP of Finance Polo Ralph Lauren Herman Cain
    Gwendolyn Smith Iloani http://www.infotainmentnews.n... Melissa James  Managing Director  Morgan Stanley Paul Brunson Kandi Burruss http://www.charlierose.com/im...
  • JohnFitzgeral12 2011/12/09 04:01:50
    JohnFitzgeral12
    +3
    Crap on top of crap
  • Oltom 2011/12/09 03:55:52
    Oltom
    +4
    I can't even come up with a answer to this bilge!
  • Donna 2011/12/09 03:40:47 (edited)
    Donna
    +3
    Sorry Sean, but looking at your page, i can see that YOU are in that age group that was able to be brought up with abundances due to the hard work of your parents . I skimmed through this article ... errrr rubbish, as it wasnt even worth a thorough read. The gist of it is clear. Back in my day I worked not 1 but 2 jobs . My day started at 5 AM and ran until anywhere between 9pm & 3 AM depending on what my second job was. This went on for 2 decades straight and no, it wasnt easy but I survived. ( and yes, the workforce was predominately white back then - let's see if you can guess why - you can ask your parents, if they were workers or check the internet ) Some chose to hang back & party on others dime back then. It was a way of life that ended abruptly not too long ago. ( Do we owe them ? I think not ! )



    I worked because I was able to & didnt mind putting out the effort , you see I was brought up to earn my own keep, not to expect it from others. There were no expensive goodies, fancy cars or paid for college educations back then. And there were no hand outs. You had to get that stuff yourself. And with the exception of a few rich kids ( of which didnt happen to live in my neighborhood ) all the poor & middle class kids did it.



    Oh, I know what your thinking, it's not real h...











    &

    Sorry Sean, but looking at your page, i can see that YOU are in that age group that was able to be brought up with abundances due to the hard work of your parents . I skimmed through this article ... errrr rubbish, as it wasnt even worth a thorough read. The gist of it is clear. Back in my day I worked not 1 but 2 jobs . My day started at 5 AM and ran until anywhere between 9pm & 3 AM depending on what my second job was. This went on for 2 decades straight and no, it wasnt easy but I survived. ( and yes, the workforce was predominately white back then - let's see if you can guess why - you can ask your parents, if they were workers or check the internet ) Some chose to hang back & party on others dime back then. It was a way of life that ended abruptly not too long ago. ( Do we owe them ? I think not ! )



    I worked because I was able to & didnt mind putting out the effort , you see I was brought up to earn my own keep, not to expect it from others. There were no expensive goodies, fancy cars or paid for college educations back then. And there were no hand outs. You had to get that stuff yourself. And with the exception of a few rich kids ( of which didnt happen to live in my neighborhood ) all the poor & middle class kids did it.



    Oh, I know what your thinking, it's not real hard. And guess what ? Due to the present economy I'll be doing it again very shortly. Sometimes there are no breaks in life .



    You see after the age of 16 I paid for my own cars and insurance, clothing, rents and purchased my own home. I worked my butt off so that I could have a little more, I invested wisely and did good.



    I can proudly say that I do NOT feel afraid ..Nor do I feel that anything I have is without merit. Nor do I feel the need to spread my wealth to people who lack the thought or energy to do the same as I did, or even half of what I did for that matter.



    In return for all of this hard work I have the freedom & dignity of knowing that I owe no one nothing . I'm so sorry that you can't say the same .

    P.S. Dont be fooled ... We whites put up with the same if not more racism as every one else....
    (more)
  • Oltom Donna 2011/12/09 03:58:31
    Oltom
    +2
    Been there done that,except it was one job from 7am to 2am seven days a week!
  • Donna Oltom 2011/12/09 04:05:51 (edited)
    Donna
    +3
    Bet you felt guilty & had the overwhelming need to redeem yourself after all that hard work ... lol !

    Question 1: Do you feel a ' guilty obligation' to share what you've busted your butt for ??

    Question 2: How many young people do you know that would even consider doing this today ? And do you think they'd feel an 'overwhelming guilt' that would cause them to share their wealth ?

    Just hypothetical... ya' dont really have to answer ;)

    These kids crack me up...Yup, I'm finally old enough to say that !
  • Oltom Donna 2011/12/24 22:23:44
    Oltom
    +1
    No I felt tired! :D
  • Donna Oltom 2011/12/24 22:54:07
    Donna
    Tell me about it ! lol !
  • Curmudgeon 2011/12/09 03:18:42
    Curmudgeon
    +5
    Let's be clear on something, yes in the past white people did some very bad things to other people that were not white, and yes there are some people today that still have a sense of entitlement that is disgusting and something they should have out grew.

    But to imply that white people are the only ones that have racial biases towards other nationalities? Are you really that naive that you think every other culture is a paragon of social justice, and completely free of any racial bias?

    I live in Canada, where the multicultural policies here constantly annoy me with the endless double standards. The most common thing here is a racial minority going on a verbal offensive about how bad Canadians are for not letting them practice their values, not learn English, and generally do as they please while expecting the tax payers to support them.

    The second a Canadian speaks out people climb out from the woodwork and call you bigoted, racist, a future KKK member, and a whole list of other things. When the truth is twisted to the point where it's socially unacceptable to speak it, something has to give.
  • eyeballz 2011/12/09 01:53:14
    eyeballz
    +1
    What is alternet?
  • D Hanes 2011/12/09 01:03:44
    D Hanes
    +2
    You are a f**king RACIST!!
  • Cat 1017 2011/12/09 01:03:03
    Cat 1017
    +3
    Thank you complete honesty about racial fears from a white....Get ready to be assaulted by those that feel you area lberal fool.....you are AT LEAST acknowledging what exist in your world....again thank you...
  • templer003 2011/12/09 00:36:14
    templer003
    +4
    Wow I am white and i am not afraid...I guess that I missed that memo...
    Dude if you are that afraid you need to check yourself into protective custody
  • jere.ch... templer003 2011/12/10 17:09:51
    jere.chievres
    +1
    I agree!
  • HiYa 2011/12/09 00:32:28
    HiYa
    +1
    Not touching this one. Fight among yourselves.
  • Michael 2011/12/09 00:14:05
    Michael
    +5
    there are non-white racists as well.
  • jere.ch... Michael 2011/12/10 17:10:16
    jere.chievres
    +1
    A LOT of them!

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