I know you must consider me one of the wickedest people in the world. Not only do I think It’s Okay to be White – I believe we must secure the existence of our People and a future for White children. Nowadays that’s enough to get me no-platformed in most polite society. Yet instead of shouting me down you’re willing to hear me out. That’s a great kindness, and one I hope to repay with honesty. I may shock you and I may offend you. I will not lie to you.
You’ve been told there is no such thing as Whiteness. It’s true that the meaning of White has changed over time and that there has always been disagreement over who was or was not White. But for over five centuries and counting people of European descent – our White ancestors – have lived in the New World. When we look in the mirror we see White people staring back. When the world looks at us it sees White people. And we both know “I don’t see race” is a cheap cop-out. We see and we are seen by race every day.
We’re taught to respect non-White cultures. We’re taught that is wrong to exploit non-White customs. We’re taught to honor the wisdom of non-White traditions. And while these are fine teachings, they also bring up important questions. What are White cultures? What are White customs? What are White traditions?
A century ago the answers would have been obvious. Today things are no longer quite so clear. But yet White cultures, White customs, White traditions and White people stubbornly continue to exist. This really isn’t surprising. Our traditions stretch back over 35,000 years; our cultures have produced giants like Homer, Newton, Shakespeare, Bach and Pasteur; our customs have brought the world a Renaissance, an Enlightenment and an Industrial Revolution. We have survived innumerable famines, plagues and invasions. We’re unlikely to disappear simply because we have become unfashionable.
Does this mean we are better than other people? Our critics certainly think we are more dangerous. Celebrating our history is “White Supremacy.” Arguing you want a future for White children is “hate speech.” Praising Western Civilization is a “dog whistle” calling for world domination. And don’t even think about saying more White babies would be a good thing. Pride in our ancestors and our heritage has become the love that dare not speak its name. It is not enough that we learn from our past: we must utterly repudiate it.
We’ve been told our Whiteness makes us inherently racist. Yet for all our deep-rooted bigotry we are uncommonly concerned with past injustices. To White Boomers and Gen Xers the Civil Rights era marked the beginning of a better world. Millions of us watched The Cosby Show because it gave us a successful family that was wholly Black and wholly American: we could laugh with Bill Cosby and believe the dream had finally come true. Later we voted for Barack Obama and his win fulfilled our hope that we had changed. We were at times clueless, naïve and complacent. We were not hateful.
Your generation has not been complacent. You have subjected yourself to rigorous self-analysis and watched your words to avoid offense. You have doxxed bigots; you have punched Nazis; you have done all you could to be a good Ally in the Struggle. Yet try though you may it has never been enough. You can no more shed your White Privilege than your White skin. And that has driven you into a hatred we never had, a hatred that burns not against the Other but against yourselves. You have set impossible goals, then beaten yourself bloody when you could not realize them.
But then you are used to impossible goals. At an age when your parents had children, you have Tinder and Pornhub. At your age they owned the home you can’t afford to leave. You’re overburdened with student loan debt and trapped in dead end jobs. For all your idealism you have been forced to live with increasingly diminished expectations. So have we all. Our people are dying of overdoses. We are dying of alcoholism. We are dying of suicide. We are dying of despair.
We deserve something better, and you deserve something better.
You say you can’t create a better tomorrow through hatred, and you’re absolutely right. But that includes self-hatred. You don’t blame your Muslim neighbor for 9/11. You don’t expect your Black co-worker to apologize for the guy who mugged you. You protest when others try to assign collective guilt. Why are you so quick to lay it on yourself and your people? We cannot build a more just society out of ritual self-abasement and guilt. Neither can we love and respect another Folk without first loving and respect our own.
We are scared and we are angry. We know things are bad, and we expect them to get worse. We want to fix what is broken and to heal old wounds. We share a great deal besides, and because of, our common heritage. Our fears for the future have made us fear each other. If we can look beyond the shadows we project, we just may find brothers where we thought there were monsters.