Explaining White People, Part 2: Waiting For A “More Informed” Opinion About Race Issues
It’s no secret to anyone with a Facebook feed that White people take issues of health, wellness, and rights very seriously. Watching my feed over the last month, I’ve seen no less than four different articles about how deadly microbeads are. Seriously. You know—those little exfoliating beads in your soap. That shit’ll kill ya. Or maybe it’ll kill your goldfish… I’m not sure; I didn’t really finish the article.
In any case, especially for liberal White people, there seems to be a strong tendency to fight the power and be vocal about what is wrong in the world, no matter how big or small the cause…until something race-related happens. Then things get reeeal quiet. Seriously, as soon as shit started getting real in Ferguson, I saw tumbleweeds rolling across my feed. Why, you ask? Well, let’s take a little look into White folk’s social media activities over the couple years or so. (Editor’s note: I should probably point out here that not all White people are like this. Some White people are awesome as fuck. Nick Offerman, for instance.)
Think back to the George Zimmerman case. It was a little more of the same. We knew that an unarmed kid got shot. People were upset about it. For some reason, other people were saying that it was better not to be upset because the correct response to murder is diplomacy. Coincidentally, the correct response to not being White is diplomacy. Of course, this won’t prevent Black people from being murdered, but boy, will it make things more comfortable for White people.
Without a reputable news source like CNN or the Huffington Post, White people can’t really know what’s going on. I mean, they might have seen actual footage of the event or read a couple thousand tweets from eyewitnesses, but until Jon Stewart says something about it, they don’t really know know. White people do not like to lose face, and having an opinion on these sorts of things—even, “hey, maybe we shouldn’t shoot unarmed Black kids in the face,”–can be risky. They have to know everything about the situation first, and they can’t take Black people’s word for it. Anger and honesty are mutually exclusive in any sort of debate with White people, who are all certified psychologists. And again: diplomacy.
But then someone comes in to save the day. A late-20s White guy with thick-rimmed glasses and cool stubble and the diplomacy to say, wait, guys. Maybe there’s more to this story than an unarmed teen getting shot. What if he was secretly stabbing orphans? Or shooting unarmed Black teenagers? Or doing something else that was really, really terrible? Like fighting dogs?
Or maybe he goes the other route. “Guys, this is really bad. I wish I could do something, but all I have is a platform and a lot of confusing feelings.” Either way, that’s when the light bulbs go off. Whether it’s the conservative,“there’s no wrong way to shoot a negro” angle or the liberal “here’s a traditional haiku about all the guilt I want you to know I feel” article, this is the long-awaited precedent for actually saying something. And more importantly, there’s finally something intellectual here. Or, at least something that’s not angry Black people, which, according to several White people on social media (see: every Twitter argument ever) are the antithesis of intellectualism. Why just be angry and say what’s happening when you can qualify the shit out of all of it for no reason? For example, maybe protesters in Ferguson are secretly rabid werewolves. Maybe the police are actually releasing the cure for cancer into crowds, and not tear gas. Maybe the police are scared for their lives—you can never have too many weapons dealing with unarmed protestors. We can’t really know. Well, other than all that video footage. And consistent eyewitness reporting.
But don’t worry, confused followers—your White friends eventually WILL chime in in droves. They just don’t know what to think yet, since we haven’t gotten a good enough liberal version of the arbitrary, speculative other side to the story yet. Just that good old video footage.