No longer welcome here: White allies

Is there no place for white allies? Because if so, I guess I’m willing to stand down, get out of the way, whatever, sorry.

chris grahamScanning the web for news and commentary spurred by the events in Charlottesville this past weekend, I learned something about myself that I didn’t know before: that apparently, breaking news, I’m actually part of the problem.

And this is because: drum roll, I’m white.

There is this odd line of thought out there among some in the liberal intelligentsia that people who think themselves white allies just need to STFU.

Because as one writer put it: “They’re the biggest obstacle between us and actual progress.”

Huh. Had no idea on that.

I mean, I thought the biggest obstacle to progress was, oh, I don’t know, maybe the guy in the White House who dog-whistles to Nazis and white nationalists to get them on the streets of Charlottesville and other cities to spew epithets and bash skulls as part of an orchestrated media and PR campaign aimed at drawing out new recruits.

Not to mention, you know, those aforementioned Nazis and white nationalists, who seem to be at the top of their game right now, in terms of efficacy.

Maybe next on the list would be the people who held their noses and voted for the propagandist-in-chief despite whatever misgivings they may have had about, well, damn, that one is a long, long list.

But, no, the biggest obstacle isn’t anyone in any of those three groups, either focused on partying like it’s 1858, or at the least passive-aggressively enabling the party invitations from going out from the sidelines.

It’s people like me!

Which I guess means, that advice people were giving about how we all need to have a talk with the racist cousin, uncle, co-worker, etc., to bring them with us into the perimeter of wisdom on how we all really do need to get along, how love trumps hate, and how we’re all so much better off if we overcome our prejudices and try to understand and learn from and cherish each other, was so much bullshit.

Because: “Every white person who went home from those protests would still enjoy the privilege of being white in this country.”

Yeah, how another writer put it.

Ah, white privilege. Of course. Well, sure, can’t deny, I do have the distinct privilege of being white, which means for me, among other things, I could join up with that militia group that assigned itself to patrol Charlottesville over the weekend with rifles strapped to their shoulders and not have to worry about getting shot on sight by police.

Also, I could bring metal poles to the, ahem, “peaceful protest” organized to raise issue with the planned removal of a Confederate monument and beat a black guy senseless a block from the police station and not have to worry about getting arrested.

If I wanted to.

That is what privilege has to offer.

I’m not sure, in my case, what the privilege did for me growing up in a rural trailer park with a single mom raising two kids on minimum wage augmented by $40 child-support checks that my father sent when he felt like it.

Privilege, for me, was a ketchup sandwich for dinner I can’t remember how many nights, a single pair of jeans in ninth and 10th grade, and yeah, we’re talking the same pair, and, oh, getting shouted down by a step-sister for being “white trash.”

I like to think my, ahem, privilege, is what motivates me to want to try to do the right thing.

Not sure what else explains why I was the odd kid in my class who won a sixth-grade public speaking contest at my 99 percent white elementary school with a recitation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Or why I signed up for Latin class in eighth grade (and took five years of Latin) because I wanted to be a civil-rights lawyer when I grew up, and decided that knowing Latin would give me a leg up.

A white kid from the sticks going into civil-rights law? Seriously?

I took African-American history and a civil-rights history class in college because I wanted to know more for myself that I could share with people in my life who otherwise wouldn’t have a reason to give other perspectives even a fleeting thought.

And when I shifted my focus toward the end of college from law, I still found a way to get involved in local politics, and in 2008 talked my way into being able to serve as the chair of a local Democratic Party committee, a volunteer gig that gave me the chance to devote countless hours toward helping Barack Obama become the first elected African-American president in our nation’s history.

I’m not saying I’m Gandhi, but I’m on the right side of history here, it seems, and I’d think it would be considered a good thing if there were more of me, not less, fighting the good fight, advocating to friends, family, co-workers, perfect strangers.

I’m white, and witness on racial equality. I’m an agnostic raised Christian, and preach inclusion for people of all faiths. I’m a straight male, and stand for equal treatment for all genders and sexual orientations.

Another writer: “The white liberal hypocrites are the only large demographic that stands a chance against the white supremacists.”

There’s really nothing left to say.

Column by Chris Graham

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