That’s Simon Balto’s take on the past year or so: “It strikes me that we are now living in an era defined not so much by ‘racial reckoning’ but more so by the desperate, gasping grasps at reclaiming white innocence from the perils of such a reckoning. Do not teach us or our children honestly about our past or our present, the opponents of racial justice demand. Do not question our allegiance to an openly white supremacist political leader. Do not impugn the institutions that uphold white supremacy and do violence to those not like us. But most of all, they ask that we absolve them of their sins for having made all those demands.”
Paul Campos similarly suggests that for too many white people, “making a white person feel bad about being white is the very worst form of racism there is — in fact it’s pretty much the only real form of racism that still exists — and that we must stop that from happening by any means necessary.” He focuses on one example: a white veteran’s Memorial Day speech discusses blacks helping bury the Union dead after the war, and the event organizers cut the audio for that part of the speech.
Similarly, a historian in Sherman Texas wanted to put up a marker to a black man lynched there in 1930. The all-white historical marker commission is refusing to act on it, even though it meets all the rules. One of them invokes the same arguments we hear today, that maybe the black guy they killed was no angel.
And black right-wing radio host Jesse Lee Peterson is assuring whites who watch OAN that the racial massacre in Tulsa wasn’t a massacre at all — “They have written it to be something that is more dramatic so they can make white people look racist, make them look mean, as though they hate all Black people”
None of this is new. As Slacktivist details, Billy Graham’s father-in-law Nelson Bell was committed to segregation. And he insisted ministers and churches that got involved in fighting Jim Crow were selling out their spiritual mission to meddle in politics — whereas his insistence segregation remain unchanged wasn’t political at all.
I have a similar feeling to Balto’s about misogyny. Despite the impact of #metoo, is anything really changing? Is it really riskier for a man to sexually harass his coworker? To paraphrase James Baldwin (quoted in Balto’s piece), male dominance has destroyed and is destroying hundreds of thousands of lives. People “do not know and do not want to know it.” Easier to believe in a just world where women aren’t routinely cat-called or harassed. Where they don’t routinely get death threats online. As H.P. Lovecraft said, the most merciful thing in the world is the inability to correlate facts to get the big picture, because the big picture is horrifying. Blocking it out makes it easier to sleep at night. And so women, like black Americans and other minority groups, wind up fighting the same shit all over again.
When I was a tween I thought the sixties had resolved all that racism stuff and the 1970s were going to fix gender issues the same way. I wish I’d been right. And assuming Republicans do not destroy democracy and establish a theocratic banana republic, I think we’ll get there some day. But nowhere near soon enough.