New York Times Op-Ed Asks “What If Whites Were The Minority?”

Since Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof has been writing about America’s problem with race:

MANY white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News reflected that weariness, saying: “All you hear is grievance, grievance, grievance, money, money, money.”

As someone who has been writing about the same topic, I was utterly unsurprised to find out that a lot of white people wrote to Kristof complaining that there wasn’t anything wrong, and why is he stirring up so much racial animosity? This is a classic symptom of white supremacy in which white people don’t want to hear about the challenges that black people face. After all, white people are suffering, too! Why should blacks get more sympathy?!

So Kristof took “The Talk” that black parents have to give their children and flipped the script in this brilliant op-ed. “The Talk”, if you’re not familiar with it, is when black parents have to explain to their kids that the police are a mortal threat to their lives, except here, it’s a white parent talking to their white kid:

With us whites in the minority, some cops are just going to see you as a threat no matter what. You’re going to get stopped by black cops, and I want you to promise you’ll never run or mouth off. Mom and I can’t protect you out there, and white kids are 21 times as likely as black kids to be shot dead by police. So even when a cop curses you, I want you to call him Sir.”

“Anybody curses me, he won’t get away with it.”

“Yes, he will. And if he shoots you, he might get away with it, too. Especially when you keep wearing clothes all the other white boys wear like those polo shirts. Black cops see you in them and suspect trouble. Black folks make the rules, and we have to live by them. Like it or not.”

It might seem to be a simple reversal of roles, and it is. But that’s what makes it work so well: the constant repetition of black cops abusing white people is so alien to our collective experience that it makes it difficult to read as is. I found that as I was reading it, my mind kept trying to reverse the colors to the pattern I’ve been deeply conditioned to accept since I was a child, kind of the same way an optical illusion makes you see something you KNOW is not really there.

I suspect I will be far from the only person to feel this cognitive discomfort.

Continuing, Kristof also tosses in several statistics about how whites (blacks) are more likely to be arrested or suspended or overlooked for a job:

“Yup. White kids get suspended when black kids don’t. That’s just the way it is. But the black vice principal who suspended you — he’s the same guy who enthusiastically organizes White History Month each year. Intellectually, he believes in civil rights. But he kicks out white kids for the same reason doctors give less pain medication to white patients. Same reason that in experiments a résumé that is identifiably white gets fewer callbacks than the exact same résumé from a black person. It’s not on purpose, but people ‘otherize’ us. That’s why you’ll have to work harder to succeed in life — and even then you’ll be followed around department stores by security guys.”

“Society cares about inequality. But the big inequality debate is about rich and poor, and some folks don’t seem to notice all the inequality that comes with race. White Americans have a per capita income that’s lower than in Equatorial Guinea, and life expectancy is roughly the same as in Sri Lanka. The system here is sometimes rigged. Cops stop and frisk whites four times as often they do blacks. And that criminal record hurts your chance to get a good job, to marry, to vote. Everybody makes mistakes, but black kids get the benefit of the doubt. You don’t, simply because you’re white.”

The next time you talk to someone who claims that there is no such thing as white privilege, show them these well-documented stats* and you will learn the definition of hysterical denial. I’ve seen people fly into a rage when confronted with concrete proof that black people are systematically discriminated against. They simply cannot accept it.

You can read the rest of the column here, and I strongly suggest you do. Show it to your friends and watch their reaction. I’ll bet money that the ones that scoff at it are the same people that wish everyone would stop complaining about the cops killing unarmed black men.

It’s awesome to be white in America but SHHHHHH!!! Don’t talk about it or you’ll ruin it for the rest of us!

*Here’s some of those pesky statistics that white privilege insists can’t be true:

Black students suspended more often for the same infractions, starting with preschoolers. PRESCHOOLERS!

Resumes with “black” names are rejected 50% more often as ones with “white” names.

Driving while black really does seem to be a crime to the police.