Hey, fellow white people. What’s up? According to my 7 year old, who overheard my description of the event in Charlottesville, Virginia involving neo-Nazis, homemade knockoff Captain America shields, and a non-governmental armed militia, “the world is crumbling.”
I don’t have any signs that he’s prophetic or anything so I wouldn’t be too worried about that, but it has been a weird week. And so people have talked about it. A lot. Especially on the internet.
And this is where our newfangled technology and our slow-to-change minds begin to make some unfortunate decisions together.
And I get why: there are no easy comments to make about 20-something dudes who look like the “Angry Man’s Chorus” on casual Friday heading to a college town with tiki torches to reenact the villagers storming Frankenstein’s castle. It is super weird. And so over-the-top crazy that it doesn’t quite compute.
To quote that great philosopher of modern/medieval times, Tyrion Lannister, “people’s minds aren’t made for problems that large.”
He was talking about the Army of the Dead, but I think it applies.
Hey, as a side note, did you guys know that there’s a fan theory that proposes that Game of Thrones is all about race in America? No? Well, there is. And it is funny, but there’s lots of cursing in that link if that bothers you. Be warned. There’s another one that posits that it’s all about climate change. In that one, Tyrion represents Leonardo DiCaprio. Also funny, in a different way, with less cursing. But I digress.
We are at a very strange moment in time when both the Church of Satan and TIKI Brand (that’s an actual brand name we’re all using to describe those torches) feel the need to publicly denounce the same event.
So, what do we white people say on social media about all of this? Anything? Nothing? I just love everybody? It’s hard, but I have some tips that we can use to at least stop making it worse.
Guidelines for White People When Talking About Race Relations on the Internet:
1-Stop defending the President on this one
I get it if you like President Trump. Well, I don’t get it get it, but I can appreciate your right to that opinion. And maybe you are happy with what he’s trying to do with health care or that border wall or whatever. But he is not handling minority concerns very well at all.
How do I know? Because the people he was supposed to be comforting or addressing or connecting with in these instances are still really mad at him.
As much as many Americans like the idea of a businessman president, one who is “outside” of politics as usual, there are actual real benefits to electing people who have EVER held public office before. They tend to get that governance is not just decision making.
It’s also coalition building and speech making and looking like you care about stuff you don’t necessarily care about.
He has to act like he gives a flying flip, and listen to victims, and then promise to work to make it better. Presidents don’t often get this right because they are also considered responsible for fixing the actual problem. But they’re supposed to try anyway.
And, this is key, they are supposed to learn from their mistakes. If you flubbed how you addressed the last instance of violence in the streets, then for goodness’ sake, get it right the next time.
But President Trump doesn’t seem to understand this significance in any way. Even if he doesn’t relate to what people are mad about AT ALL, he should at least have been able to hire a person to tell him what to type with his thumbs by this point.
If we, as white people, feel the need to address race relations in America on the internet, we really have got to stop defending President Trump about this. No more “this isn’t Trump’s fault” or “there have always been hateful people” or “he can’t win no matter what he says.”
You’re right. He can’t win no matter what he says. He lost the political capital he needs to be heard by the groups of people who are mad at him through repeatedly making the same political mistakes over and over again.
But he does not need you to defend him because he is the billionaire President of the United States and he will be just fine.
Every time we defend him about race relations we just make people unfriend us.
2- Stop talking after the words “I condemn all Nazis/white supremacists”
Don’t finish the sentence with AND Black Lives Matter AND Antifa and whatever else you wanted to say.
Another side note: I didn’t know what Antifa was until this weekend. Anti-fascists seem good. Vigilante justice I am not as happy with.
You don’t have to say all the words you have on a topic every time you talk to still be an honest person, especially on the internet. The format doesn’t lend itself well to nuance and complex discourse.
It does lend itself to competing “news” link postings, words abbreviated to the point that I no longer understand them, and sentences with random periods in them. I. Can’t. Even.
When we keep talking after the part about the Nazis and the sketchy guys with dystopian American flags, we completely undermine all the good things we just said.
I understand your discomfort and conflict and uncertainty about how to address all these topics at once. But we don’t have to. We are white. Only other white people are taking our comments on the causes and effects of racial tensions seriously anyway.
Non-white people do not want to hear our deep thoughts on appropriate methods of protest any more than I want to hear a man give me advice on the best way to lose weight after having a baby. It’s not that the advice is inherently wrong–it’s that I just don’t care what he has to say because I don’t believe he can truly relate to my experience no matter how hard he tries.
If you don’t wholeheartedly agree with the mission statements of certain non-white-supremacist protesting groups, fine. Your denunciation of Nazis is not the same thing as supporting all of their opponents. (Remember the USSR?)
3- Stop trying to make ourselves feel better
A whole heck of a lot of more stuff in life is my responsibility than is my fault. The power bill, the cost of clothes for children and school supplies, the random holes in the walls caused by wrestling–none of them are my fault. All of them are my responsibility.
I’m not the only one responsible, but I still have to deal with it disproportionately to my level of participation. That’s what life is like in a family. We all have to deal with each other’s decisions.
And as disturbing as it might be, our nation is one big messed up family whether we like it or not. Every weirdo cousin has just as much right to the family reunion fried chicken as the next guy. And if he shows up at the pavilion carrying a Tiki torch and wearing a white polo shirt we are going to have to deal with that in some way.
It may not be our FAULT (or whoever you feel is being unfairly blamed), but it is our responsibility.
Every time we use a “not ALL white people” or “ALL lives matter” we’re just trying to make ourselves feel better. It is understandable to want to distance ourselves from crazy people. To defend. To say I’m a “good” white person. Not a “bad” white person. That’s all normal and natural, but it’s not a productive internet conversation.
If we really want to have this conversation, have it in person. Ask a question about an article or a topic a non-white friend posted. Ask if that’s how they really feel or if they were just letting off steam. Ask if they feel awkward around you.
It may not seem fair to let go of slights or perceived insults, but there’s nothing about race relations in America that is fair. We will live.
So, white people. Let it go. Just let this one topic be one where we don’t have to be right. Just say, “I’m so sorry.” And, “This is deplorable.” And, “Nazis in the streets of Virginia are terrifying.”
Talk to your kids about how reasonable societies can lose their minds when they get scared or disappointed. Raise people who are more likely to find joy than disappointment.
And for heaven’s sake, think at least three or four times before commenting.