A Letter to White People

First, a caveat.   Generalizations are what they are.  You’re probably an exception to the stereotype.  It’s getting harder all the time to generalize, though, because we’re all so connected these days.  But hey, this is all in fun.  I feel very confident that I can still be trite and shallow at will.  Second, there’s a separate letter for black people.  Don’t you worry about that.  And it’s nowhere near as polite as this one.

My friends.  My Caucasian brothers and sisters.  I’m a little worried about you.

WHERE ARE YOU?

I see you at work and on the metro, especially on baseball or hockey game nights, but I’m not sure where you go at night.

Because I went to a different middle school than most of the people in my neighborhood, most of my friends and social scene have been white.  I’m actually not comfortable when I’m around all black people.  I feel out of place.  Of course, I’m not comfortable around all white people either.  I feel out of place and self-conscious.  I have nothing to offer in a conversation about how lucky so-and-so is to have been the one born with blue eyes and/or blond hair.  Nothing to say that you’d want to hear, anyway.

Of course, I’m also not comfortable living in a place where it’s me and the immigrant population of Northern Virginia.  Everybody’s Hispanic or African and I don’t speak the language.  Nothing against them, of course.  We’re all just getting along.  But I feel out of place and I wonder, “Where are white people?”

‘Cause you aren’t in the suburbs.  Not the way you used to be.  Maybe we’re all co-mingling more.  That’s a good thing.  Gentrifying urban centers?  I guess it’s the natural order of things.  The breathing rhythm of ethnic concentration.  In the urban centers, then out to the suburbs, then farther out and exhausted by it, then the urban renaissance so back to the city center.

And that’s all cool.  It’s just different than what I’m used to.  To my Baltimore people, remember when Randallstown and Woodlawn and don’t forget Columbia were integrated neighborhoods?  Remember when Reisterstown, Pikesville, Owings Mills, Perry Hall, etc. were mainly upscale white communities?  I mean, after you move to Harford County or Westminster … you can’t get much farther out than that without leaving the state.

Are your grandparents up in the mountains converting their worldly possessions to gold and building bunkers in their spare time?  Ah ha!  I knew it.  No one can play that much golf.

You all are brave, though.  I’ve got to give you props for that.  White folks will move into the worst neighborhoods like it’s nothing.  They don’t care.  Like they just assume they’ll be safe and happy.  I’ve seen petite white women in skimpy running clothes with iPods strapped to their biceps jogging through neighborhoods that I hesitate to drive through pushing athletic strollers.  You are some rugged individuals.  Go ahead with your bad selves.

I’m like, I’ll wait until there’s a Starbucks.  That’s how I know it’s okay.  Then when there’s a gourmet grocery store, that’s the green light.

MAJORITY RULES: The New Minority

I get the feeling from the ultra conservatives that a lot of their ranting is fear-based.  Their crusade is to get you, my white friends, so afraid and angry that you’ll rise up and we’ll have a permanent conservative majority and a friendly, lovable theocracy to hold us over until white Ted Nugent Jesus returns to take us … or you, anyway … all home.

It amazes me how the ultra-wealthy middle aged and senior citizen white TV and radio pundits give the impression that they somehow feel oppressed.   They feel like they’re some kind of trodden underclass.  Backed into a corner.  They act is if they’re just regular working class people, just like you, and they’re being beat up on by effete, elite, wealthy liberals.  And grabby minorities and illegal immigrants are taking all of their jobs and picking up the scraps.  Oh, if only their hundreds of millions of dollars and fame could bring them some kind of redress or means of relief.

So … do white people feel like they’re a minority?

Okay.  I’m going to be honest here.  All my cards on the table.  I was just listening to people the other day talking about “white privilege” and how white people have the advantage in society due to historical, institutional racism.

It’s kind of open season, especially on white men.  You can say just about anything about white men and get away with it as long as you’re not running for national public office.  And that’s not cool.  Say something in public about minorities, gay people, women and you just might be forced to apologize in a public forum and name one of your SUVs “Martin Luther King, Jr”.  But don’t.  Not just because “USS Ronald Reagan” has a better ring to it for a SUV, but because anything named after MLK seems to result in black guys shooting each other on or near it for no good reason.  WTH is up with that??

Slavery & Jim Crow

An apology for slavery would be nice.  Someone recently said that it’s important to have COLLECTIVE acknowledgment of COLLECTIVE injustice. Not you as an individual, mind you.  I know that you and your immediate family have never owned slaves and that you  may be struggling to make ends meet, too.  But collectively.  As a race, you collectively benefited for a few centuries and therefore collectively have a monopoly on wealth and power even if you don’t feel like you’re part of any collective.  Just something from the Senate maybe on behalf of the country.  You know:

“Hey.  So the United States of America is all about freedom and independence and yet we kind of built our nation on a foundation of acts of genocide and chattel slavery.  And then we treated you like you were less than human for almost a hundred years.  And we know that’s not right and doesn’t gibe with our whole concept we’ve got working here.  Sorry about that.  How about we work together to move past the bad feelings and address the collective trauma.  No, we’re not giving you any restitution money, but we really do sincerely feel bad about that stuff.  Just wanted to say that out loud in public so that you and the world know that we’re not a bunch of two-faced hypocritical assholes and that we really do believe in the political philosophy of the founding documents that we preach.”

Times are changing, though.  And the transition will be awkward and stressful.  There are parts of America where white people are the minority now.  I can’t blame you for feeling threatened by that if you do, especially if that means that people can still rhetorically smack you around and claim some privilege or another.

But all the economic and life pain that people are feeling, it’s not coming from one ethnic group or another.  We’re all being squished and denuded by corporate-driven pressures and complicit government.  Who ever let the U.S. become a country that doesn’t build stuff?  Who let the farmers be bullied or seduced into unhealthy and completely out of balance agricultural production?  Who figured that we could thrive as a service economy in a playing field where other countries pay wages that are next to nothing?  Who thought that an economy propped up on debt could continue indefinitely?

I guess we’re all complicit.  But that’s just it.  We all are.  And then we fault each other instead of holding all of the collective, corporate and government institutions accountable.

ALCOHOL

This is kind of an intervention.  I don’t know how else to say this.  You drink too much.

I don’t get it probably because I’m not much of a drinker, but that’s kind of my point.  In my experience, when I hang out with my black/other friends the idea is to have a good time, of course.  Maybe there’s some wine with dinner.  Maybe there’s just a little too much wine with dinner every now and then.  But the emphasis is either on some activity — movie, meal, music and dancing, games, something outdoorsy — or just enjoying each other’s company.

My friends tend to be professional, college educated bright, successful people.  Not that you have to be college educated to have those other qualities, but most of my peers are.

My white friends, on the other hand, are all about the alcohol.  At a previous job, there were a few months where the “social circle” folks were out drinking (heavily) three times a week on average.  At any job I’ve had, playing means drinking, whether it’s a few celebratory drinks in the office, some manager type with a bottle of hard liquor in their desk, happy hours or whatever.  And people were regularly driving under the influence, if not plain drunk.  One of the execs wore a T-shirt to an event that said:  “We’re going to keep drinking until morale improves.”

One night I decided that I would hang out with the fun crowd.  They started drinking at 2pm.  Moved on from the restaurant to a bar for a few drinks.  And then proceeded to a club for some drinks.  I left at about 1am and people were still drinking!  I was impressed — in the same way I’m impressed by those guys who can hammer a nail into their forehead or drive needles through their tongues  for the sake of entertainment.

I had half a beer and a Woodchuck Draft Cider and was sick as a dog the next day.  Obviously, I got some kind of flu or bug because I can’t remember the last time I felt that bad.

I realized recently, since my recent phase/quest to get acquainted with alcoholic beverages, that people who drink this way — recreationally, socially, philosophically, religiously — are disturbed when others don’t drink.  Drinkers are put out if someone holds out unless that someone is the designated driver.

Misery and/or Vice love company.

When my white friends that I really would like to hang out with come through town they always want to hang out at a bar.  I’m thinking, I don’t want to get drunk or watch you get drunk.  I just want to hang out and talk or do something that won’t make me feel like crap the next day.  I want to remember being here with you and vice versa.  Come on!

I’ve tried on various occasions to get people to hang out or go see some music.  Nothing doing.  Those same people who didn’t have time for it would end up going out bar hopping instead.  Let’s assume that it’s not because of my personality or whatever.  I’m assuming it’s more along the lines of what they value as experience and fun.  Even if that experience is a vague blur.

My point is, cultural alcoholism.

Alcohol is the drug of the masses.  And drugs.  I’m not disputing the fact that gettin’ your drink on facilitates the good times and gets the party rollin’.  I’m not a Puritanical prude favoring prohibition.  What I’m saying, my European American family, is y’all drink too damn much.

Do you need an intervention?  What’s going on?  Do you want to talk about it?

Sincerely,

Kevin Glen

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