By Ryan Douglas (Nevermore), Guest Contributor – OurBlackNews.com
Dear self-deprecating white people,
For the love of all that is pure and holy, please, cut that shit out. First off, I can do bad all by myself. So, when I break the law by willfully committing crimes and get arrested, thus becoming another “black man” statistic, I am to blame, not you. When I point a gun, or a facsimile of one, at a police officer and get shot, I am to blame, not you. When I skip school to hang out on the corner with my equally irresponsible friends, I am to blame, not you. When I have opportunities that my parents and grandparents could only dream of, and I fail to take advantage of those opportunities, thus becoming another statistic, I am to blame, not you. When I get stopped for a seemingly insignificant traffic infraction, and I am found with drugs and/or paraphernalia, thus getting arrested and becoming another statistic, I am to blame, not you. Ten percent of my life I have zero control over; what other people choose to say or do to me, the weather, the economy, traffic, etc. The other 90%, I, and I alone, am fully responsible for. Not you.
As I am typing this on a computer and as it is uploaded onto social media, it is safe for you to assume that I was not alive during slavery. Neither were you. It is safe to assume that on both our sides, none of our family within 3 generations lived during slavery. Therefore, I do not need you to feel guilty for the existence of the North American Slave Trade. I don’t need you to sit with your equally self-deprecating hippie friends and chain yourselves together, wearing t-shirts that say “Guilty.” That means absolutely nothing to me. It does absolutely nothing in my life but make me ask myself, “What is it with these white people?” If you choose to feel guilty for something you did not do, for something neither of us were alive to experience, that is your choice. But do not sit there and claim that it is on my behalf. Do not claim to do it for my sake. It has nothing to do with me. In fact, it only serves to speak toward your own bloated self-importance. It speaks to your own narcissism-to think that events that ended 150 years ago somehow center around you making apologies and declaring yourselves guilty, to think that your own self-perceived guilt is somehow a major factor in my life, who are you? I am more than capable of feeling guilty for my own flaws and misdeeds. I do not need to carry your self-aggrandizing and misplaced guilt as well. You were not there. I was not there. So what makes you think you owe me anything? What makes you think that your own importance, relative to the passage of time in relationship to those events, has any bearing on my life?
Our parents and grandparents lived during the social upheaval that was the Civil Rights Movement. We did not. Maybe your family was on one side and mine on the other. Maybe they were both on the same side. The point is that neither of us were there. You did not lynch me. You did not kidnap me. You did not burn crosses in my yard and terrorize my family. You did not refuse me service in your establishment. You did not call me “nigger.” Nor was I alive then to experience any of those things. I can understand later generations apologizing for the actions of earlier generations. It happens often, however, not to the point that the apologetic parties begin to hate themselves or feel guilty for what they have not done. The apology is still sincere, however, it is an acknowledgement that what was done in the past was wrong, and an agreement to find better ways in the present and future.
What you fail to realize is that as a black man in America, I was raised by this society to be ashamed of my blackness. I was raised to be ashamed of big lips, a big nose, “nappy” hair, etc., all things I could not control. I was raised to believe that there were only two places for a black man to end up, jail or the cemetery. I was raised to believe that the primary purpose for a black man was to play basketball or football. Imagine the surprise on the actual bigoted racist white people when they found out I completely sucked at basketball and was not passionate about football. Imagine their surprise when they found out I was an avid reader. To this day, people are still surprised when they have heard my voice or read my writing and then actually meet me. As a black man, I am not supposed to be eloquent or well versed. Even further still, I am not supposed to have an intense fondness for rodeo, country/bluegrass/folk music, NASCAR, baseball, big trucks, country girls, and country living. But I do. I am who I am. The point of all that is not to give you further reasons to torture yourself. It is to tell you that I know what it is to feel ashamed of yourself, based not on any valid reasoning, but on the actions and prejudices of others. THAT is not something you want to take upon yourself-being ashamed of your identity and factors out of your control. At the end of the day, I am-as we all are-who I choose to be.
I cannot be held accountable for the deeds and words of my father, my grandfather, my great grandfather, etc. In the same vein, I cannot, and will not, hold you accountable for the deeds and words of your predecessors. That, in itself, is just as unfair as subjugating someone based on an ignorant prejudice.
We all have numerous things we could feel guilty for. However, we do not need to invent new kinds of guilt to add to our collection. You do not need to carry your white guilt like a cross of crucifixion. I do not need you to do it either. If you want to do something positive and invaluable, stop with the wholly unnecessary “white guilt,” stand up, look me in the eye, and let us address each other on the same footing. Let us put our hearts and intelligences together and find a way to ensure that our children never experience any of these things. Let us work side by side, as equals, to fix the problems of the past so that we may build a better future together. Let us finally release the past and relegate it to its proper place behind us, so that we may look forward together and share the same vision of the future. That’s what I need you to do.
Your constant apologies, well intentioned as they may be, do absolutely nothing for me, for my son, for our future, or for yours. Your self-flagellation produces no other results than drawing attention to yourself and keeping both of us from working together to create a future in which none of this is even necessary.
Just as we cannot be held accountable for what our descendants do generations from now, we cannot be held accountable for what our ancestors did. All we can do is hold ourselves and each other accountable for what we do today. If we do not let go of the past, we will have no room for the future. If we continue to stare into the past, we will never see the future. We cannot change what happened yesterday, nor can we dictate what will happen tomorrow. The one and only thing we can do is work together today.