I’ve been itching to say things to enable tongues of the privileged white race to unloosen and speak freely about themselves in fashions as David Sirota does in saying, “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon Bomber is a white American.” Sirota isn’t a mischievous man suffering from the “white guilt” which James Baldwin refers to in saying, those who fail to acknowledge the tyrannical roles of their white ancestors—those who embrace lies about history—they will psychologically wrestle with themselves as they struggle with the “white guilt.” If I might put words into Sirota’s mouth—he is somewhat worried about the mental health of whites.
This undiagnosed condition has affected large numbers of whites, making them incapable of and resistant to discerning what provokes Tim Wise to say “white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas.”
A gathering of the bones from Sirota, Baldwin, and Wise’s commentary affirms the existence of the problem that many whites aren’t speaking sufficiently authentic about themselves to know their own inconsistent ways—a problem, which I believe is a mental health issue. There can be no authentic self-examination and consequent psychological wellbeing without consideration of the history that produced the white-self. That history has everything to do with the diverse ethnicities that created it. For in ways that many underrepresented persons remain mentally traumatized from the legacy of a savaged history, whites too suffer from mental disability.
Whoever has eyes, let them see there exists a huge vacancy for whites to talk about their relationship to the peoples they see as other! Kartina Richardson addresses this vacuum as she wonders—“How can white Americans be free?” I wish to critically reframe this question as—how might white Americans lift themselves from mental shackles to create the healing they deserve? Filling the speech vacancy will deescalate the undiagnosed psychological defragmentation that results from the inability of these whites to self-examine in the context of their race.
For long enough, conversations have been about everyone else—lives and livelihood have been stopped and frisked to extrapolate theories about “the other.” By challenging and divorcing cultural narratives—“default beliefs” as Richardson puts it—more consciousness would focus on the never discussed and unseen things that cultivate norms within white culture—traditions that ail it. That certainly is one recipe for healing.
The undiagnosed afflicted numbers within the white population appear significant enough for us to deem the issue as critical. How will anyone validly refute the argument that many whites are psychologically undiscovered? Their memories, fears, desire, and regrets about race issues have consistently dodged scrutiny. They have been the busy doctors trying to discover and cure bodies of the universe. How frightening it must be for them to contend that the doctors are ill. The doctors have been infected with a genetic disorder for centuries. Suffering doctors—but they still lame about with rusting medical instruments hoping to open another brown and yellow heart for exploration.
These whites have long felt morally appeased that they have been allowing the other—not themselves—to rehearse, testify, protest, and correct a racialized history. To them, it’s a kind of white graciousness—literary reparation permitted by white consensus. Their graciousness have extended for decades so that now they complain that the underrepresented groups are unreasonable. Too much grumbling and complaining! Whining everyday about the same ol’ same racist past! Yes, things weren’t fair back then, but haven’t we made amends—what more do you want from us? Isn’t it time you move on!?
People of color using political correctness to acknowledge the white gratitude will benefit from the blessings of white privilege. That is—as long as they approach history without sounding too angry. Translating such emotion comes about only after a meeting point between the distant history and the translator’s psychological present. This clash creates a connection and therefore a charged narrative representation of raw truths that usually force white sensibilities to retreat into discomfort zones. Consequently, dominant institutions have subtly trained people of color to avoid passionate gesticulations and charged phrases that restore rather that rid the world of raw imageries of history. This lack of historical authenticity has disadvantaged large numbers of the white population from grasping the reality of their past.
It’s tacit agreement among many whites that phrases such as “white terrorism” or “white holocaust of the black race” or “white holocaust of the Jews” or “white genocide of Native Americans/Aztecs/ Mayans/Incas” or “white traditions of murders, beheadings, raping, pillaging, and conquests” produce racial polarization more than they authentically translate history. Many whites prefer watered-down rhetoric such as “injustices of the dominant class” or “acts of inequality by upper class white males” to capture the entire limbs of these brutal imageries.
Employing these rhetorical strategies brilliantly obedient, a select few people of color should expect the white dominated power structure to adorn them with stars and crown—spaces to write for prestigious journals, memberships on important prize-awarding committees, handsome speaking engagement opportunities…etc. The blessings of the white privilege will then ensure that Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, Native Americans acquire respective race privilege in their communities.
You’ll therefore have a select few names against which all-brilliant black literature are referenced; a handful of spokespersons who emerge during crisis moments to address issues plaguing the Native American community; a senator or the regular prominent Hispanic activists whose faces appear on television whenever the subject matter deals with immigration; and not too many Asians on standby to add diversity to the shortsighted coverage of matters of the East.
The undiagnosed members of the white population cannot mentally process why people of color, no matter what the class status, cannot share a body of authentic testimony without alluding to racial positions in America. As a scream to “Get the hell over it!” and a lecture that “We have given you enough civil rights reparation!” they parade names like Oprah and Obama—the greatest O’s.
The mental disability forces such talkers to brand bold civil rights activists such as Angela Davis and Michelle Alexander as profiteering from sowing seeds of racial hate. Undiagnosed and unhealed, they have no choice but to ignore the critical contribution of these scholars who constantly remind us that the American political system is grounded in a misguided war on drugs. In this war—which is really a vicious battle against people of color—government policies have strategically policed, herded, and packaged Hispanics and blacks in prisons to feed the economic well-being of white suburban communities and keep the stock market value of certain corporations attractive to investors.
The undiagnosed mental health issue precludes whites from positioning their own white bodies into history in order to understand why other races have done so as a means to find self-confidence in the contemporary. Untreated, whites will never comprehend that blacks will never be at peace until the dismantling of stereotypes that begin black history in African jungles with hearts of darkness devoid of cultural hearts of civilized love. It is too much mental labor for these types of whites to imagine what it means to be connected to a classical history of Egyptian empires, pharaohs, and pyramids that the historian John Henrik Clarke talks about. Even knowing that blacks are repeatedly forced to sit exams and check boxes that say classical history began in Greece will not enable them to get it.
The disability makes it mentally strenuous for whites to process—deeply-deeply—the idea that “whiteness” as a social construct emerged as their white ancestors conquered lands such as those of the indigenous Mesoamericans. Feeling victorious from these types of numerous conquests, white Europeans and Americans cultivated notions of superiority that enabled them to see themselves as different. This however happened only because they had others with whom to compare themselves. Out of the presence of the other, whites discovered their own white presence.
Like many people of color have admitted they are examining their individual and collective selves to restore history in order to cure themselves of mental terrorism from the legacies of the past, whites should embody their example. White doctors need to dump the antique medical blades and take their space on the patient table to self-examine: how have I—my whiteness—my sense of self emerged from the brownness and yellowness around me? My resentment of those who feel they have a right to consistently force me to return to history that I wasn’t apart of and hadn’t a beating heart or lungs then—what does it say about my inability to understand the depth of what so many millions have been saying? It can’t be those millions alone who don’t get it—so how much of what they are saying has missed me/us? If they are able to voice their identity through their race and the history of race—what testimonies could we find to do similarly rather than continue to exist with the fear of speaking about our racial selves? How has a tradition of silence repressed our testimonies and starved the recording of our history? In terms of telling authentic histories, should our white race be considered the underrepresented? In what ways might we deliver our past and future, ourselves, from repression so as to enter zones of mental healing?