Sometimes I’m Ashamed to Be White

A crumpled white paper with the words WHITE GUILT

A crumpled white paper with the words WHITE GUILT
Last Thursday my wife Pam and I were standing on the street in front of our house, enjoying a social-distancing breath of fresh air, when one of our neighbors walked by us. We live in a very diverse neighborhood, and the lady who walked past us is Black. She was also engaged in a Bluetooth-phone conversation with a friend, and she seemed very upset. Nevertheless I waved, and Pam said “Hi”. Our neighbor, however, strained to acknowledge our greeting while continuing to converse on her phone. Later we found out why she was upset. She had just viewed the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder.

On February 23, Ahmaud, a 25-year-old Black man, was jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Glynn County, Georgia in broad daylight, when he was confronted by three armed White men in a pick-up truck. Moments later three shots rang out and Ahmaud lay dead. Hardly anyone outside of Glynn County knew about the attack because no arrests were made. But last week a video of Ahmaud’s murder surfaced on the internet and the national outrage began. Police then arrested 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son Travis, both White, and charged them with first-degree murder. The video was taken by their friend William Bryan who had accompanied the McMichaels in “hot pursuit” of Ahmaud, who they believed was a burglary suspect. The McMichaels men also told police they shot Ahmaud in “self-defense”.

I’m not saying that all southern White redneck racists are ignorant liars and cowards, but my 66-year history with them says they are. First of all, Ahmaud was not a burglar. Second, burglars don’t tend to commit a crime and then go for a leisurely jog on a Sunday afternoon. Third, if the 3 stooges actually believed Ahmaud was a criminal, they could have called the police. And fourth, common sense tells you that it’s not “self-defense” when three armed White men murder one unarmed Black man. Sometimes I’m ashamed to be White.

Last month when NASCAR driver Kyle Larson used the “N” word, I was ashamed to be White.

Last week when a Mecklenburg County school principal referred to Black students as “colored folks”, I was ashamed to be White.

When I see cartoons still popping up on Facebook that depict the Obamas as gorillas, I am ashamed to be White.

When African Americans say they are afraid to wear medical masks during the Pandemic for fear of being racially profiled as bank robbers, I am ashamed to be White.

When Donald Trump singles out his one African American supporter at a rally attended by a crowd comprising 99.9% Whites by saying, “Where’s my Black?”, I am ashamed to be White.

When right-wingers say that Blacks commit voter fraud by voting once, then changing their clothes and voting a second time, I am ashamed to be White.

When armed Caucasians march through Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, I am ashamed to be White.

The sad truth is that overt racist behavior has escalated over the past decade. Ever since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, for example, there has been a rise in hate groups. There’s also been a surge in gun sales, and if this were 60 years ago, there’d be a spike in the sale of rope too. Speaking of which, have you ever heard of one White guy lynching a Black man? Have you ever heard of just one, hooded KKK member terrorizing a Black family? Have you ever heard of an unarmed White redneck beating up a Black man his same size? My point is that White racists are cowards who only act out their racist behavior when they’re in a group. Unfortunately, these cowards are, in some sense, an indictment of my race.

It’s no wonder, then, that my neighbor strained to greet me last week. In her heart she knows that Pam and I are just regular folk, but it’s hard to be friendly with your White neighbor when you’ve just watched another video of another unarmed Black man shot down in cold blood by another group of White racists. In time, my Black neighbors will be able to smile warmly at me when we walk past each other, but for now, I can’t blame them for the pain and anger they must be feeling toward Southern men who happen to share my skin color. There are no words I can say to make things better. All I can say is, “Sometimes I’m ashamed to be White.”


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