On Being a Peckerwood

mslauren at feminste has a request for a short essay in which she outlines some questions. I’ve never had much of a problem answering questions, so here goes.

1. what does it mean to be white? what does it mean to be White?

It means being disenfranchised on the question of race. As a white man, I am not allowed to have an opinion that is at odds with acquiescence to a minority, or I am a bully. By having white skin and a couple of testicles, I am presumed to not be capable of understanding the position of people who lack one of those two qualifications.

It also means being saddled with the sins of people who were gone a long time before I showed up. Because I am presumed to have some sort of advantage (which sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t) I am the focus of anger from other people for things that I have never done.

Chris Rock coined the phrase “Born a Suspect”. Being white means being “Born a Bigot”.

2. how has whiteness affected your worldview?

One thing that it has done is taught me contempt. Because I have been the target of so many unfair accusations of racism, I tend to discount any claim of racism. I know how many false alarms there are. The faster someone pulls the race card, the more likely I am to think of them as a liar.

It has also made me more aware of wasted opportunities. As someone who grew up in a black neighborhood, I saw how the subtle advantages of affirmative action add up, and are almost always pissed away to “keep it real”. I have actually had to work harder to get into the same programs that other kids at my school were getting into. These weren’t kids that were more disadvantaged than me. In a class with black teachers who were convinced that I was a white devil in training, they weren’t disadvantaged over me. I didn’t have any more money than they did — I lived next door. What they did have was another four or five percentage points that they could slack off to the do same thing I did.

3. how has whiteness affected your educational experience?

In elementary school, it gained me the contempt of my teachers. I went to a black school with black teachers. Some of them were racist, and while it didn’t affect me much educationally (I was usually better at educating myself than they were at educating me) it affected me emotionally.

It also meant that I wasn’t challenged often. Motivational-ish speakers would come to the school to talk about how important it was for these black kids to do well in school, and to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, and so on. What did I get?

“What are you worried about? You’re white.”

4. how has whiteness affected your experience with authority?

For one, I recognize that I can get away with things that black people can’t. I don’t have any illusions about that. I don’t think that this is a problem of racism; I think it is a problem of the black culture. I don’t think there is any significant number of cops who believe in the genetic superiority of one race over another, but there are plenty who know that a white guy is less likely to be poppin caps for tha bling bling and keepin it real.

It did, though, have a big impact on my childhood. There was always a cloud hanging over any interaction between a white authority figure and me. It was always under a microscope, and any intangible (like being a polite student, or no history of major problems) was discounted for fear that it would be perceived as some sort of race preference.

5. how has whiteness affected your experiences with people of other races and ethnicities?

I’m not allowed to comment. It’s a black thing that I wouldn’t understand. If I sympathize, I’m an ivory tower punk who doesn’t get it. If I am critical, I’m a racist.

One Comment

  1. Prometheus 6 says:

    Cognitive dissonance

    Rarely has a title been more appropriate. Today there were two more entries added to the Identity Blogging thread. S-Train from a Black perspective and Phelps from a white pespective….