Today a powerful white man in Houston suggested to me that if Black people want to improve their circumstances it’s all about personal responsibility. And that race is an issue only because we keep bringing it up. Everything was fine and we were all getting along before some people made an issue of race.
I was meeting with him because he complained about me. I was in a meeting in which a number of privileged white men spoke about how delighted they were that there was no blue wave and that they would keep their tax cuts. I was not a party to their celebratory comments. I made note of my dissent. Politely. I was raised well.
However. It doesn’t matter. Some people can’t handle being uncomfortable and instead of introspection – examining their own conscience – he complained that my comments made him uncomfortable.
I don’t want to hate this man but on the other hand I really did kind of hate him in the moment. For his inability to endure and embrace being challenged. For his limitations. For complaining about “being tired of feeling guilty”. For griping about his momentary discomfort at having to listen to people who mourned the election outcome. (That it wasn’t more decisive.) I am frustrated with him for being so narrow. So lacking. Every dang thing in the world has gone your way and there is nothing more to be had by you in the way of wealth and privilege. Still you complain.
And I’m frustrated with myself for my decades long efforts to try to make people like him understand and appreciate the suffering of other people.
I don’t have additional ways to explain how his decisions make other people miserable.
I don’t have time or words to convey how much I hated this person – in the moment. I didn’t want to feel that way about him. I didn’t even want to be angry. But I hated even being in the same room with his self righteous and self satisfied privileged self.
I summoned grace. I prayed.
And I thought about what people of color experience every day. And I resolved to persist.
To try to make him understand that his discomfort – his complaint that he felt targeted as a white man was the daily experience of people of color &/ women. That he – for the first time ever had the experience of wondering if he would be stereotyped. If he would be judged wrongly by the worst behaviors of those that looked like him.
“Here’s your chance”, I said. “Here’s the moment when you can choose to appreciate that how you feel now is how every person of color feels every day – everywhere”.He wants to be seen as an individual. And he wants to continue to believe and have me affirm that race is only a problem because we keep bringing it up. Like Covid is only an issue because we keep testing.
You tout your philanthropic efforts. Your tax policy enabled “generosity”.
But I will not accept or embrace a system that depends upon good beggars/intermediaries. And your fickle largess. To determine whether a hungry individual has a chance.
I do insist upon a system that assumes the value and significance of every individual. And that invests accordingly. In health. In education. In training. For everyone. Not just the people you deem worthy. Not just those you decide are deserving.
I insist upon working toward a system that values everyone. Even if I don’t live long enough to see it.
© Angela Blanchard