Much that goes on in the hearts of white Americans is a mystery to me. They do not think like me. What follows is my take on those in the broad middle in 2008. Some are better than this, but some are far worse:
Almost all white Americans are racist. The truth is it is very hard to grow up in America without becoming racist – no matter what colour your skin is. Blacks are racist too.
Whites seem to think that so long as they do not join the Ku Klux Klan and do not use certain words they are not racist. They are blind to their own racism because it does not affect them.
White people barely think about black people. It is like in those television shows where everyone is white except the judge. Most live in an all-white world, like on “Friends”.
Most do not even see themselves as white – they are just people. After all, they do not speak English with an accent, eat special foods or observe strange holidays. Everyone else does, but not them!
White people generally give each other the benefit of the doubt, but they do not extend it to blacks.
If you are black you are constantly doubted in their eyes. They think you are:
- less moral than you are,
- less hard-working than you are,
- less talented than you are,
- less trustworthy than you are,
- less honourable than you are,
- less intelligent than you are,
- less rich than you are,
- less well-read than you are.
You have to be twice as good before they can even begin to see past your blackness.
Whites might think you are better at dancing or sports, that you are even cooler than they are, but do not be fooled: at the very same time they will also think you are more violent and immoral than they are and have less education and money too.
Rather than giving you the benefit of the doubt on these points until they find out more, like they do with well-dressed white people, they will just assume.
If you are different from white people, they seem to think there must be something wrong with you – even if they cannot say what. And if you are black, they seem to think you were born with a crack in your soul.
There has been progress: the whites who look at me with hate in their eyes are mostly older ones. To some degree younger whites are better at hiding their racism, even from themselves, but it seems like the old heat is gone from them.
But things like certain rap videos do not help: they play right into the worst ideas whites have about blacks as being violent, oversexed, ill-mannered and not particularly bright.
Neither does the near invisibility of the black middle class help. Nearly half of black America is now middle-class – something you would never know from watching television.
I hope my grandchildren will not understand this post. No one should have to.