“White Civil Rights”? … I Just Can’t!

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Several years ago, an acquaintance shared with me that a group of middle-aged white men that he gathers with for Bible study at his church believe “white is the new black.”

I asked what that meant. He shared that they believe they are being discriminated against. I asked him why they thought that way. He said “well it’s no longer popular to be a white man.”

I asked “do you believe that white men are actually discriminated against”? He never answered the direct question, but said “well, they might have a point.”

We were interrupted and never finished the conversation.

I was reminded of his statement several days ago, when I heard that the National Park Service had given initial approval to the request of Jason Kessler to hold a “white civil rights rally” across the street from the White House in August – on the one-year anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., which drew hundreds of white nationalists and supporters.

Kessler was one of the organizers of the Virginia rally, during which 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when run over by a car driven by a self-described neo-Nazi; 20-year-old DeAndre Harris was brutally beaten with a metal pipe and wooden boards by white supremacists; and a self-described KKK leader fired a shot toward a counter-protester.

The Virginia rally was organized to protest cities taking down Confederate statues. Kessler reportedly told a CBS affiliate in Washington that the purpose of this year’s rally is “to talk about the civil rights abuse that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.” (Note: a permit has not been issued by the National Park Service for the rally being planned for August 11 and 12 in the nation’s capital).

I’m confused. Is “white civil rights” a thing? Are white people, in general – or white men, specifically – oppressed?

The last time I checked, white people (particularly white men) were not on the losing end when it comes to the persistent racial disparities in education, health, employment, and wealth in this country. Where is the system that puts white people at a disadvantage when it comes to race?

I’m not saying white people don’t experience prejudice – they do. But they do not experience unfair treatment as a social group based on that prejudice (discrimination); and they don’t experience discrimination backed by institutional power (oppression); and they certainly don’t experience oppression in which another racial group dominates them (racism).

There are so many statistics/facts that speak to this: the May 2018 black unemployment rate is nearly double that of the white unemployment rate; whites have significantly higher rates of wealth than blacks and the wealth gap continues to widen; black students are more underrepresented at top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago; blacks receive sentences that are 20 percent longer than those for whites who commit the same crime; whites make up 80 percent of Congress and nearly 90 percent of federal judgeships; mortality rates for white infants are at least 50 percent lower than for black infants.

I could go on. Instead, I yield to ask someone to help me understand the preposterous notion of the oppression of white America.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

17 responses to ““White Civil Rights”? … I Just Can’t!

  1. Colette,
    This man and his friends have a bad case of “a hurt white man’s ego.” Most of us white folk have no real experience of true racism. We have been born into privilege of which we are most of the time unaware.
    Just finished reading Jodi Picoult’s novel “Small Great Things.” This was a novel superbly written about the black lived experience of racism and the white supposed understanding of the experience of racism. Hard to read but so critical for diving into the racial division in our country.

    1. That was a very enlightening book, sr Angie Mangro suggested it to me. In fiction, made some abstract concepts very personal.

    2. Agreed. “Hurt white man’s ego” is epidemic these days. It will continue to get worse as women and people of color inch closer to something approximating equality.

  2. Nearly 30 years ago, I was teaching English at Jackson State University, a Historically Black College or University. I was invited to join the secret meetings of the white English Department faculty. They were meeting because they felt outnumbered. These white faculty voluntarily taught at an HBCU, in a city and state that, at that time, did not give anywhere near full rights to people of color and yet they felt their privilege threatened so much that they had to meet separately. So sad that people find freedom for some threatening to themselves.

  3. Thank you for speaking the true truth, Colette.White men are not discriminated against. I think that they (we) are struggling with no longer having privilege, and, in some places, becoming the minority population. We have a long way to go and truth spoken, like you have in this blog, is an important step along the way.

  4. Colette; I share your confusion as I have never heard this notion before. Fr. Brian Massingale, a national Catholic Afro-American in his writings on Racism names it a “Soul Sickness” in our culture and states it is Institutionally
    supported. I don’t accept the “white men oppression” facade. Thanks for sharing as I can now be aware of another excuse for trouble-making.

  5. Things get “curiouser and curiouser”. Thank you for your thought provoking reflection–and all the others!

  6. Thank you, Collette, for these reflections. Somehow more white Americans need to learn about our long history as a country when it comes to racism, which effectively created
    segregated neighborhoods and schools.
    If some white folks are feeling threatened, perhaps
    the small efforts at righting the wrongs of the past
    are making an impact. But it is overwhelming, and we
    white folks have much to learn.

  7. To even entertain the notion that white people (and especially white males) experience the systematic discrimination, oppression and racism experienced by people of color is truly “preposterous”!

    This is not just an opinion. As Colette writes, the data exists.
    This is (still) how America exists today.

    Thank you, Colette, for giving voice to it!

  8. Right on Colette, great blog in this issue. I would have gone bonkers if I had encounter this man. This is utterly outrageous. Although I have never heard it said like that before. Peace, Alicia

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