White People Are Running Scared As Their Long Reign Crumbles

Anti-racist blogger Shay Stewart-Bouley of Black Girl in Maine shared news of white backlash against Black History Month in the U.S. generally and targeting her specifically. She posted the above photo to social media platforms with her commentary and the predictable backlash from terrified, angry white people ensued. 

Her analysis of the “It’s OK to be White” message is worth a read.

Coincidentally, my weekend kicked off with my 6 year old grandson sharing that he had watched Portland City Councilor Victoria Pelletier read a nasty letter she received and decided to publicize on social media.

(Note: I greatly appreciate my grandchildren’s parents for their active anti-racist educational efforts in our mostly white family.)

My grandson remembered Councilor Pelletier from the community television show we do together as he and his mom had been in the studio audience last year. As a young constituent of Portland’s 2nd District, he was concerned that people were “being mean” to Councilor Pelletier. 

Yup, me too, and kudos to Pelletier for lifting the rock and showing us the ugly racism that she and other people of color face constantly when elected to public office.

All this on the weekend of the Chinese weather balloon theatrics.

White people locally, nationally, and internationally are expressing their perception of being backed into a corner where their power over others and control of common resources is eroding rapidly. 

NATO, a white supremacist military alliance, has bombed, occupied, and pillaged populations around the globe. Now that Ukraine is being used in a proxy war to weaken China’s strongest ally, Russia, the violence is targeting whites — as it did in air strikes on Yugoslavia in the 1990’s.

But NATO and its U.S. masters are watching their economic power slip away. 

This is what working class white people are experiencing domestically as well.

Arguments about fairness and equity fall on deaf ears. The fact that Black households in the U.S. have a mere 11% of the household wealth of white households doesn’t matter to these terrified white folks. They can’t afford enough food or heat and are panicking. Their healthcare options are pathetic, and access to luxuries like regular dental care are almost non-existent.

Media owned by billionaires have people in the U.S. trained to blame each other rather than the root of their common problems: corporate government that allows, even facilitates, profit from misery. 

Example of a false dichotomy narrative common in the U.S.

Big Pharma and weapons manufacturers spring to mind but there are many more.

The U.S. doing business as NATO is panicking, too. The Ukraine war sanctions on Russia harmed Europe’s economy, not Russia’s, and hastened the abandonment of the U.S. dollar as a currency for international trade. Billions of dollars and weapons later, Ukraine’s military cannot prevail, and it has already lost in the humanitarian sense with neo-Nazis steering the ship of state.

Enter the weather balloon and cue the China-bashing hysteria in the press.

Most likely the PR aspect of hyping this appearance of a hot air balloon (there have been many in the past, but did you ever hear about them?) was to create a pretext for U.S. Secretary of State Blinken to cancel his announced visit to Beijing to meet with President Xi. This small step toward peaceful relations with China had to be stopped by those who want war and are very rapidly arming up in the Pacific region.

White supremacy has had its day. 

Delaying tactics are in some cases hastening its demise. Decisions made from fear are often not logical or ultimately beneficial to those making them.

It’s logical to be fearful of losing the major privilege accorded those who appear white. Although they play the victim, white privilege is very much something they benefit from all the time. Enslaving labor plus other plunder of colonized populations and their resources has created an artificial standard of living for white people that could never have endured on a level playing field.

So, as loss of status plus economic disaster overtakes this group, they lash out in myriad ways to stave off the inevitable. 

From the micro level where leaders of color are insulted and threatened to the macro level where NATO moves nuclear weapons into place all over the globe and ramps up anti-China rhetoric, white people are running scared.

Apology To The Black Woman On The Path At Willard Beach

Photo: Soul Cap

Greetings to the Black woman I met on the path at Willard Beach in South Portland on Friday, July 16. Our brief encounter has stayed with me because I regret my choices and hope that by reflecting on them I can do better. 

This is a story about how intentions don’t matter nearly as much as impact matters.

It was late on a warm, muggy day when I arrived at the beach. My husband went ahead with two little grandkids eager to get on the playground after a long car ride. After reorganizing the car a bit I hurried to catch up with them and found my way to the path by the outdoor showers. It was wet and puddly and there were wild roses crowding it on both sides. Meant to be a two-way path, but only if both parties skirted the puddles in the center and scraped the edge of the roses.

I was about halfway up the path when I saw you at the other end. You had almost shoulder length curly dark hair and a blue print dress. I’m not sure how old I thought you were but definitely an adult and definitely younger than me.

I kept to my edge of the path and continued as you began walking toward me. When we were about six feet apart, skirting our respective edges around the puddles, I said, “Excuse me” in what I thought was a polite tone. I thought about stopping to let you pass but I didn’t. As you passed me you said distinctly but quietly, “She’s everywhere I go.” There was no one else nearby that you might have been talking to or about, though I suppose it’s possible you were on the phone talking into a bluetooth device I couldn’t see. My impression was that you were speaking both to me and about me.

Doing the work to examine my own racism within a system of enforced white supremacy that has benefited me for 64 years, I found these feelings: surprise that you spoke; hurt that my “excuse me” wasn’t viewed as the polite expression I intended; annoyed that I was being lumped in with all the white women hogging all the paths; compassion for the weariness in your tone; confusion about what, if anything, I had gotten wrong; fear at the iceberg that your brief sentence is the tip of; exasperation that a Black person in the whitest state in the nation expressed annoyance at being surrounded by whiteness.

Reflecting on my brief utterance, it occurred to me that the words “excuse me” can be weaponized with sarcasm and undoubtedly are by passive-aggressive white women.

Reflecting on how my body took up space that could have been yielded, I realize that my upbringing in a society dominated by white privilege was worse than useless. As the older person and the one who was already on the path, I assumed my right to keep using it.

As a white person, I have never expected a person of color to step off the sidewalk to let me pass. But I look like a whole lot of people that not only expected it but might use violence to enforce it. Even a woman definitely too young to have lived through the Jim Crow segregation practices that traumatized my young parents in Georgia in 1955 probably knows this in her bones.

Even if she was not the descendant of enslaved Africans, but possibly part of the diaspora communities from Somalia, Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo that now live in southern Maine. Because Jim Crow doesn’t care what country you were born in or what language you learned to speak as a toddler. The fact that you don’t look white is the only salient fact for segregationists.

So I want to apologize to you, Black woman on the beach path. 

I wish I had paused on the path and let you pass without comment. I might have said “hello” as you passed by, but I wish I had not said “excuse me.”

Thank you for saying what you did. Without it, I would have quickly forgotten our brief encounter.

I would have gone on clicking heart on the Instagram posts of both ___brick and the group blacksand.surf who are claiming the right to surf and otherwise enjoy the beach while Black in California. 

Source: How the memory of a black resort refused to fade “A bather at Bruce’s Beach. The Shades of LA Collection, LA County Library”

I know the history that a Black resort owned by the Bruce family was thriving until 1924 when it was stolen from them by the City of Manhattan Beach.

I know that when I got up this morning both Huntington Beach and Proud Boys were trending on Twitter, because of a white supremacist rally yesterday in another southern California beach town. Some history on that location, as reported by Mark McDermott in easyreadernews.com:

in early 1926, the most ambitious Black resort of all, the Pacific Beach Club, which was near completion in Huntington Beach and intended to be “the grandest escape of all” for Black Californians, complete with Eygptial Revival architecture, was destroyed by arson. The project had been headed by Ceruti and was clearly intended not only as a resort but as an act of economic activism, a statement that Black people would not only have a place at the beach, but build the “Queen of the Pacific.” It had all gone up in flames. Though no arrests were ever made, the Ku Klux Klan’s very active presence in Southern California at the time caused many to believe that they had started the fire. 

Photo: SoulCap.com

Whose head is the natural form? 

I’m going to remember your words — “She’s everywhere I go” — the next time I have an opportunity to hold space for a person in a Black body. And I’m going to do better at using that opportunity, because I sincerely want to, and to honor the work that you did for me when you spoke up. Because only impact matters.