Eric Garner, everyday White people and the lack of discourse around race.

“But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park and nobody by to perceive them.[…] The objects of sense exist only when they are perceived; the trees therefore are in the garden no longer than while there is somebody by to perceive them.”

George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

If the Anglo-Irish philosopher was alive today I speculate that he would pose the following question and unfortunately, come to the same conclusion. “If a man is killed from being put in a chokehold for selling cigarettes in the middle of Staten Island, in the middle of the day… and it is videotaped and seen by at least twelve million people, did it really happen?”

Not until yesterday did I realize that the subjectivity of fallen trees in a forest and murdered men could be observed with equal debate.

For the first time in my life, in the wake of a civil rights atrocity, I have no interest in hearing from a single Black person.

I don’t want to hear from President Obama.  I don’t want to hear from Iyanla Vanzant.

I don’t want to hear from Charles Barkley, Ben Carson or Don Lemmon.

I don’t want to hear from my preacher, my grandfather, Jesse Jackson or John Lewis.

I don’t want to hear from any of them, because I know what each of them would say.

For most, it makes sense why Blacks have directed and dominated the narrative on racism for the past 50 years.   Before then, America did not have a race problem…it just had a “Black problem.”

For decade upon decade, the story of race relations has been a juxtaposition of inertia:  The constant wailing of the marginally empowered versus the silence of those grandfathered into privilege that they did not yet have the perspective to recognize.

Cycles of anger against cycles of apathy.

Rage set against disregard.

Two polar opposites seemingly set to collide.

Yet today, I am listening and eagerly waiting for White America to speak.

Not in my lifetime have views of the White and Black experience in America been so starkly different.  And while my ears have become adjusted to the wails of those who look like me, my soul can’t adjust to the collective silence of those who comment about Jimmy Fallon while cities burn.

Those who post about pumpkin spice lattes while others fill the streets.

Those who look the other way when men are killed, beaten and arrested for simply being.

I don’t want to hear from Black people.

I want to hear from those who wear the cloak of white privilege that they say that they didn’t ask for.  Those who would say that their whiteness sometimes feels like an unjust scarlet letter.  Those who would try their best to convince me that there is no white versus black.  Only right versus wrong.

I want to hear from those who would sooner kick your ass for calling them a racist than be identified as one.  People who would like to think they are not like their granddaddies, or their uncles or those people who say the things that one should only keep in the recesses of their minds.

I want to hear from those who don’t hate Blacks but have never talked to one.

Those who don’t hate Blacks but sure as heck don’t want to live by too many of them.

Those who believe that race doesn’t matter because Barack Obama is President, because they’ve always been a fan of Oprah and because they let their teens listen to Iggy Azalea.

I need to hear from you because reality dictates that not only are you more likely to be a police officer who kills an unarmed Black person but that you are also more likely to sit on the jury who decides that the killing was justified.

I’m not interested in calling you a racist; that’s so 1908.

…and so 1964…

…and so 1997…

I recognize that the accomplishments of freedom and legal equality were not feats that Blacks accomplished alone.

But I am interested in understanding and discussing why you are so afraid.

I imagine that for too many of you, every interaction that stretches beyond the familiarly of White life is like the day after September 11th was for everyone else. Where,

On September 12th: Taliban = Sunni Muslims = Shiite Muslims = Aziz Ansari = Mindi Kaling = Osama Bin Laden

And today:  Black Man A = Black Man B = Suge Knight = Danger = Obviously Worthy of Death

It’s all justified prejudice fueled by terror and ignorance.

And what has always been true is that fear in the hands of those in power usually manifests itself like a thousand cuts to those who have none.

I welcome Whites who hide in the invisibility of everydayness to step up to the podium to discuss race.  It has become apparent that I need to understand some things that Black folks just can’t explain to me.  Because every time a jury of citizens decides that the unjust killing of a Black person was just, that’s another way of saying, “Hey, I get it.  If it was me, I would have done the same thing too.”

And that’s far worse than being a tobacco-plant chewing, no-teeth having, subject-verb confusing racist because rationalized fear can destroy many more lives than lynching ever did.


Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Meet The Blogger

    Kay S

    Kay Smith is a Chicago-based freelance writer and blogger who focuses on race, politics and urban culture. Having worked on public policy at the state, regional, city and community level, her opinions have been featured in the Chicago SunTimes and a host of news websites (under very mysterious sounding pseudonyms). Follow her on Twitter @kaywillsmith or contact her at

  • Categories

  • Subscribe via RSS

  • Subscribe via Email

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

  • Tags

  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement: