Unlike statements like “I am bald” or “I take the subway to work,” when I say, “white people are garbage,” it is a nuanced statement, layered with different meanings and intentions.
When I say that white people are garbage, I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. Also, I’m not “race-baiting,” which, by the way, is not even a real thing.
When I say that white people are garbage and you feel the urge to clarify that “not all white people” are garbage, or that you, yourself are a kind and good person, please don’t. From now on, when someone does this, I’m not going to explain why it’s a selfish diversion from the topic at hand. Instead, I’m simply going to ask them what they are doing to dismantle white supremacy. (Hint: being kind and good isn’t enough to do it.)
When I say that white people are garbage, I am not being racist against white people. In fact, it’s impossible to be racist against white people. Sure, folks can be prejudiced against white people, but white people cannot be victims of racism. Why? Because there isn’t a massive system operating to oppress, silence, and kill white people. And before someone spouts the dictionary definition of racism, we need to learn that the suffix “ism” literally means an encompassing collection of actions, conditions, principles, and doctrines —a system! Also, dictionaries are intended to provide elementary, simplified explanations of words. Hell, the dictionary definition of ketchup says that it is a spicy sauce. (And I’m sure it is spicy to some of us white people.)
And what is this massive system of privilege and power that oppresses People of Color? There are many facets. For starters, there’s institutional racism (legal, policing, housing, and educational practices and policies.) There’s also structural racism (segregation, gentrification, stratification, and environmental racism.) There’s a burgeoning wealth of information on these topics available with a simple Google search.
Finally, when I say that white people are garbage, it is a call to action for my fellow white counterparts. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF WHITE PEOPLE TO QUASH WHITE SUPREMACY. As I said before, it’s not enough to be good and kind. Sure, maybe YOU would never vote for a known racist or a pedophile, but I guaran-damn-tee that you know another white person who would. And it’s your/my job to step out of our cozy comfort zones, speak out, and confront them. It is also our job to vote for leaders with high, unwavering standards of equality and fairness. It is our obligation to call our senators and congresspeople and encourage them to vote in favor of legislation that rectifies and reverses systematic racism. It is our duty to organize and protest. And lastly, we must make financial commitments to empowering oppressed, marginalized people. Yes, that’s right. We must pay reparations.
My dear fellow white people: until we let go of our ego’s, recognize our white privilege, and start doing a helluva lot more than being kind and good, we will continue to be garbage.