Aren’t you tired of hearing folks who say, “You make everything all about race”? Me, too! But you know what I’m even more tired of? People who make everything all about race. I am, of course, talking about White people.
The most recent instance is, of course, the Kyle Rittenhouse debacle. We all know that no Black man would have been put on trial for doing what Rittenhouse did for the simple reason that he wouldn’t have survived that night in Kenosha. (Just ask the family of David McAtee. Or Jacob Blake. Or Elijah McClain.)
Nor would any Black teen been allowed to violate the terms of his bond by going on the lam, and then have the judge stand up for him. Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder not only did not revoke bond, not only did not increase the bond amount, but he went as far as denying the prosecution the right to know where the teen now lived. So none of the special treatment that followed should have been a surprise. Nor is it a shock that far-right Congress members are jostling to see who gets to offer Rittenhouse, a high-school dropout, an internship. You can’t make this stuff up when it comes to White folks.
But this isn’t new. White people have been making everything all about race as long as they have been on what became American soil.
Initially, both Spanish missionary priests and Puritan reformers made exceptions for Christianized natives; however, the lure of exploiting the indigenous was too great. Things did not end well for either the Christianized in the encomienda system or the praying Indians. Racism trumped Christianity. I will leave the history of the mistreatment of Native Americans to Dee Brown and his Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
I’m not about to go into the 400 years of slavery on this continent. (That’s what the 1619 Project is for.) The fact that chattel slavery was condoned — nay, celebrated — and built this nation is obvious to any student of history. That Jim Crow perpetuated a system as close as possible to slavery I leave to the PBS documentary series Slavery by Another Name and the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Blackmon that inspired the program.
But I will recap the history that is in living memory for most of us. White people made home ownership all about race, selecting a neighborhood all about race (with the full support of the federal government), starting or maintaining a business all about race (including during the COVID-19 pandemic), living a healthy life all about race – and even farming all about race. In most cases, redlining continues, despite avowals to the contrary. Between 2008 and 2019, Black-owned businesses received 53% fewer loans at a time of an 82% increase in commercial loans.
Whites also made university attendance all about race, And because Whites had much easier access to universities in the past, their children do, too, in the present, thanks to legacy admissions. Columbia University had a Whites-only scholarship until 2013. Yes, you read that right. Somehow all those Reagan Administration blowhards who spent the 1980s braying about reverse discrimination and quotas didn’t seem to get bothered about that one. Can’t imagine why.
But making everything all about race didn’t end with the death of the Reverend Martin Luther King — much less with the election of Barack Obama.
The only presidential candidate whose U.S. citizenship was ever questioned was a Black man. His 2008 presidential opponent, John McCain, was actually born in a foreign country: McCain was born in Panama while his father was on duty there. Yet, no one questioned McCain’s eligibility to run for this country’s highest office. Oddly, none of the Birthers who complained to high heaven that Obama was born in Kenya said “boo” about Senator Ted Cruz’s run in 2016 — even though Rafael Edward Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada. Funny, that.
And it’s obvious that White people are still making everything about race. Somehow, they can justify the shooting an unarmed Black teenager for the sin of walking through his own father’s neighborhood with an iced tea and Skittles. Attacking the U.S. Capitol and attempting to (1) overturn an election, (2) stoke a military coup, and (3) execute the vice president, Senator Mitt Romney, and the Speaker of the House is somehow OK — a normal tourist day, if you will — when White people do it. At the same time, supporters of equal rights for Blacks were charged with first-degree felonies for almost violating a curfew. I kid you not. Southern Baptist mega-church members openly bemoan the integration of their church. Because that’s what the dark-skinned Semitic Jesus would have done, I guess.
The message of the Rittenhouse verdict is pretty clear: Everything is about race. And don’t take my word for it. From The Daily Beast: “Brien James, a former Proud Boys leader, went further, using his Telegram channel to call for attacks on people outside the courthouse. ‘Who wants to go clear out the scum clogging up those court house [sic] steps?’ James wrote.” Needless to say, that invitation is for Whites only.
The Koch Network has been working to resegregate schools for years now. Indeed, the highly volatile — and sometimes violent — screaming matches and attacks at school board meetings are being funded and orchestrated by Koch Industries and the heiress to the Vicks VapoRub fortune in a continuation of their divide-and-conquer tactics. If Whites are battling liberals, minorities, and their own more-enlightened children, they won’t take on the 1%.
“You make everything about race!” As long as White people make everything about race, they won’t focus on how to improve life for the 99%. That suits the billionaires just fine.
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