Dear White People: Exactly What Are We So Afraid Of?

Dear White People: I’m one of you, and I just don’t understand you some times. I understand you less and less lately.  When I heard of outcry over Beyoncé’s halftime performance, I was confused.  Did I  miss a titillating wardrobe malfunction due to some broadcast delay?  Had I been so preoccupied by Queen Bey’s big blond (AKA White) hair I missed something uber-Black going on behind her?

Indeed I had. I’d missed the thing most threatening and offensive to us Whites, apparently: strong Black women dressed like Black Panthers standing in an “X” (as in Malcolm) with their fists in the air.  And despite having worked in Oakland and met Panthers myself, I just thought I was witnessing a masterful performance by strong Black women, with maybe a nod to Ms. Janet ’s Rhythm Nation.

Dear White People: really? We’re this selfish and blind?  We find this offensive when we’ve been killing Black boys in the streets for little-to-no reason, letting their murderers go free and poisoning an entire city’s water supply (and that’s just what we’ve done for Black folks lately)?  How can we possibly compare the Panthers to the Klan?  Do none of us read?  The Panthers have nothing like the track record of violence, rape, torture and murder that we do against Black people, Klan or otherwise.  The Panthers rose up to protect their community from police brutality, feed kids breakfast and provide healthcare.  They rose up because we weren’t protecting, feeding or caring for them as we do ourselves.  And we’re doing an arguably worse job today.

Also, White People: really? We’re this hypocritical? We find Beyoncé’s performance bigoted when we’ve covered ourselves in Confederate flags on stage, on trucks, on homes, and on government buildings?  We think that’s OK because it’s an expression of regional or historical pride?  Oh please.  Are we not listening to African Americans at all? Or do we just not care what they say?

Dear White People: we must be some world class a-holes to think Black people are imagining things or “using” situations for “political” reasons. What does that even mean? Of course they’re politically motivated – just like us.  They want to be treated with dignity, fairness, and respect through public policy – just like us.  They want college, jobs, promotions, housing and safe streets – just like us.  So why do we dismiss, minimize and outright ignore Black folks when they tell us things aren’t right or fair?  We must think they’re all (a) delusional, (b) liars, or (c) lazy and incapable of providing for themselves (like we do), which is why they’re resorting to complaints and manipulation. Really?  Have none of us met a Black person before?  Oh my White brothers and sisters, our bigotry is showing and we’re proving the need for Superbowl Panthers and #BlackLivesMatter.

My fellow White People: we must also be some world class weaklings to be unable to tolerate strong Black women inspiring and uplifting their community – through dance on a football field.  My ancestors tolerated long dangerous journeys, famine, locusts, frozen crops, too many babies, sweatshops and a Civil War concentration camp.  They would laugh in our wimpy faces.

Dear White People: exactly what are we so afraid of? Our hypersensitivity, blindness, deafness, and a-holeness betray our nervous fear. Is it that we can no longer avoid “the race issue” and it shows up even during our beloved SuperBowl?  Is it that it’s coming from Beyoncé – an undeniably talented female who’s rich, mainstream and a Presidential Inauguration performer – not some gangsta rapper we can easily dismiss?  Is it that looking at, much less talking about, Whiteness or race exposes our delicate sense of guilt or shame?

Or are we afraid of retribution? We often think other people are like us: trustworthy people often think others are trustworthy; liars and cheaters think everyone lies and cheats.  Do we fear, deep down, that once people of African descent gain more than a modicum of power, they will do unto us as we did unto them for centuries?  Oh my White brothers and sisters, our bigotry is showing through our troubled conscience.

Dear White People: centuries of racism and White privilege have made us entitled and fragile. Really.  Our biggest fear is saying the wrong thing, or seeing hints of Black pride during a football game.   Black folks’ biggest fear is the annihilation of their community, which is happening now.   We fear what might be. They fear what is — and has been for hundreds of years.   And yet we are the ones who are hypersensitive and fragile.

My White People:  It’s time to grow up and grow a pair.  Our people’s past is not our individual, personal faults.  But our present attitude, inaction, willful ignorance and fragility are our fault – and our responsibility. Don’t we value responsibility and integrity?  Then hypocrisy, blaming and willfully ignoring the evidence in front of us don’t belong.  Don’t we love freedom and strength?  Well, we are neither free nor capable of leadership as long as we’re this afraid.  Of Beyoncé.

Dear White People: It’s time to face our fears and heal our White fragility.  It’s time for us to put a stop to racism.  It’s time for us to shut up more  – to listen, learn, and follow.  I’ve been a White ally for decades, but I still have a lot to learn about racism and my own history.  I for one am going to #getinformation.

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105 thoughts on “Dear White People: Exactly What Are We So Afraid Of?

  1. Susana, I watched the halftime show with one eye, working on a project on my iPad with the other eye. I have to admit, I thought to myself, “Well, it is sort of Black History Month season, and it was nice of the NFL and the network to feature a little slice of history that few of us talk about anymore.” When it was over, I gave both eyes to the iPad and went back to work. Didn’t think another thing about it…until the next day, when I realized that White America had gone absolutely frenetically insane over the halftime show AND the new Beyoncé video.

    In the 1960s, music entertainers were the absolute heart of the Peace/Anti-War Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. This is a reminder for me of the impact that their work had back then. From Pete Seeger singing “We Shall Overcome” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhnPVP23rzo ) to Jimmy Hendrix playing The American National Anthem at Woodstock ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xpdw0ouogQo ), their performances were catalysts not just for change, but for progress.

    The Beyoncé performances weren’t just a reminder of the history portrayed in the video and halftime show, but a reminder that bold music professionals are, in fact, history in their own right. The good ones, the truly good ones, do wake us up and make us have a good look at ourselves in the mirror of our own entertainment.

    Thank you for this delightful post.

    1. You’re welcome Rob and thanks for reading! As you read, I too was surprised by the reaction, yet found it telling. It’s also inspiring to note these ladies were fully aware of their impact — they posed for pictures off camera with local activists advocating for Mario Woods. http://www.colorlines.com/articles/activists-describe-how-they-got-beyonc%C3%A9s-backup-dancers-demand-justice-mario-woods It’s definitely time for White folks to step up and I’m glad Bey used her influence to push the envelope and the conversation. Have a great weekend Rob!

      1. Susana, Your article is very timely. I am in a dialog with a person who I consider to be a decent human being who is not seeing the real picture. She is of the opinion that Bey’s performance was advocating the killing of cops. She also, like many others, feel that “Black Lives Matter” is a radical movement which advocates the killing of cops. What she , and others, fail to grasp is that the movement was attempting to make people aware that ALL lives do matter, however, in the eyes of too many people, Black lives matter less than others. This is something that been proven by the way Blacks ahve been and are being treated in this country.

        Thank you for writing this extremely inciteful article.

        1. Hi Joseph — you’re welcome, and thank YOU for engaging with a good person who doesn’t know the whole story and is invested in believing the small piece she’s been told. That takes love and courage. Have you tried educating her about what the Panthers actually did (and did not) do? Please follow me to read and upcoming piece I’m doing on why “All Lives Matter” is neither inclusive nor a solution. Thank you for taking the time to comment Joseph. Onward!

    2. Wow… you are a beast! I have a belief that states that 90% of people are actually decent, but they are followers. 8% of people are jerks (that includes racists, sexist, elitism and predators….) and they make a lot of noise, which leaves 2% exceptional people (which does not mean they are good or bad… just exceptional at what they do) to try to guide, evolve and innovate us to the next levels. Thank you for being the exceptional positive person that has the clarity to state that people (white or otherwise) are overreacting to that performance. I was shocked the next day because I thought that maybe I missed a wardrobe malfunction or some inappropriate “bumping and grinding”. Having relatives that I love of various ethnicities and color, I am not ever going to point to all of white people and say “WTF?”, but I will encourage those that have the will, courage and pride to stand up and speak the way you did. You are appreciated!

      1. Hi Red! Wow yourself! I share your belief about people, and my knowledge of brain science reminds me that we humans evolved to pay disproportionate attention to the loud minority of jerkfaces (for safety reasons), but that doesn’t always make it easier to deal with them — or the passive majority. It’s folks like you who take the time to offer encouraging feedback that help gird folks like me to face the hateful/fearful minority. Thank you for not pointing at all us White folks with the WTF finger (we active allies are few but mighty!), and for your kind appreciation. I will strive to be courageous and in integrity always. Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I am just glad that some white people such as yourself do comprehend exactly the situation black people are up against in dealing with the mainstream media led white majority. The future doesn’t look so dim-witted with white people like yoursef in the world. Sadly, people like you who think in common sense, fairness and equality as you do, are a VERY small minority of folks!

    1. You’re welcome Alysson! It’s tough being a White ally, but not as tough as being Black in the USA today. I’m trying to do my part to leave the world a little less racist than I found it. Thanks for reading, and taking the time to write!

  3. Thank you. I just couldn’t see the reason for the media explosion or the over the top racist rants. It’s as if people can’t believe loving our Black self doesn’t mean we hate White people. As if its impossible to understand our history and our future are bound. Like beads on a string.-“I feel that we, as Americans, are all equal and held together by a common thread. Like a treasured beaded necklace of different colors, held together on a string, we are held together by our necessities and our circumstances and our humanity. Every color helps to make the necklace beautiful. We can never be a totally separate entity! Americans of all colors are so integrated that if we hurt one, we hurt all. Just like that necklace of treasured beads- leave one out and the gap is seen. Break the chain and many of us are lost.”

    1. Ey, you’re welcome and thank you for your kind comment. I think seeing Black people truly love themselves is threatening because that’s not something we White people have seen very often, and it seems to me that Black folks loving themselves requires acknowledging/highlighting/saluting the complete historical context of being a person of African descent in America. This “reminds” Whites folks of racism (which typically we are blind to) and triggers our shame and anxiety, which we don’t handle well. Much resilience to be built for all the beads, no? Peace.

  4. Susana! Get out of my head. I could not have said it better myself but of course if I said then I would be just another angry black woman. Thank you so much for writing what I wouldn’t allow myself to say.

    1. HAHAHA! Amen sistah, I’m glad to know I was able to use my Whiteness to channel this message in a way that (maybe) more White folks can hear. Thanks for reading, and for writing!

  5. The thing is fear, yours white people against anything or anyone Black. The reason white cops have an inordinate amount of fear for their lives when encountering an unarmed Black woman, man or child. You are afraid of a raised fist, it’s our symbol not yours in my humble opinion you are welcome to keep your symbols like the flag you love to flaunt everywhere it is your symbol of loss, impotence and fear. Keep those flags flying and we’ll keep our raised fist,strength, courage, and forward thinking

    1. Amen E.F. I feel you. I’m holding the flag in one hand and my upraised fist in the other! Thank you for reading.

  6. When I saw the video the day before the Superbowl and then the Half-Time Show, I knew it was about to be “poppin”. Being Black in America, I know very well what stirs the pot and where the line (you do not go near, never-the-less-cross) is located by millimeters.

    I was NOT surprised by the response. I knew exactly what was going to happen. What I didn’t realize is that there were much more people like YOU and Rob that actually GET IT. I’m both surprised and pleased and have more hope for the nation I was born and grew up in. Thank you. Somebody had to say it, and I’m very glad it was you and you said it so eloquently.

    Blessings.

    1. Rosalind, wow! I am flattered by your message. I’m not sure as a recovering racist that I “get” everything, and I’m very glad this piece hit the mark and gave you hope. We allies are out here, ready to have your back! Thank you for reading.

  7. Thanks. It is good to see logic versus the utter insanity of the comment section on most web sites. This along with the SNL skit have been the highlight of the “madness”. I don’t think logical people will ever get the fear. We have always only wanted a seat at the table and not take over the dining room. I think that’s what most are scared of.

    1. Hi Tazzy — I love the dining room metaphor! I don’t know that my post is logical (humans aren’t) but I hope it’s reasonable, truthful, honest and empathetic. I get the fear, I just don’t feel it (anymore). Believe it or not, I was once a conservative with different views about race, but even then I was pretty caring, smart, brave and searching for answers — and I always hated racism. Thank you for writing!

    1. Ca va Jean-Pierre! Good point. White privilege is global, but USian White racism and bigotry is its own unique brand. Thanks for reading!

  8. This is a good letter. Unfortunately the people who need to read it will not be doing so. If they do read it, they will probably turn on you. I don’t like to sound so negative, but it is a learned reaction. Thanks for understanding, and, thanks for the letter.

    1. Hi Sandra! You’d be surprised how much exposure my pieces get, as well as very angry and hateful comments, which I don’t approve to appear on my site. However, this piece seems to have gotten mostly appreciation from African Americans and White allies. Being a vocal White ally is tough, but not as tough as being Black in America. 🙂 I write for people to share the pieces with people that might benefit from the message, so please share! Thank you for writing.

  9. Susana! In your responses to the comments about your great article, you reveal some growth…a transformation in your attitude about race that gives me hope. I too believe that the kind of comments you make here are better received by whites when they come from other whites, I appreciate how difficult sharing uncomfortable truths might be, and I admire your courage to tell the truth anyway.

  10. Miss Susan, girl!!! You are truly a Wordsmith!!! such fire and eloquence! thank God for forward-thinking people like you who provide understanding to this world, and give us hope. It took courage for you to speak these truths to America! I hope this letter goes viral!! Not only am I going to post it on my Facebook page and ask my friends to repost, I am going to print it and use it for reading in my classroom (I’m an educator). I can’t thank you enough. I wish you the best in all of your endeavors!!

    1. Ms. Bonnie! WOW! I feel your passionate and fire too! I am humbled by your support and enthusiasm, thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing! [insert fist bump emoji here]

    1. I think it’s great when people celebrate their heritage and I actually encourage it. We can be a united country and people with diverse backgrounds can still be one with their fellow citizen and still recognize and celebrate their own heritage and culture while retaining a common national heritage. However, I do have a problem with celebrating organizations like the Black Panthers, KKK, Neo Nazis, Skinheads, etc., who have a history of racism, separatism, and violence. While people have the right to do things like that, I would hope they would exercise better judgment than to support it.

      1. Dave, thank you for reading and commenting. As I already addressed in the piece, the Panthers aren’t even in the same category as the KKK. I appreciate your perspective, and I invite you to learn more about the Panther: who they were, why they started, what they actually did, what they did not do, and why they persist today. The Panthers weren’t perfect by any means, and yet as a White person I say that our country would be a better place if they were more active today (and the police and CIA left them alone to do their important work).

  11. You wrote a poignant missive that serves as food for thought in a time of intellectual famine; when the middle-aged vote against their own interests. Where a black president is a victim of unheard of gridlock and hatred based on the color of his skin. To heal this country’s ugliest scar will take decades, but it will never heal if we continue to do nothing. Black people in general can learn from Beyonce’s performance, that our art must reflect our ecperiences and our ambitions, not as vehicles for debasing women and our own collectivity,

    1. The Raleigh Police Union is trying to boycott Beyonces concert because of her show.. Funny how they try to to call us racist and violent. Also saying that Obama has divided the country… The other people are pretty funny and I think they still believe we can not think or see for ourselves. Or at least they wish we could not… the hypocrisy is real sad…

      1. Agreed Allen. I find White people (especially the men, in my experience) have a hard time thinking in degrees of nuance. It’s not apples and apples — context, power, and history make all the difference. A man hitting a woman and a woman hitting a man, for example, is the same behavior on the surface, but they’re not the same action because of history, power, and disparate impacts (individually and collectively). Peace.

  12. What’s even more shocking is not one bit of outrage has arisen over the strange death of a Black Lives Matter Activist, one day our winning an NAACP image award, and on the front step of state legislature. No one is asking any questions about the fact that this was definitely not a suicide, and there is no way that a gun shot would go unheard of in broad daylight, let alone the phony barrage of supposed last words tweets, that no one has researched or questioned who hacked his account and sent them out. They were all silent on that one. Just as they have been on the deaths of innocent blacks.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/activist-marshawn-mccarrel-kills-ohio-statehouse-article-1.2525393

    Additionally, there was no outrage over raising $500K to help an officer retire (as if knowing he’d get let off and repeating a history of funding the get away) (Ferguson). Or, funding $800K for a pizzeria to close, that was being judgmental. What this and other actions are teaching our youth is that right is wrong and wrong is rewarded as right, so long as you have the clout, power, and money to back it up.

    No outrage at the white woman that accosted to Muslim parents waiting on their child, in their own private car, on American soil, of which they are citizens.

    Interesting. Thanks for the article.

    1. Yes ma’am, there is no scarcity of stories of injustice and tragedy. I think that fewer and fewer of us accept these stories as “business as usual” yet we continue to be shockingly passive compared to other countries when our rights are threatened. We should have all taken to the streets when the banks were bailed out, for example. I recommend Michael Moore’s latest film — he address racism and sexism in a tangible way I really appreciated. Thank you for educating me about Marshawn — we must lift and hold each other up to endure the long road. Thank you for commenting!

  13. I laughed and I cried and for that I thank you. Thought provoking commentary that stimulates the senses is alway a pleasure to read.

    1. You’re welcome! I’m all for laughing and crying, and both at the same time! 🙂 Thank you, your comment is a pleasure for ME to read!

  14. Susana – A friend shared this wonderful piece with me and, I am not kidding you, as I clicked on the post, I said to my daughter, “I know this sounds crazy, but I really don’t understand white people”. Then I read your first sentence and laughed and laughed! I, too, am white and just don’t get white people. Several of your respondents have put it best, though: The reaction is clearly fear-based and just such a sad, unproductive way to live and think. Hats off to Beyonce for a magnificent, strong performance and the same to you for writing what a lot of us (I hope) are thinking!

    1. Hi Jody! Hahahaha! That’s awesome — great minds! I’m in awe of all the positive comments this piece has generated, and I hope the African Americans reading these comments can see that there’s more than a handful of allies out here. Thank you for your kind and enthusiastic comment, and for reading!

  15. The real fear, in my estimation, is that through enlightenment and education we as a people will one day soon see our true worth, as well as our real contribution to the building of this great nation, who were the architects, planners, stone masons and construction workers of the nations capitol, who were the true unsung patriots in America’s great Revolutionary War. Who are the great inventors of yesterday, today and tomorrow and even more important, who were the original inhabitants of our planet and where was the first civilization birthed. The greatest fear of the White People is having to one day deal with the fact that they started where we started as did the human race as we know it, In the darkness of AFRICA! Hence, White people you are our people and that make you self haters!!

    1. Amen Edna! Humans are deeply different and profoundly similar at the same time. While I’m not a fan of the “we’re all humans, can’t we all just get along” perspective on race (because it typically comes from people in a power position trying to gloss over real problems), you point out that our histories, our lives, and our fates are hopelessly interconnected. White people need to wake up from believing the lie (mostly unconsciously) that we created everything great in this world (all by ourselves) and therefore we are innately superior. I yearn for a time when we all awaken to the truth that to protect, honor and respect our neighbor — without exception — is the only way to live happily and sustainably. Thank you for writing!

  16. Yes. But what is it we need to “grow a pair” of exactly? Balls? Do we need to grow up and be men about this? This quote specifically is problematic to me. Do we need to attack racism using sexism as a weapon? Oh how the -isms continue to wrap around themselves like the snake biting it’s own tail.

    1. Great point Tina! I myself paused to think about that phrase when I wrote it, and left it because I didn’t want to soften my message. Yes, the phrase typically means “balls”, archetypally referring to strength and courage as you know, but I think “a pair” can refer just as well to ovaries! One might argue those are stronger than the male version anyway, right? 🙂 I agree that using sexism to attack racism isn’t an effective strategy. What do you think about my decision?

  17. I don’t think collectivism will defeat collectivism. Race is a granfalloon. I’m me, you’re you, and there isn’t a physical trait between us that blurs our individuality.

    1. Hi Chucky — I agree with the spirit of what you say. However, while race is a social construction with minimal basis in DNA it’s very real as evidenced by brain science research (in how we perceive people and respond to them) and the lived experience of millions of people.

  18. Thank you. Thank you THANKYOU. You have no idea how refreshing it is to read and to see someone who gets it!! Thank you!!

    1. You’re welcome Vincent! I’m not sure I “get it” all the time but I’m committed to learning and leaving the world a better place than I found it. Thanks for writing!

  19. Thanks for your article, miss lady. I’ve long believed that it’s the job of good hearted white people to talk to their folks and the job of enlightened black people to teach our folks how to survive (literally ) and thrive in this dangerous society, while together we work to make our world the beautiful place it should be. Great piece, stay strong sister. Peace.

    1. Amen Mr. Jackson! I agree and I appreciate your encouragement sir. Thank you! [insert fist bump emoji here]

  20. Susana, Hear, HEAR!! And Kudos to you. I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to teach the literature and have the discussions with my classes that will help them understand the concept of empathy and social justice. This is beautifully expressed, and I’m going to share it with my mostly white, privileged AP students to round out Black History Month. You’ve expressed exactly my frustrations, especially that SO-important question, “Do you not read?” I think that is the basis of most of our problems in working together to be the Village that it takes to understand what it is like to be born into oppression–and to help each other to survive it. It is ironic to me that so many of the same folks who preach, “What would Jesus do?” turn around and do exactly the opposite: Close their minds and hearts to those who would work for change. Classic literature, painting, music, or dance:

    The arts have always served as a vehicle for advocating change. Beyonce rocks! so does Susana Rinderle.

    1. Hahaha! Thank you Janet! And thank you for working with young privileged White youth to think more critically about their identity and place in the world. I agree with you on the hypocrisy (I believe Jesus would be horrified to see all that folks do and say in his name today) and the arts. You also rock!

  21. PS: Rosalind Mays Welch, many of us want to help.I too am white, and gratified to hear the term “recovering racist.” I don’t “get it all” either; still learning as I teach. But some of us feel the horror when a young person is killed for no good reason by those who are supposed to protect and serve. We too feel the helplessness. We can never know what it is like to go through life black, but we can darn sure try. That doesn’t seem like much to ask…

    1. Folks, I have other articles and recordings on my website you can download for free and use for dialogue (my FREE Stuff page — bottom section) — also check out White Awake (they have curricula!) and SURJ — find a local chapter! Chris Crass’s book “The Other America” also looks very good and he impresses me. Anyone else have resources for allies?

  22. People fear change. They get pissed off that they can’t celebrate Christmas as they always have because some people realized that not everyone celebrates it and to have the entire world washed in symbols of a Christian holiday might be a bit offensive.

    They get pissed that being politically correct means they can’t stick to what they have known.. that they can’t call their football team the redskins

    They get pissed when someone stands up and tells them they are being offensive. They want to go back to the ‘good ol’ days’ when they could be offensive, and people were afraid to stand up and say so because the power against them was so great they could be lynched and not suffer any retribution.

    These people were never on the receiving end of prejudice and now that they are hearing they might have been on the giving end instead of being sorry they are being obnoxious .. nooooo I was never offensive, i was just celebrating Christmas.. it’s my holiday, it’s my right.. forgetting that by doing it they vomited it all over the town square, all over the state mandated schools, etc.. forcing people who do not partake to partake.. and now that they are being asked to keep it within their own world – not being asked to not celebrate, not being asked to celebrate a different holiday with a different culture etc – they over react (and this holds up for a whole host of things)

    This is why Trump is doing so well. He knows how to tap into that ‘but we have always done it this way’ mentality. ” I’ll stop the rapist mexicans, I’ll stop the bombing musliums, i’ll make it great the way it was..” forgetting that for so many in this country it is better now than it has ever been (not that we don’t have a long way to go)

    It is a shame that people do not see the harm in what they are trying to force on the US. It is still very much a ‘me first’ society… which is how corporations have been able to take control, because of the American Dream, too many people dream of being rich and wealthy and keeping all of that they make, and corporations convince them if they tax the wealthy then they will never ‘make it’ Get rich and have 50-90% of your income taken away by the government? that’s not american!! blah blah blah.. sound bites and rhetoric it’s harmful and hateful.

    The world is changing, and all of the haters aren’t going to stop it. Bernie Sanders NEVER would have been as popular in any other election… even in the beginning of this one he was deemed too radical and not given the attention he deserved. We are starting to see what the hate of things that are different are doing. Not everyone believes the Black Panthers were a hate group. Not everyone is pissed at what B did.. I know I’m not.. as pasty and as white as I am living in a state that is over 90% white..

    Change is coming. It is never easy, and it is rarely painless. This is just one of those painful moments while ignorant people who refuse to look at the facts hold on to what they do not want to let go of.

    1. Connie, I feel your passion! I agree with you — humans are actually a very change-averse species and our population has tipped to where most folks can’t hide anymore from changes that are already here, and growing. I agree too that it’s no accident Bernie and Trump have such broad appeal — not only are folks afraid, they’re angry. Check out my piece on the Starbucks cup — I think you’ll dig it! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  23. Ms. Susana, what can I say?…
    Thank you (I know it is not enough)!
    I wish i had the eloquence shown here so I could show my appreciation. But, alas, all I can say is – THANK YOU!

  24. I enjoyed reading the piece and you are indeed part of the solution. I contend that Blacks must continue to fight against institutionalized racism since, in the words of Frederick Douglas, “Power concedes nothing without a struggle,” but it will only surrender when White power says so. Heat is always added to the fire of ethnic prejudice when supposed people of integrity like Rudy Guiliani fan the flames with vicious lies. Portraying the Panthers as cop killers demonstrates his own ignorance or willfulness to lie, I’ll let you choose which.
    When Blacks rail against racism it is construed as sour grapes, excuses, or what we always do. It honestly pains me to say so but the efforts of Whites in this battle to eradicate racism moves us closer to a solution and I suppose the reason is because it involves honesty and repentance about the centuries long inhumane treatment of Blacks in America.
    My coined phrase “The election of Barack Obama pulled the sheets off of America” is evidenced by the countless fB rants that I see that blame the President for stirring the pot of ethnic division. The fact is men overtly calling the POTUS “a lie” in Congress during his State of the Union speech reveals 1) the innate disrespect felt for Blacks in this country and 2) monetary gain from such a deplorable act accentuates the pervasiveness of the hate.
    Thank you for shots fired from the side of righteousness.

    1. Wow Eric! Wow. “Pulled the sheets off of America” — no lie. I will say that I hear less and less that we live in a postracial society, compared to when Obama was first elected. I think this is healthy, but very unsettling for White folks because we still desperately want to believe racism is over and done. I can’t imagine how tired Black folks must be, always being painted as complainers, lazy, sensitive, pot stirrers, etc. Your stamina and generosity amaze me. I will do my part to move change, and please keep holding me/us accountable. Let’s do this! Thank you for your passion, and for writing Eric!

  25. Keep doing what you’re doing. I am white and have 4 grandkids that are mixed. I worry about them more than the others. They are the love of my life but know that they will face things my others won’t. If others don’t listen to our fears about race, it won’t get any better. They are safe in their own little cocoon. We are all one race, the human race and it’s time others stand up to this issue. I keep plugging away at my white friends, sometimes it feels like I hit a brick wall, but I can’t stop. Not till all others realize that it isn’t just words, it’s reality. Thanks for this post and all who commented. I am sharing.

    1. Debra I got chills reading this. Thank you for your courage and for hanging in there for your grandbabies and the future of this country. I posted some resources above for other allies. Feel free to connect more formally with others (you might especially enjoy WhiteAwake.org), but even if you don’t, know that you are NOT alone. Keep it up sister and thanks for your kind comment.

  26. This middle aged white woman’s first response was a hell of a surprise! Having lived in Detroit during this time period and many years after.After my initial shock I thought that it commercialized and trivialized the Black Panther movement, especially women of the movement. But as I watched I thought, “aww..aren’t they cute!” These are young people who did not live through this time. They’re attempting to connect and make social bridges, while paying homage to artists of that time. I felt a honored.

    1. Hi! Thank you for providing that historical view, and your take as a White woman. I love that Beyoncé has inspired all these different reactions and conversations!

  27. Dave Kellog, In 1969, I wound up in a violent outbreak in Baltimore. I don’t know how it started. All I know is that I got separated from my friends. If it wasn’t for a very large, very gracious Black Panther, it might have turned out very differently. Panthers were mentioned as a cause for that outbreak. I can tell you that they weren’t. They were in Memorial Stadium in large numbers, to keep the peace. Over the next few years, I met a number of Panthers at social and political functions in Baltimore. They were never less than congenial and courteous. Of course, most of my friends were willing to talk and work with them. My feeling is that the reports of violence are greatly exaggerated Susana – great article!

    1. Thank you Jeanne and thank you for your testimony. I also have been nothing but impressed with the Panthers I’ve met personally. I fear too many folks in the USA have been unwittingly tricked by the propaganda devised by our government to discredit the power and positive impact of the Panthers. High five!

  28. Ms. Rinderle, I cannot stop reading this; just printed and gave it to my 14 and 21 y/o Black daughters. Wow! When I came across this at work today, my jaw dropped, my eyes filled with tears, my lips curved into a smile. This should be required reading for EVERYONE and woe to those who take offense because they would be the ones who see no need for change (problem, what problem?), therefore, not willing to contribute to that change. I could go on and on but I’ll stop with a simple and very inadequate “thank you”. God’s continued blessings upon you and everything that your hands touch.

    1. Wow Ms. Rice, you took me on a journey with that vivid description. I hold you and your babies close to my heart and I’m very honored to have affected you this way. Another wave of change is upon us, we’ve each just gotta keep keepin’ on in our own individual, precious, courageous way! Blessings to you.

  29. Two wrongs don’t make a right for starters. It’s not about “white people’s fear” (which in itself is a racist comment) For me, it’s about double standards. I am quite tired of all this separatism. Call it what you will, but this ridiculousness over colour and creed must stop!

    1. Kellie, the only way to stop the ridiculousness is for White people like you (?) and I to stop it. Please consider the fact you’re missing a big part of the picture, read and learn more about the Panthers and the history of race in this country if you really want it to stop. Contact me offline, or read some of the resources on my site and these comments if you’re serious.

  30. “Also, White People: really? We’re this hypocritical? We find Beyoncé’s performance bigoted when we’ve covered ourselves in Confederate flags on stage, on trucks, on homes, and on government buildings”

    All white people arnt doing this, Beyonce’s message might start out as “nothing to be afraid of” but at what point does the subtle provocation of violence turn into complete chaos. The black celebs might mean well but they are planting the seed of discord not empowerment. You can downplay the whole wearing bullets and “i see nothing wrong here” mantra if you want to, but just because you say black pride isnt white hate doesnt mean thats what it wont devolve into. However that wouldn’t make for as trendy of an article. I say this as a black man. Any racial collective’s motivation no matter what they say, is a division of the world as a whole. Its an artificial border. One cant say “we are equal…but you arnt apart of my group” thats a mixed message.

    1. Hi! Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation! I’m not sure I’m following your reasoning, but you do sound afraid. Beyoncé hasn’t planted seeds, she’s simply watered what was already in the soil. If there weren’t an issue to begin with, no one would have thought twice about what she did on that field, and the fact White folks went crazy over it is very telling — about White folks. Read all the other comments here and elsewhere and you’ll see that empowerment and Black pride has indeed been one result of her performance. Chaos isn’t necessarily bad — it’s a necessary reorganization of the status quo — and we can choose whether or not we want violence to be a part of that.

      1. The Black Panthers were a Marxist-Leninist paramilitary organization, whose explicit goals were specified by themselves as such;

        “We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.”

        Now I don’t have a problem with that based on the time period in which it originated. But I’d love to see how everybody would react if a white paramilitary organization hosted a similar half time exhibition with the same ideological message of a “white only national destiny” in 2016.

          1. I’m not naïve, but perhaps you and I differ in perspective on what those seeds are. Violence is a possibility — one possibility. Empowerment, dialogue, healthy chaos, change — those are other possibilities, and so far that’s what I’m seeing. Look at all the heartfelt comments on this thread from Black folks. The fear is our biggest threat (White folks, Black folks,. everyone), not Beyoncé.

        1. Hi Yolanda! Yup you’re correct about the Panthers! I’m not sure what your point is about what if White folks did the same?

  31. Your article was breath fresh air, I write on facebook a lot about this same subject. You said this so eloquently and your points were right on the money. Hopefully a few eyes will be opened and that white people will be willing to read with a open mind. I look forwared to reading more of your writings.

    1. Thank you Larry! Interestingly, the most positive responses from White folks about my writings on race are White women, so YOU are a breath of fresh air! I look forward to dialogue with you, please follow me! High five!

  32. Susana, this is the first time I’m reading anything written by you, but thank you very much for putting this out there. I am a black woman and it absolutely shocks me how white people are responding to Beyoncé. You have hit the nail on the head when you say they must fear that we will do unto them what they did unto us. I believe they believe that in their heart. For me and mine we don’t have time to worry about doing to them. We just want them to get into an uproar when our kids get shot in the street. When we lose our jobs because someone didn’t like our hair. When we have to teach our kids how to put their hands up and drop to the ground even when they aren’t a criminal. We want them to stop this hate because as you mentioned we’re not going back to picking anything in a field other than trash in my yard or neighborhood. So when white people get into an uproar about those things then I will consider what I will do unto them.

    1. Hello Renee, thanks for reading, and for your heartfelt comment. I’m glad my words resonated. I think for the most part Whites’ fear is unconscious, which makes it even more powerful and dangerous, and why a White person (me) calling it out is so threatening. Since most White folks don’t know any Black folks well, it’s easy for us to imagine what you may be doing and thinking (something sinister), instead of the reality (trying to survive and function despite facing more obstacles than us). Thanks for reminding me/us that the only way forward is for White folks to raise heck in demanding Black folks — everyone — be treated with dignity, respect and justice.

  33. I appreciate everyones comments and views about this issue but I don’t understand what we as a society are doing about the sign that was also posted about justice for… wherewas your comments about this and what are we doing to bring justice to this are we providing legal support for the family and are we educating our children on this issue
    why is no one talking about this we know that history repeats its self but we can also change history through education where are you on this issue.

  34. I guess I am the “white” guy who is the subject of your rant. I watched the Super Bowl and Beyonce’s performance. I wasn’t offended at the imagery. I am oblivious to the apparent twitter or blogosphere reaction. Nevertheless, whatever is being said has apparently made me afraid, selfish, hypocritical and even a “world-class a-hole,” because I am white.

    1. Beyonce’s performance was intended to make her money and build her fan base. Like the entertainers before her, the goal was to get talked about. Apparently she succeeded.

    2. I haven’t been “killing black boys in the street for no reason,” nor am I “willing to let their murderers go free.” The mob mentality that burned the city of Ferguson, MO was shameful. The Baltimore riots were shameful. I gladly lock arms in solidarity with anyone who is willing to stand against “killing black boys for little or no reason.” But I am not going to join a lawless mob where facts don’t matter.

    3. I haven’t been poisoning an entire city’s water supply lately either. If you are referencing the city of Flint, that city is half white. To suggest the problem is racism, is baseless. It was an obviously short-sighted city council decision and is now a very big problem that needs to be fixed. Calling the problem racism might make an interesting blog post but it doesn’t help fix the water supply – for white or black people.

    4. I haven’t covered myself in the confederate flag. My ancestors fought for the North. In fact, half the country fought for the North. The confederate flag is not a white thing. I agree, lets take the flag down. That doesn’t solve our race problems.

    5. The Washington Redskins used to be a source of pride for the Native American’s. But if people are offended now, fine – lets change the name. The real question is: will it solve the race problem? (hint: The name isn’t the problem. Changing the name won’t solve it.)

    6. I’m not sure what you think I am afraid of or feel threatened by. I am very willing to have a fact-based conversation about anything you’ve mentioned. I believe strongly in the advantages of diversity and inclusion and advocate it. Like you, I recognize my own biases and actively work to get past them. I believe that there are systemic issues that make it more difficult for minorities to be included and I am determined to do my part to understand and help solve those problems. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

    I am getting tired of being called a racist any time I disagree with a liberal political policy. I am tired of being called racist just because I happened to miss the significance of the half-time Super Bowl show. I am tired of being called racist because I am white. Broad-brush accusations of racism doesn’t actually help us solve real problems of race.

    It is frustrating that some diversity and inclusion professionals are the ones obfuscating and race-baiting rather than actually trying to understand and solve race problems.

    The “white people don’t get it but I do” mentality isn’t helpful. And damn it… the Broncos had a great game!

    1. Hi Greg! Thanks for your comments, and your reasonable tone. You mention two things I often hear from White folks around this topic — one, you seem to be missing a major point about race relations in the US. As I pointed out in my article, we Whites are not all to blame as individuals, but the problem is with our people. Please click on the links in my piece for further (awesome!) reading, especially 11 Ways White America Avoid Taking Responsibility for its Racism (by a White man). Not being personally guilty doesn’t excuse the ways we as White people — now, not in the past — benefit from and reinforce a system that is oppressive to and exclusive of African Americans (and others), and basically tell them they’re making it up, imagining things, or whining when they present their experience and perspective. Not being a bigot doesn’t mean a person isn’t perpetuating racism. Two, what do you mean by “fact based”? What “facts” are missing or misrepresented? Finally, as a fellow D&I person, what do you make of all the appreciative and positive comments on here from African Americans? Are they race baiting and obfuscating? Please read the link I provided before responding.

      1. Yes, I have read all of the comments from your readers. Almost all were very complimentary of you calling me an afraid, selfish, hypocritical world-class a-hole. Several mentioned it was a breath of fresh air and even congratulated you. I am guessing that many of them are D&I professionals. Your responses were interesting too. Since I am not a D&I professional myself, I am guessing that the state-of-the-art in Diversity and Inclusion is to make sure white America knows we are all world-class a-holes?

        I also read your “11 Ways White America Avoids Taking Responsibility” recommendation and the definition of “white fragility.” You apparently have lots of support in the general notion that I am “unconsciously afraid and threatened” and trying desperately to hold onto the current power structure that favors me.

        FYI: Nobody likes to be called an a-hole! That isn’t “white fragility” – it is human fragility. And being called an a-hole gives me nothing to work with or fix. The pseudo-psychological analysis of scared white people didn’t resonate with me. Nor did the 11 rules of engagement. Sorry.

        I found the book Crucial Conversations, by Joseph Genny et.al – much better in terms of how to give and receive hard feedback. And they cite a lot of empirical research (not psycho-babble) to back up their conclusions. It’s a good read.

        I looked up the study you mentioned in your tweet about Sheen Levine and David Stark found diverse groups are better problems solvers than non-diverse groups. Katherine Phillips, a social psychologist did some interesting work on how introducing a stranger into a group increased their ability to solve a murder mystery puzzle. There is a lot more research on how diversity can contribute to high performance. To me, these real, empirically based studies seem far more compelling reasons to engage in talking about and solving race problems.

        If the D&I field is focused on convincing white people of their “white fragility” as a means of solving race problems I think they grossly misunderstand the point of Diversity and Inclusion and the value of moving towards solutions rather than name-calling.

        1. Hi Greg! Crucial Conversations is an excellent book and program. I’m aware of studies like the ones you mention, and use them in my work all the time. You seem to have narrowed in on one word which I used twice, and taken it very personally. Perhaps that’s something for you to explore — being hurt or angered by that word, especially in the context I used it, isn’t the only possible reaction nor universally human as you say. I invite you to revisit the piece, and its comments (mostly from folks outside D&I) another time in a spirit of curiosity.

      2. One more thing…

        Scratching around I also found two other research projects – Adler 2002, and DiStefano & Maznevski (2000) – that are referenced a lot in the literature that I am reading. They found that diversity usually goes one of two ways:

        1 – either it goes really really good, or
        2 – it goes really really bad.

        Diverse teams don’t normally go the middle or average.

        My guess is that when things go really really bad it probably looks something like:

        a) conversations starts with one group calling another group afraid, selfish, hypocritical world-class a-holes simply because of skin color (or gender, or nationality or whatever).

        b) They define racism in such a way that everyone is guilty simply because they are white regardless of their individual behavior. How can you possibly identify specific, individual behavior change when everyone is guilty no matter what they do?

        Point b) is an important point. The ONLY way to change the collective behavior is to change individual behavior. When everyone is guilty, no one is.

        Susana – your blog post, “Are You The Bad Guy” recommends being open to other opinions and being able to look past our own biases and consider people’s perspective even when we disagree. I thought it was well written.

        I noticed that you had 0 comments on that post. But the angry one where you called me an a-hole is brimming with almost 100 comments – all of them cheering you on.

        Regardless of whether I am an a-hole or not, the comments suggests that there is a lot of support for points a) and b) where things end up going really really bad. And not much support for moving things in the opposite direction. I think it is very indicative of the very real challenge of achieving true diversity and inclusion.

        What am I missing?

        1. Hi Greg — three things. (1) The difference between diversity going really well, and really badly is typically whether or not there is inclusiveness and effective management of differences (Adler, Page, Surowiecki, etc.) This has to do with evening out the differences in power, which is one thing you’re missing. That’s what I’m calling out here in language that expresses my exasperation with most White people’s lack of empathy, understanding, and even curiosity about Black folks’ real experience. You might ask yourself why this piece resonated so deeply with Black folks.

          (2) Racism isn’t individual behaviors (bigotry). Racism is a series of social structures and norms that benefit White people and put us in the power position without us having to do anything to earn it. What you’re missing here is the ways that your actions, words, and lack of actions and words continue to prop up systems, policies, and norms that daily, hourly, put Black people in a “lesser” power position.

          (3) Hyperfocusing on — and taking personally — my use of provocative language is a classic example of White fragility. That’s nothing. We should be outraged over police violence and the myriad ways Black people are disregarded and treated poorly (even unintentionally) and get to doing something meaningful about it instead of wringing our hands about our hurt feelings when they call out our hypocrisy and bad behavior. By the way, do you believe (as I say in the piece) that Black people are imagining or making up their experience or “using” situations like this for “political” reasons? If so, then I think you are being an a-hole and you’re welcome to take it personally, and hear it as a challenge to self reflection, deep listening and curiosity.

          Speaking of which, getting genuinely curious about how you might be contributing to the problem, even without meaning to, might be a good place to start. The articles and recordings on my “Free Stuff” page can help.

          1. Susana, I didn’t take your “provocative language” personally. My use of your word “a-hole” was a way to summarize your entire article and the whole “white fragility” approach. The point of all my replies was that the “white people are a-holes” argument doesn’t help us get to specific things we can do to address real problems. The white fragility thing is a red herring.

            I am sorry if my frustration has been interpreted as “hyper sensitivity.” I am not offended. I hope I haven’t offended. I am frustrated with what looks like a D&I profession that seems to be missing a huge strategic opportunity. I am commenting on your blog because you seem to be one of the few non-charlatans working in the field. There are clients I am working with now that struggle with specific problems on how to move from bad diversity to good. It is VERY hard to find D&I professionals who actually know what they are talking about (beyond compliance).

            No I don’t think the Black experience is “made up.” It is valuable and very different from the way I see the world. Thank goodness! White people deserve the same level of respect in the conversation even if they (we) need to hear hard feedback. “Crucial Conversations” has a chapter that describes everyone’s tendency (black and white) to conjure up villains and victims. The hard part is getting past the villain/victim mindset.

            I know I see things very differently than you and I know how hard it is to listen to “a-holes” (figure of speech!) I appreciate your patience.

            1. Sure thing Greg! I’m honored you view me as a non-charlatan as integrity and excellence are two of my highest values that I strive to emulate. While I was not offended, I accept your apology, and I regret that my piece caused you frustration. Thank you for clarifying, and for caring enough to write and grapple honestly with these issues! Indeed there is much work to be done and more brains = more ideas and solutions, as long as we really listen. You help me think, and I’m grateful. Have a super weekend!

  35. “Dear White People”. Sigh. Whatever good points you points you may have stumbled on is lost to me with the jarring, awkward, condescending way you refer to an entire gender of people as though “we” all have the same beliefs as whatever confused, possibly racist cohort of people you are actually addressing. Maybe you addressed an entire race to get undue publicity. Maybe you are actually so insulated and myopic you actually think there’s an entire group of people who uniformly think differently than you. Whatever it is you’re doing, it’s shameless. And really, you grossly ascribing a presumably racist reaction to Beyonce’s halftime show performance to “white people” is just as half-sighted and ignorant as the beliefs of the people you really should be addressing in this poor attempt at an opinion piece.

    1. Hi Nick! Thanks for writing. I wasn’t sure whether your comment violated my comment policy but I went ahead and approved it, mostly so others can see an example of how many White people, especially men, respond with fear and anger to the ideas I present — and my completely justified tone. You’ve used a lot of negative adjectives to refer to my qualities, my motives, and my writing that are your opinion and not shared by everyone, Black and White included. Thank you for caring enough to be angry, and I invite you to revisit the piece at another time — with a curious attitude — and perhaps we can dialogue then. By the way, I once believed and felt the way you did.

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