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Oh No, What if I'm Racist?


I sat thrilled in the sold out theater watching the Black Panther, last night. Great movie, great cinematography, great acting, gorgeous persons – the good guys and the bad guys were all breathtakingly beautiful people.

Yep, the movie sent a chill or two up my spine. But it wasn’t just the movie that had me feeling an anxiety inducing rush of adrenaline. Nope, it was my country.

Metro Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has roughly a half million people. Aurora, Colorado more like 2/5 of a million. I’ve been to the movieplex in Aurora, the similarity of my surroundings to the scene of that tragic mass shooting filled my thoughts. In that darkened movie theater – with its racially diverse crowd watching a film paying tribute to African greatness – I sat distracted by the thought that some white man with a gun might wander in and ruin our cinematic experience.

Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t afraid that the big burly guy sitting next to me would hurt me. Oh sure, he was white and yeah covered with tattoos. But he was with his wife and mom and her friend. And they were too heavily laden with popcorn; chocolate covered raisins, and carbonated beverages to employ an assault weapon. Nah, besides, his long hair, tattoos and family relations made me feel very safe sitting next to him. In fact, my distracted mind surmised that this dude would probably save the whole row of us, if need be.

So then I thought, maybe I’m not racist against white guys. Maybe I’m just afraid that some white man will open fire on a bunch of sitting duck innocents. But when you couple that with the fact that I’m just not afraid that some Native American, Asian, or African (American or otherwise) will murder us all, row on row, sitting in our stadium chairs, clutching snacks and sending last thoughts out to our loved ones: that feels like prejudice. See, if it’s only white guys I’m afraid of – it’s hard not to indict myself for racism – or sexism for that matter.  Nope, I wasn’t concerned that a woman would do it either.

I tried to take my mind off things. I did a quick run through of my loved ones in my head and once I assured myself that they all knew I loved them, I resigned myself to fate and started enjoying the film. After all, as the Klingons reminded me in just about every one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, “Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam – Today is a good day to die.”

But I didn’t die. I woke up this morning and started worrying about being racist against white men. I heard myself trying to talk me out of my discrimination. I reminded myself that my son is white. My husband is white. Hell, some of my best friends are white. I thought it’s just a coincidence that white guys with guns do nearly all this mass killing. And it’s just a coincidence that nearly all the lawmakers and lobbyists who enable their killing are white guys, too.

These facts leave questions that beg for answers. What’s the take away from knowing that white men do the killing and the enabling of the killers? That got really easy for me to answer. It ain’t their white masculinity itself that’s killing us, it’s their privilege.

They have the right to guns. (Try raising money to buy every black single mom an AR 15 and let me know how that goes). They have the right to not be bullied. (Ask women, girls, Black boys, Asian boys, Native boys if they’ve been bullied). They have the right to power over others. Mind you, if we try to take away their power and/or their guns, woe to you and all of your kind. They are going to bust stuff up – whether it’s a Syrian hospital, a wife’s wrist, a movie theater or a schoolyard. In Congress and on our streets, white privilege is the problem. Trust me, insisting you have the right to own an AR 15 any time you feel like it, is the height of white privilege.

Hating white privilege isn’t racism, it’s an imperative.