Just in the last few days, I’ve written about the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords in New York City, and the Brown Berets – all groups that fought for justice and against systematic oppression particularly during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. These groups did a lot of great work in their own communities through programs like free breakfast for school children and free clinics but also worked with each other on various issues and protested issues like police brutality. But unfortunately, many of the issues they addressed then continue to be issues now. I’d argue that a big reason for this is white supremacy and white fear more than anything else.
“White fear blinds us to the humanity of the people right in front of us.” –@ESGlaude
— Keegan Stephan (@KeeganNYC) February 21, 2016
Because as white people, especially for those in power like J. Edgar Hoover, our collective fear has led to so much – the dirty war of COINTELPRO and other actions taken by the FBI, segregation, white flight of the housing market, the continued surveillance and discrediting of anti-racism activists. I’ve said it before but Hoover was seriously afraid of groups like the Black Panthers disrupting the status quo. We as a whole have consistently and repeatedly let this fear dictate so much about our society – including who can be white. (And yes, our definition of whiteness and race has changed and evolved for quite some time.)
“White fear is much more dangerous than black unity.” ~ #BlackPanthersPBS
— reggie (@1942bs) February 17, 2016
We could sit and cry that not all white people are like this but that’s not the point. Nor would that actually accomplish anything other than alleviating white guilt. Not only are enough white people exactly like this but we benefit from this collective fear whether we want to or not. And we have just as much of a part to dismantle this fear and resulting systems.
Yes – there are white people who live in poverty, who’ve been thrown out because they’re queer, who are disabled or have physically issues, who struggle with other issues or some combination of the above. That is definitely true and something I won’t argue with because no one lives in a single issue life. As white people, our whiteness doesn’t erase our other struggles but our whiteness does buy us a certain amount of privilege and power that people of color don’t have access too and that’s important to acknowledge.