Sunday, March 8, 2015

p.s.: white logic

Thinking a little more about what I wrote in the second half of the last post, I would like to say something about a certain form of white logic that I have often encountered in my interactions with my fellow white people. The logic is the way that many white people think about law enforcement and racial issues. The logic goes like this:

Logical Argument

1. I am a nice person and I never have trouble with police. Even if I'm pulled over for speeding, the cops are always nice to me.

2. Therefore, it must be my niceness that makes cops be nice to me.

3. Therefore, if cops are not nice to someone, it must be because that person was not nice to the cop.

4. A man got shot by the cops. The man must have not been a nice man. There is no other possible explanation for the shooting.

What I think that many, many, many white people genuinely do not understand is that their niceness is not the only reason, and not even the primary reason that cops are nice to them. This is not willful ignorance on the part of white people! Or at least it is not conscious willful ignorance. White people--at least many of the middle class, northern American white people I have met--really, really think that they never have trouble with law enforcement because they deserve to never have trouble with law enforcement. And why do they deserve it? Because they are upstanding citizens who obey the law. The idea that a cop would be racially profiling them, when pulling them over for speeding, or when driving around a neighborhood to make sure everything is okay...that idea never occurs to the vast majority of white people I've met. They really do think that if a cop is cruising their neighborhood that they have no reason to worry? Why? Because they know they are nice, pleasant, law-abiding people. The fact that they are white and middle-class does not present itself as relevant in any way at all.

That logical argument that I cited above is fraught with assumptions and with fallacies. But of course we all live our lives along the lines of all sorts of shaky assumptions and irrationalities.

Most white people don't think of themselves as white. I'm not sure how obvious this is to people of color. But it is completely true, at least in my experience and everything I've read. White people think of themselves as "people." And this is probably at the heart of the problem. Because they (we) don't think of themselves as white, are often (usually) even unaware of their race, it just never occurs to them that they might be racially privileged.

Oy.

I don't know what more to say about this right now.

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