Yes, ALL White People
“Not all white people.”
How many times have Black folks heard this particular microaggression?
I heard it tonight from a white classmate. She used these words to “correct” our Black teacher, who was educating us about racism and white supremacy in U.S. history.
After weeks of these kinds of interruptions, I had just about had it. I spoke up and said that speaking as a Black trans person, saying “Not all white people” is not a useful response to a discussion about white supremacy, just as “Not all men” is not a useful response to a discussion about patriarchy.
She replied, “But you’re also half Jewish.” She, a proud Jewish woman, had made it a point to bring this up repeatedly since I mentioned that my (white) father’s side of the family is Jewish. As if that erased my Blackness.
I responded, “Yes, but my mother’s side of the family was brought here in slave ships, so I identify as Black and that’s important to me.”
THAT shut her up.
All white people benefit from white supremacy. This is true regardless of class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education level, or other factors.
Yes, I’m aware that there are variations in skin tone and other physical features that can make a person’s race ambiguous.
Yes, I’m aware that race is a made-up concept in the first place. (As my regular readers know, I feel the same way about gender.)
Both of these responses miss the point.
If you are white and need to be reassured that “not all white people” are guilty of whatever is being discussed, you are exhibiting white fragility. This fragility is a product of white supremacy, so yes, “all white people” does, in fact, include you.
If you are a true ally, you will understand this.
Fortunately, true allies do exist. Recently, white folks committed to anti-racism in a Quaker group I’ve been attending hosted a screening of the excellent film I Am Not Your Negro. This documentary, released in 2016, features the words of gay Black writer James Baldwin interspersed with contemporary and archival footage.