Recently at the Resurgent, writer Peter Heck penned a very entertaining and disturbing op-ed about the turn of stupidity modern identity politics has taken and how it requires all of us to sacrifice science, experience, and conventional wisdom at the altar of emotion.
The New York Times continues to lead the charge on sanity by giving voice to the ridiculous – this time in the form of writer Greg Howard.
In a regular column titled “Was that Racist?” writers are invited to share their stories of vague racism or microaggressions and how it made them feel. The very title is an indication of the inanity of what’s to follow. Racism is easy to spot and anyone who has experienced real and visceral racism can tell you that. It doesn’t require an 800-word diatribe to figure it out. If you have to ask, the answer is probably, “No. You’re looking too hard.”
But let’s dive right into Mr. Howard’s complaints. They are vast and they are detailed.
He begins his
whining essay by outlining his fitness as a seasoned New York City walker – a quality I actually admire and endorse. He doesn’t dawdle or lolly-gag and he walks with purpose. (Everyone needs to adopt this attitude about walking in the big city!) We know right away that Howard is at the least a responsible citizen, at most the pedestrian version of Mother Theresa.
It quickly devolves from there.
In seven years of living and walking here, I’ve found that most people walk courteously — but that white women, at least when I’m in their path, do not.
Sometimes they’re buried in their phones. Other times, they’re in pairs and groups, and in conversation. But often, they’re looking ahead, through me, if not quite at me. When white women are in my path, they almost always continue straight, forcing me to one side without changing their course. This happens several times a day; and a couple of times a week, white women force me off the sidewalk completely. In these instances, when I’m standing in the street or in the dirt as a white woman strides past, broad-shouldered and blissful, I turn furious.
I can’t help but laugh at the image Howard expects us to digest at this moment – an image of him, small and broken, standing in the dirty street alone, tears streaming down his face as white women enjoy the sidewalk he was just forced to vacate. As they breeze by in slow motion he quietly tells himself that someday everyone will know his name and no one will ever make him feel small again. Then he limps back to his Manhattan condo to work on his superhero costume in anonymity.
Poor Greg. White women want to walk on the sidewalk. What’s a brother to do? According to our oppressed hero, the answer most certainly is not, “show some damn courtesy and move over for the ladies.”
I turn furious because in these instances I feel small. I always get out of the way, because I was taught at a young age not to bodycheck random people. But I also get out of the way because, as a black man, I’ve learned that bodychecking, bumping or even rubbing against a random white woman can be personally hazardous. So I acknowledge other pedestrians, and reroute. White men and all people of color do the same to me. They offer some form of acknowledgment that we are in each other’s path, that I am there at all.
My bad. So Greg does move for the ladies, but only because nothing is scarier to a white woman than a sniveling black nerd who is so insecure he writes entire columns about having to walk around a group of self-centered New Yorkers to get to his cosplay club meeting on time. I mean, I know even as a black woman I cross the street when I see guys like Greg walking toward me with his man-purse slung across his body.
Why only and specifically white women? Do they refuse to acknowledge me because they’ve been taught that they should fear black men, and that any acknowledgment of black men can invite danger? Do they refuse to acknowledge me because to alter their route would be to show their fear? Do they not see me? Can they not see me?
I suspect the actual answer to Greg’s questions is what all this insecurity is really about: it’s that they just don’t give a sh** about you, Greg. Believe it or not, you’re not the most important person in the world to almost everyone, save your mom (I’m not clever enough to think of a good ‘yer mom’ joke here).
Why haven’t I ever just walked headlong into a rude white woman? What lessons tug at me, force me off the sidewalk, tell me that my personal space is not necessarily mine? Because explicit in every white woman’s decision not to get out of my way is the expectation that I’ll get out of theirs.
I’m going to help Greg out and say to him exactly what I’d say to my 15-year-old son were he to write something this grating: You don’t walk headlong into any woman because you’re a man and it’s frigging rude. You move out of the way because it’s gentlemanly. If you really resent the space they’re taking (and I do get being annoyed by idiots that take up the whole sidewalk) then say something to them. Demand they show some respect for their fellow pedestrians. Don’t be a coward about it if it’s that serious. If you see something, say something!
Whenever I ask white women I know why they don’t reroute for black men, they invariably express ignorance. Whenever that happens, another question always arises: Wait, am I crazy? But then I ask black men. Invariably, they know what I’m talking about.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked an Asian friend if he had the same experience of white women not getting out of his way. He said no. For whatever reason, white women see him just fine.
Hey Greg, did it ever occur to you that the reason they don’t experience it is because it isn’t really happening? I mean…maybe you are crazy. At the very least, you’re over-analyzing it. And even if it were a real phenomenon, how on earth does that experience stop you from getting where you need to go every day? You work at the New York Times. You live in the richest city in the richest country in the world. You are – quite literally – the one percent of the one percent. Were you somehow unable to get to your next destination because some white girl was being a selfish pedestrian? This is not the hill to die on, my friend. If this is what causes you to stand in the street feeling small and invisible, I question your life experiences. It sounds like you’ve had a pretty cushy life so far from these complaints.
I asked my favorite black man – my husband – if he experienced what Mr. Howard says black men “invariably” experience. He said, “Huh. I never noticed anything like that. And I walk by a lot of white women every day.” He even expressed a bit of revulsion at the fact that a grown man was complaining about this. We shared a laugh. The unspoken context is that our son would see the rough side of the spanking spoon if he ever came to us with this nonsense. Boy, move over! End of story.
If you look for racism around every corner, it will most definitely appear. I don’t even take issue with this man’s experience – not really. I like to make fun, but I do understand that racial experiences run the spectrum in this country. What I take issue with is that, in accusing complete strangers he knows nothing about of exercising their vile white privilege, he exposes his own insanely lop-sided privilege and he doesn’t even know it.
People like Greg don’t come off like thoughtful commentators…they come off like whiny brats.
This is how we got Trump.