In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, a telling scene unfolded at a “Justice Can’t Wait” vigil in Bethesda, Md. Nearly 1,000 predominantly white residents—many on their knees with both hands in the air—chanted: “I will love my black neighbors the same as my white ones.” These pledges by white allies that black lives matter to them are emerging across the country as the latest expression of performative empathy.
What distinguished the Bethesda demonstration was both the ritualized oath by newly woke white people to speak out about “racism, anti-blackness, or violence,” and the message that all the challenges facing black Americans can be laid at the feet of whites. This approach is well-intentioned, but it’s dangerous for blacks to think we need to depend on whites to “dismantle structural racism.”
As Al Sharpton eulogized at George Floyd’s funeral, “ever since 401 years ago, the reason we [black people] could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you [white people] kept your knee on our neck.” Similarly, CNN anchor Don Lemon recently explained to his colleague Chris Cuomo: “It is not incumbent upon black people to stop racism. It is incumbent upon people who hold the power in this society to help to do that, to do the heavy lifting. Who is that Chris?”
Mr. Cuomo matter-of-factly replied, “White people.”
The narrative that white people “hold the power” conveys a wrongheaded notion of white superiority and creates an illusion of black dependency on white largess. This false assignment of responsibility, while coming from an authentic desire to produce change, can create a new kind of mental enslavement.
Read the full post at the Wall Street Journal.
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