White Backlash Accompanies Growing Demands for Racial Justice

By Terry Keleher Oct 19, 2007

I’ve often heard and believed the line “racism is as real as ever–it’s just grown more invisible and subtle.” But anyone following tnews lately – or the reaction in the blogosphere – would be hard pressed to make a credible case that blatant racism is the exception. There’s not much subtlety in the re-emergence of noose-hangings, the rash of threats and violence clearly directed at people of color but not considered hate crimes, the xenophobic rhetoric of popular radio shock jocks, the hostile attacks on immigrants, and the continued blatant bias of the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, the racist response in the blogosphere has been growing in both volume and vitriol. Assertions of “reverse racism,” “genetic determinism” and “white superiority” are alive and well. Even the mainstream medias’ blogs are getting hit with the barrage, perhaps giving them a glimmer of the nation’s true racist pulse. The white backlash–especially evident in the widespread commentary on the Jena 6 incident–continues to reach new lows. But amidst the white racist rubble, a few anti-racist white voices caught my attention this past week and are worth a read. Tim Wise, and anti-racist writer and activist, who drafted “Complicity Has Its Cost: An Open Letter to the Mayor of Jena,” in which he states: “Thus the lesson for today, Mayor McMillin, and please make note of it: complicity has a cost… If you had only taken racism seriously from the beginning, none of your current embarrassment would have been made necessary. Had you stood up as whites, after those nooses were hung at the high school – had you stood up and said "We as whites are offended by this act of racial intimidation" – and called for the expulsion of the students, your town could have remained an obscure outpost, familiar to no one beyond central Louisiana.” Read more. Gerald Ensley, a Senior Writer at the Tallahassee Democrat, in “White people: So many refuse to give up racism,” writes about the reaction of whites to the Martin Lee Anderson verdict which acquitted the juvenile instructors of charges of killing the 14-year African American youth who died while incarcerated at the boot camp-style youth detention center. “It’s not about race, the white critics insist,” writes Ensley. “After all, two of the boot camp guards were black. It’s not the killing that’s racist. It’s the failure to hold somebody accountable that smells of racism. White people shouldn’t be telling blacks to get over it.” Read more. And Heather Wood, co-founder and Editorial Director of SirensMag.com, offers “10 Mistakes White People Make When Talking About Race.” Her list begins with “1. Thinking It’s Not OK to Talk About It,” and ends with, “Declaring you are ‘Colorblind.’” For her complete list.