The Worst of White Folk
Great, powerful essay on being black, being responsible, on white America. Well-written, full of power and emotion.
The worst of white folks, I understood, wasn’t some gang of rabid white people in crisp pillowcases and shaved heads. The worst of white folks was a pathetic, powerful “it.” It conveniently forgot that it came to this country on a boat, then reacted violently when anything or anyone suggested it share. The worst of white folks wanted our mamas and grandmas to work themselves sick for a tiny sliver of an American pie it needed to believe it had made from scratch. It was all at once crazy-making and quick to violently discipline us for acting crazy. It had an insatiable appetite for virtuoso black performance and routine black suffering. The worst of white folks really believed that the height of black and brown aspiration should be emulation of its mediocre self. The worst of white folks inherited disproportionate access to quality health care, food, wealth, fair trials, fair sentencing, college admittance, college graduations, promotions and second chances, yet still terrorized and shamed other Americans who lacked adequate access to healthy choices at all. White Americans were wholly responsible for the worst of white folks, though they would do all they could to make sure it never wholly defined them.
Last month, after burying her brother Rudy, Grandma bent her knees and reckoned with burying her son, her sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her father, and all four of her best friends. She asked her God to spare her the responsibility of burying any more of her children or grandchildren. A few weeks later, an irresponsible American aspiring to be the leader of our nation, who got a majority of the vote from the worst of white folks, called her a “victim” who feels entitled to health care, food, and housing.
I think this writer really, really lays it out well. It pops the self-satisfied balloon that so many of us protect ourselves with. So many people in America, especially so many black people, grow up in desperate, dangerous, horrible poverty, growing up knowing that they are the Other, and they get spat on and looked down on for that poverty, for that blackness.
If you were smart, so much of America seems to say, you would have been born a white man.