Illustration by Ryan Alexander-Tanner

 

I'M AFRAID there's a madness stretching its tendrils through the internet, and into coffee shops, co-ops, bicycle repair collectives, and improv theaters. I'm afraid there's a growing number of white people who are unaware that they're white people.

First, let's make a few things clear:

(A) I'm hella white. How white? I just used the word "hella" in a column in a Portland-based alternative newspaper.

(B) I think it's massively important to study, analyze, and attack racism. I think it's crucial to the continued health of society to criticize the way white people act, both in terms of systems of power and interpersonally (THE DREADED MICROAGGRESSION). I'm onboard with all of that, along with white people self-analyzing and self-critiquing. I think it's necessary and good.

(C) I'm aware the internet is changing the way people communicate. Dialogue is being replaced by declaration, which means that sometimes true meaning is obscured by the axe-handle of a person's initial outburst.

Having established these qualifiers, FUCK IS IT ANNOYING WHEN WHITE PEOPLE ARE ALL LIKE, "UGH, WHITE PEOPLE!"

The phenomenon of which I speak: Someone on Twitter or Facebook will post a story—let's say it's about the racist fraternity at Oklahoma—with the heading "Ugh, White People." Several others chime in with the echoed sentiment of, "Ugh, white people." Most or all of these people will be white people. White people saying, "Ugh, white people," as though they are not themselves white people. It's strange, for sure, but I wonder if it's also harmful.

The "ughing" is troubling in a way that I can't quite put my finger on, except to say that it feels like those white people are trying to pass the buck rather than take responsibility. AND MAYBE I'M WRONG. Maybe this is somehow part of my own discomfort with the truth that my life is easier because I'm white. Even if that's true, though, it seems a bit like showing out without self-examination. Racism is a shithog that not only tramples through our home, but also tip-hoofs through our gardens, nibbling discreetly in the dark.

That racist fraternity is bad, yes, but so are you, white person posting about it. So am I, white person writing about the white person posting about it. This probably isn't my column to write (but I'm almost done writing it, so I'm sending it in anyway). This would probably be better coming from someone who was more than just annoyed by white people saying, "Ugh, white people." I just want to remind people who say, "Ugh, white people," that you're also one of those white people, and you can do a lot better for the good of the world than a flippant, pessimistic Facebook post.