Today in viral video land, we have a perfect, prime example showcasing the insidious commingling of racism & white privilege.
The story is basically that a white man (Whitman) followed a black man (Lovett) to his home after a minor traffic dispute, and stopped in front of Lovett’s driveway after Lovett pulled in. Lovett got out of his car, calmly approached Whitman, and asked if there was a reason why he Whitman had followed him to his house. Whitman responded, “I just want to let you know what a n—– you are.”
Whitman goes on to tell Lovett that he “has a sense of entitlement” (which is white person code for “he thinks the whole world owes him just because he’s black”) and other such common mindsets that tend to lurk in the hearts and the hushed whispers of people who don’t think they’re the least bit racist.
Fortunately, Lovett had the fortitude, when he realized he was being followed, to plan on recording. He captured the 3 minute exchange on video, and was going to just let it be, feeling happy with himself for having taken the high road. But after thinking it over, he decided to post it on social media and, as the article stated, “within hours, the Internet came calling on Whitman. How? He had spoken his mind from behind the wheel of his company van, with the name and phone number of his business right there on the driver’s side door… The retaliation was immediate. If Whitman felt entitled to follow, confront and demean a stranger from the seat of his marked company van, thousands of strangers felt obliged to punish him for it.”
Whitman responded to the viral post by saying “I’m out of business, I’m completely out, I’m done, I’ll never work in Columbus again. This has completely and thoroughly ruined my life…” He later called the incident “a mistake,” and said that he “chose the wrong word.” Ironically, he also said “I just don’t understand the intensity of the hate,” stating that even his 86-year-old mother and his 25-year-old daughter have become targets of the online harassment campaign against him. He further tried to explain his motive in confronting Lovett by asserting he “was just trying to address the rudeness.”
Oh, and also? He INSISTED he was “not a bigot.”
See, that’s the thing with racism. Nobody thinks they have it. Which is why it’s so insidious. Racism doesn’t have to show up in a white hood carrying a burning cross. More often, it is ingrained so deeply within us white people, we don’t even know we’re infected with it. The litmus test? Call a white person “racist.” The angrier that white person gets, the more that shows they’re living with unchecked white privilege, meaning, they are in the highest stages of denial that they might be, even just a teeny tiny bit racist, even subconsciously.
Sooner or later, as always happens in the comments section of stories about racism in America, a white guy chimes in and asks this question:
“If the situation was reversed, would it garner anywhere near the same attention?”
Oh boy. Here we go. Why does someone always pose that same old tired argument? What he’s referring to is the mythical concept of “reverse racism,” which erroneously assumes a false equivalency – one where white people are on equal playing ground with black people, and are subject to the same historical oppression and egregious attacks that black people have endured.
“Reverse racism” isn’t a thing here in America. Systemic racism was built into the fabric of this country, to always benefit the white man. It was built into every system, from public education, to employment & wages, to mass incarceration. Fellow white guy here may not personally “get it,” but white men have always had the power and have long enjoyed being the majority in this country. Just ’cause we elected a black man as President that one time, that doesn’t mean raicsm is over.
Also, when white men use arguments like that one, it’s usually an attempt to deflect from the original conversation, to put himself back into the spotlight (probably subconsciously, but still). Seriously. Look at how that happened. He might say it was just “the principle of the matter,” or that it’s a “double standard.” But arguments like those – “what if the situation was reversed…?” – never address or confront the original offense. They simply deflect.
Do black people say mean, prejudiced, and bigoted things to white people? Absolutely. If a black man calls white guy above a “cracker,” though it may feel offensive and upsetting, it still portrays a distinct point in time when the white man was wielding his power over the black man, literally, cracking the whip. But calling a black person “n—–?” There’s simply no comparison of slurs against the white man. The “n” word is steeped with hundreds of years of slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow, the “new” Jim Crow, and other egregious violations of an American’s constitutional rights.
Racism is not about hurt feelings, what ifs, or double standards. Racism in America is a measurable, factually proven reality that white people simply aren’t subject to.