Dear White People, Shut Up and Listen
by Jason Frerichs
What had been an amazing weekend to be Democrat, ended Sunday evening due to ugliness and racism coming from fellow Democrats. This is the closest I’ve come to leaving the Democratic Party because with “friends” like these, who needs Republicans? I’m not going to leave. You’re stuck with me and my loud mouth.
On Sunday, I read a comment in the Progressive Caucus Discussion Group that made the argument that it is “unfair” to say that any one class has it better than anyone else and that white privilege is “reverse racism” against wealthy white men.
Let’s unpack that for a moment. It is true that white people can struggle and many do. That said, there isn’t an epidemic of cops shooting unarmed white people in cold blood. In every encounter I’ve ever had with the police, I’ve been treated with respect and at no time did I fear for my life. Sadly, our Black citizens cannot say the same thing. I’ve never been followed by a security guard in a store. Every Black person I know has told me a story about that happening to them. I don’t fear ICE showing up at my parents’ doorstep to deport them. I have a lot of Hispanic friends who have that fear. I’ve never been denied employment or a loan due to the color of my skin. This is a concern that many people of color have, and there is a mountain of documented evidence that this does happen. A study done in Iowa City showed that Latinx face the nation’s worst bias in home loans. White privilege does exist, and it benefits white people regardless of their economic situation. White men, especially wealthy white men, are not being discriminated against, paid less than women, or having their reproductive rights used as a bargaining chip. White men have an ample platform to get their voices heard. I’m using one such platform right now. Thousands of people read this site every month.
On the Polk County Democratic Party Discussion Group page, there was a very ugly discussion about a video in which a police officer assaults a young African-American woman. Here is the video of the incident (Content Warning: Police Brutality). Credit must go to the county chair and the moderator team because they quashed it as soon as they discovered it. I have no doubt they were as disgusted as I was. Numerous posters blamed the young lady for the assault. Many statements were made that she “deserved it” because she yelled at the officer.
Teenagers do not have fully developed brains. Sometimes they are loud, and sometimes they are disrespectful. That said, if you’re a police officer, the public expects you to be able to keep your emotions in check and de-escalate a situation without resorting to violence. I don’t care if she told him something horrible about his mother. There isn’t any excuse for this officer’s actions. I was a mouthy teenager. I’m willing to bet the color of my skin would have prevented a police officer from assaulting me in a similar situation. I have a decade of clinical experience as a respiratory therapist. I’ve worked in emergency rooms. I’ve dealt with patients who have psychological issues. I’ve had patients attempt to hit me, kick me, spit on me, etc. I never once resorted to physical violence.
People often ask why so few people of color are actively involved in the Democratic Party. Well, the examples above are your answer. It’s true that the Republican Party is a party of white supremacy. That doesn’t mean the Democratic Party doesn’t have issues with race and doesn’t have racist members. Racism is everywhere, including the supposed “party of the people.” I’m far from perfect on these issues myself. I know for a fact I’ve said problematic things and held problematic views. Friends of color have called me out on this. Sometimes my initial reaction is to get defensive or angry because this stuff is hard. It’s uncomfortable. No one likes to learn that they might have said something problematic. If these discussions make you uncomfortable, just imagine the discomfort people of color feel when confronted with racism. Even when my initial reaction has been anger or defensiveness, I’ve learned to shut up and listen. If someone of color is telling you something is racist, don’t discount their words. Shut up and listen to them. You just might learn something.
An Imperfect But Willing-to-Listen White Guy