I celebrate white culture all the time.
Once a year, I take 100 readers to the opera. Which isn’t exclusively white, not with amazing bass-baritone Eric Owens singing Wotan in the Lyric’s Ring Cycle, plus a wide spectrum of singers of all hues.
But all told, taken as a whole, opera is still pretty darn white. As are many of my interests: Samuel Johnson, “Downton Abbey” and Wilco, which the L.A. Weekly picked as the second whitest musicians of all time, after Kenny G. I’ve written about Wilco, watched them record a song. Heck, I’ve been to front man Jeff Tweedy’s home. I saw he smoked a lot, but never noticed his pervasive whiteness.
Then again, being white myself, I wouldn’t, would I? Not noticing stuff is the essence of whiteness — our privilege, as it were. I moved to Northbrook, never noticing the high school was, at the time, 0.1 percent black. I went through 17 years of formal education, and it never occurred to me until much later that I managed to do so without reading a single book by anybody who was black. I took a course in Japanese fiction. But no Toni Morrison, no Ralph Ellison, no Richard Wright.
This lapse has led to other embarrassments. When columnist Leonard Pitts’ novel “Grant Park” showed up at the paper, and I decided to give it a read, I was surprised — surprised! — to discover that it was a novel about black people. The characters were black. Which made sense, the author being black.
I wouldn’t mention any of this — always prudent for a white guy to avoid the topic of race — but a reader shared a photo of the KKK fliers found in the southwestern suburbs Sunday, as reported by the Tinley Park Patch.
The broadside begins, in the all-caps which the Far Right mistakes for emphatic boldness:
DOESN’T MEAN HATE
IT’S OKAY “YOU CAN SAY IT”
I’M PROUD TO BE WHITE!
I’d be prouder if the quotation marks around “YOU CAN SAY IT” were around the following sentence instead, proceeded by a colon — obsession with punctuation, also very white.
A few lines later, we get:
WHY IS IT OKAY FOR OTHER RACES TO BE PROUD! WHY ARE WE NOT ALLOWED TO CELEBRATE OUR CULTURE?
Boo-hoo. Don’t you want to grab the person writing this and ask, “By whom? Stopped by whom? Who is stopping you from celebrating white culture?”
Of course they’re stopping themselves. Too consumed by rancor. Plagued by a sense of inferiority, they’re so busy defining what they’re not, they forget to be something. That’s why you never see so-called white pride groups actually participating in the culture they are supposedly so proud of.
There’s actually good news in this flier. We live in a culture where even a dimwit hater knows enough to feel a little ashamed, to feel obligated to speak in codes.
A hundred years ago that KKK flier would offer stark slurs about lasciviousness and criminality. Now, if the president wants to call Hispanics gang-bangers and rapists, he has to produce the obligatory fig leaf of illegality, as if that were the issue. (I write back to people waving the bloody shirt of illegality that I’m glad to see their punctiliousness regarding the letter of the law, and hope they bear it in mind when Robert Mueller returns his findings. Busted, they never reply).
WHY CAN’T PRO-WHITE RIGHTS GROUPS EXIST WITHOUT BEING LABELED “RACIST? [sic] the leaflet demands.
Ooo! Ooo! Teacher, teacher, let me field that one!
Because they are racist, root and branch.
Black rights groups came into being for a reason. The NAACP was formed in 1909, when Southern states were working to disenfranchise black people, lynchings were common, as were attacks on black communities. Black pride in the 1960s was pushing against a culture still clinging to grotesquely mistaken plantation and Darkest Africa mythology.
The KKK was created to combat the injustice, in their minds, of allowing black Americans to vote. Today it mimics the language of black pride, even though it lacks any pervasive prejudice to push against. They’re like fully able people, jealous of handicapped parking spaces, who demand similar treatment based on a litany of imaginary woes. It’s a very bad look. Shame they don’t see it, and can’t. But we can, and should. It’s empowering.