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Excuses and the Blame Game

Saturday, February 10, 2007

While I was at work I was talking to a customer and something she told me sparked some thoughts in my mind, I really don’t need to tell you guys what she said (it wasn’t important really, at least not important enough to go into detail), but what it brought up in my mind was important.

I basically started thinking about how many times I hear white people use the term “excuses,” “blame,” “responsibility,” “the race card,” and “victim hood” uttered from their mouths whenever a person of color brings up certain issues in society to explain why things are the way they are. I hear these excuses often (monthly to be exact, sometimes weekly). They will mention something that they heard on the TV, or something they read, or something somebody told them pertaining to racism in America today. Whenever a commentator brings up the fact that there are huge discrepancies between whites and people of color and how racism still effects America today and how racist policies and a racist society is still keeping people of color down, they will almost always say that they are not taking the responsibility upon themselves and that they are just making excuses and “hurting” their own community by saying them (this is a main argument that Black commentator Shelby Steele makes).

Yet are they really “making excuses” that are “hurting” their own community? Or are they merely pointing out the reality of the situation and empowering people to take action in order to better their lives?

It appears to me that many whites do not want to look at the reality of the situation and when they have things pointed out to them (such as racism being prevalent in today’s society) they tend to get uncomfortable and react in a way that causes them to ignore reality in order for them to feel comfortable and free of guilt. It seems that this plays out when the tell me buzz words such as “making excuses,” “blame,” “the race card,” etc. (and the ultimate in spin, “hurting” themselves). They’re transferring their guilt (which they may feel for a few split seconds) and trying to offload it on people of color in order to further continue the white supremacist propaganda of the “lazy and shiftless” person of color who can’t help her/himself. By doing this one can justify (unconsciously or consciously) the continued status quo that subjects people of color to white America. (More on history of racism see “Racism,” and “Construction of Whiteness.” More on guilt transfer and justification of present day scenario see “Psychological False Consciousness,” and “Color Blindness,” among others).

By doing this whites do not need to question their privilege (and therefore their humanity) and their place in society. All they need to do is look at themselves and say. “Well, I’ve done good for myself and I came from humble backgrounds. Why can’t they do it.” It’s this type of uncritical thinking that continues the perversion of white supremest thought going throughout the white American community.

But, back to the question at hand. Does this type of talk somehow hurt people of color because it’s just “making excuses?” Well, I’m a white male and can’t talk about what people of color think, but, I can say this. Taking into account what I’ve said above we can see that many whites use these terms in order to alleviate their guilt and to feel comfortable about not trying to change society. Therefore answering whether or not this type of talk actually hurts people of color is utterly ridiculous. But whenever someone tells me this and asks what I think I tell them this (and then some):

Far from it. Pointing out the realities of America’s white supremacist system is not “making excuses,” it’s pointing out reality. By trying to figure out what is affecting today’s society and by getting at the root causes of injustice in today’s society is a powerful weapon that one can use in order to better one’s self. Instead of creating a “victim complex” it is creating people who will empower themselves and will help themselves out (without any help from “sympathetic” and “all knowing” whites) and create strong communities. This isn’t creating excuses that distracts one from building wealth and living the “American dream” because living the “American dream” doesn’t do anything to alleviate society’s present day ills. While there are some Colin Powells and Alberto Gonzaleses there are many more who are held back by white society and kept in poverty through white supremacist and male supremacist actions and policies. And by tackling these issues and by pointing them out one can be sure, that in the future, there won’t be just a few token minorities in government office and corporate America, but instead, it will guarantee that everyone will live in a society where they will be able to control their own lives without outside oppression and extortion. But, by repeatedly giving excuses for today’s ills (by not questioning one’s privilege and by repeatedly saying that people of color are making “excuses,” etc.) one is merely siding against humanity and with white supremacy.

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