One element of the professional media corps that distinguishes it from foaming bloggers is a refined sense of propriety. Of decorum and discipline. There are times of particular cultural sensitivity when it’s just not appropriate to cast aspersions on groups not inclined to tolerate criticism. Those would be days that end in the letter y. To do otherwise is simply gauche. Professionals understand this.
Every group claims such moments of media deference. Christmas is another example. Traditional America holds this as its most sacred holiday. A time for love, forgiveness, and appreciation. Even if each of these disintegrates by sundown, we still pay tribute to the aspirations of our virtue. It is said amateurs talk tactics while pros talk terrain. And pros in the media know Christmas is the terrain one doesn’t attack from.
That’s why New York Times’ management paused its artillery long enough to run a rare expression of appreciation for the founders’ posterity. A Christmas Eve missive: Dear White America, Please kill yourself. It’s almost enough to make me question the Christian bonafides of that organization.
The piece is penned by a cloistered black academic who speaks with customary prison-philosopher pomposity. You know how a black rapper is going to sing, and how a black intellectual is going to write. Each assured of their originality. Though beyond stylings, one really must marvel at the solipsism. It’s not as easy as it appears. A determined man may feign belief in his centrality to the universe, but usually can’t hold the face straight for long. Blacks, by contrast, are prodigies. It’s not that we (and by extension our family, community, and nation) all aren’t central in our own lives. It’s that we don’t expect our issues to be a core concern of others unlike us–a presumption that is validated daily.
This is a concession Africans resolutely deny. That I don’t exist to further their interests, salve their psyches, or deconstruct alleged privilege is simply not a stipulation they are willing to make. Yet who can blame them? I’d be just as happy to measure the morality of Chinese by their contributions to white welfare. But it seems there’s no one else in that market. Which is why American institutions pay men like George Yancy.
Dear White America,
I have a weighty request. As you read this letter, I want you to listen with love, a sort of love that demands that you look at parts of yourself that might cause pain and terror, as James Baldwin would say. Did you hear that? You may have missed it. I repeat: I want you to listen with love.
That’s thoughtful. A message of love for Christmas. The sort of love that causes pain and terror.
If you are white, and you are reading this letter, I ask that you don’t run to seek shelter from your own racism. Don’t hide from your responsibility. Rather, begin, right now, to practice being vulnerable. Being neither a “good” white person nor a liberal white person will get you off the proverbial hook.
I appreciate your candor George. The tensile strength of those not-perpetually-proverbial hooks is something I have disgorged many words attempting to convey. You are saying whites can not be sanctified in life. May your loving message find purchase with those determined not to hear it.
I ask that you try to be “un-sutured.” If that term brings to mind a state of pain, open flesh, it is meant to do so. After all, it is painful to let go of your “white innocence,” to use this letter as a mirror, one that refuses to show you what you want to see, one that demands that you look at the lies that you tell yourself so that you don’t feel the weight of responsibility for those who live under the yoke of whiteness, your whiteness.
Love is rending white flesh. Do you doubt Jean-Jacques Dessalines loved any less? Though it’s now down to business.
First the requests.
♥️ I am asking you to enter into battle with your white self.
♥️ I’m asking that you admit to the racist poison that is inside of you.
Now the demands.
❤️ Don’t tell me that you voted for Obama.
♥️ Don’t tell me that I’m the racist.
❤️ Don’t tell me that you don’t see color.
❤️ Don’t tell me that I’m blaming whites for everything.
And finally, the invoice.
White America, are you prepared to be at war with yourself, your white identity, your white power, your white privilege? Are you prepared to show me a white self that love has unmasked? I’m asking for love in return for a gift; in fact, I’m hoping that this gift might help you to see yourself in ways that you have not seen before.
Yes, that’s a useful gift indeed. It helped me see myself in ways I haven’t before. Namely turning over a cannibal’s pot with a mouth full of apple, if this gibbering jungle sociopath had his way.
Though do you ever notice what standard elements of negotiation are eternally buried in these colonic extrusions?
Acknowledgement of counterparty interests
Quid pro quo
There’s almost an innocence in such men’s childlike parleys. That such concepts as those above even exist is wholly outside his mental orbit. It’s just gimme gimme repackaged into perpetuity with even more plodding prose. Yet Yancy is so earnestly dull he imagines this tedious Yuletide indictment as a masterwork.
Perhaps he’s simply distracted confronting the fact that, unlike the deity for whom this holiday is named, he is not infinite.
the 17-year-old who discovered philosophy, is the same person who continues to feel, though always as if in a fog, the grace of being and who continues to be filled with passion as he confronts the reality of his finitude.
A grown man learning he is merely mortal…Isn’t that a helluva thing to hear on Christmas?