Earl Hazell (middle) performs in Phoenix Opera's production of "Flute." / Photo by Howard Paley.
The author offers some thoughts on how to deal with white people that seek to dominate Black political discussion on social media.
“Black people equal or superior to you intellectually can defensively analyze these impulses contextually, without a white person monitoring, judging, or censoring them.”
The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
― George Orwell, Animal Farm
We are now living in another one of those times in history when the majority of white people feel compelled to project all of their most deluded fantasies and deepest insecurities onto People of Color simultaneously, to avoid dealing with the systemic crisis they have created. As such, some of them are looking for any excuse to disrupt our communication with each other with a specific objective: to make themselves feel better by getting us to reestablish the sanctity of their illusions. How I ended an online conversation with several friends of mine that a white person entered recently—without invitation—is something that might be helpful to others who will inevitably find themselves in similar situations for some time to come. For some white people, particularly liberals, crisis does not begin when innocent people are ritualistically murdered. Crisis begins when ignorance is no longer bliss.
When a lessor enlightened person of European descent elbows their way into one of your talks online, and passive/aggressively asks you to deny reality so you can comfort them, try telling them something like this:
_____, the first thing you need to do is cop to the fact that your principle objective for coming into this conversation is to dominate it. Current events are giving you yet another mirror to the murderous savagery within American society that generates and protects your privilege. Black people of extraordinary intelligence, professional experience, independent minds and unusual empathy are responding to these current events in a way that not only makes the institutionalized nature of the savagery obvious, but the fragility and collusion of white people—who can't stop telling themselves or the world how wonderful they are—with all of it. Which is obviously further triggering your anxiety by holding up an uncomfortable mirror to you personally. You are trying to dominate this conversation and center yourself in it as a result, via deliberately misinterpreting every Black person's cogent words about current events and history into something personal about you; making you the Joan of Arc meets Florence Nightingale victim of our imagined aggression. In other words, the narcissistic fragility you are displaying would be comical if it weren't so tragic. (For Black people, banal.)
“You are trying to dominate this conversation and center yourself in it.”
What began as a conversation among Black people you know (who are as formally educated as they are street smart) about the new phase of the undeclared war against us, is gradually becoming, thanks to your communication style, The _ [insert your name} _ Show: where the white host tries to teach the natives how to be civilized, with a Bible in one hand and some stick-figure pictures of the missionary position in the other. You’re doing this, however, because all these mirrors in the world to Caucasian sociopathy, nihilism, barbarism, paleolithic atavism, and the associated impulses both cannibalistic and genocidal, are getting way too real for you. Particularly when Black people equal or superior to you intellectually can defensively analyze these impulses contextually, without a white person monitoring, judging, or censoring them.
The impulses driving your communication right now, which you do not see as invalidating of Black life or the Black experience, are therefore not just narcissistic but cowardly in origin. Find enough courage to consider this. These impulses are given license to be expressed outwardly, and without filter, by a racism within you that you have yet to distinguish, and a societal privilege in whiteness that you continue to deny. Find the strength of character to consider this as well. Your underlying fear, however—the central emotion driving you—is not about your lover or spouse, or your kids, or your property; or your friend's and family's safety vis a vis the unwashed black hordes at the gate, in the video game of your imagination. Your fear, at least that in the middleground of your psyche, is based primarily on six things: 1) the naked infrastructure of white privilege being exposed as inherently murderous, given its dependence on drastic socioeconomic inequality and unprovoked physical violence against minorities; 2) the evil nature of this being exposed in painstaking detail to all the countries of the world, with which we pretend "American Exceptionalism" gives us the right for the upper class here to dominate them in the same way; 3) the contradictions of a supposedly Christian and democratic republic treating its own citizens with such cruelty, making it a house built on sand that cannot stand much longer no matter what anyone does, and 4) the structure of it all, accordingly, gradually falling apart under the weight of its own evil. Revealing, 5) the parasitical nature of those with privilege supporting it in spite of it all. A weak, ravenous, and parasitical nature within the (dwindling but still) dominant culture of the United States is telling the world a secret: 6) “white people,” to the degree such a thing exists, are so dependent on the very People of Color they are exploiting that, if we actually had an authentic color-transcendent meritocracy in America, most of you couldn't survive your own system.
“These impulses are given license to be expressed outwardly, and without filter, by a racism within you that you have yet to distinguish.”
The system, however, isn't yours. Perhaps that’s what frightens you the most. The financial and corporate aristocracy have been playing a long game for a long time, on everyone. White people have just been trained to believe that they are part of the Home team. Perhaps what is most frightening to you is the thought, if you don’t actually own the system, how could you prevent someone from breaking it, killing it or giving it away?
Instead of focusing on the newest round of riots in response to the sacrifice cult of the American Police State (i.e. what is the vigorously denied foreground of the white collective unconscious); or the embarrassing cultural and socioeconomic dynamics mentioned above (i.e. the middleground), let's go deeper, into the background: the real roots of white people's anxiety in the 21st century. Capitalism is a thing that exists for a specific purpose in the minds of most white people but has become a Frankenstein’s monster no longer serving it: the birth rates of the white majority have been declining steadily since the dawning of neoliberalism in the early 1970s. The evidence explaining why is all too clear: even with white supremacy qnd privilege infecting every aspect of world culture on your behalf, the economic system is so toxic that the very people it is supposed to be serving can no longer afford to raise happy, well-adjusted children in it. Larger and larger numbers of the post-“Gen X” generations are choosing not to have children accordingly, right when their elders are dying by natural and unnatural causes. The resultant "browning of America," of which virtually all white people are not so secretly afraid, is therefore an inevitable product of your own economy’s contradictions.
American “free market” capitalism is the theology of cannibals. Even that, however, is not directly your fault. Again, the financial and corporate aristocracy in America is screwing us all. But they're getting away with it because racial privilege is the most powerful drug of distraction known to humankind, intoxicating most of you into serving the elite agenda on every class level. In other words, the system is as suicidal for the white people protecting it as it is genocidal for the Black people experiencing it, but you’ve been too high for too long on white supremacy and consumerism to do anything about it. You cannot control the sheep-walk you walk (or the slaughterhouse at the end of the path) and your privilege of forcing black sheep in front of you to forestall the inevitable at the same time, let alone make a new choice. That frightens you. In fact, it terrifies you. As it should.
“Racial privilege is the most powerful drug of distraction known to humankind.”
And if I were a white man or woman today, seeing a conversation amongst educated Black people on social media who are analyzing all of this in America properly—without my "permission"—I'd be full of anxiety too. I would probably project the malevolence of the system (and the impulses within me) onto the people analyzing it as well. I would probably also pretend that my children's safety is dependent upon my dominating and policing a conversation amongst those Black people, using myth and self-centered melodrama as justification: the kind that would put me in charge of the slaves but still make me the only innocent one on the plantation. I would even judge harshly (though passive/aggressively) any Black person whose logic triggers my anxiety against those whose obeisance does not. All while never admitting—to myself, my children, and certainly not to my (one) Black friend—the antebellum origins of these delusions and manipulation strategies. So it's cool. You did what common people do when they fear what common people with great privilege but little power fear.
If you truly care about your one Black friend at all, however—or your children—you will take this opportunity to rise above the septic tank of neurotic impulses you've displayed in this conversation and choose to be extraordinary. In times like these, only the extraordinary are truly decent. You will stop centering yourself in the conversation and listen, with empathy and an open mind. You will ask questions, instead of giving unsolicited answers to problems and issues of which you have shown neither real understanding nor authentic interest in solving. Most importantly, you will listen. You will stop pretending that your feelings are more important than math, logic, history or human lives, and listen. Not so as to know exactly when to strike and dominate the conversation (e.g. upon discovering ideological, grammatical, or emotional weaknesses in the antithetical argument of the racial Other like a spy behind enemy lines) but to learn; to really empathize, and really sympathize, as part of a process of authentic education and transformation.
“Stop pretending that your feelings are more important than math, logic, history or human lives, and listen.”
Your Black friend, whose conversation with other Black people you entered without invitation, is not your student. They are your teacher. And we are the teacher's assistants. Try speaking to them and all of us accordingly.
A decision to stand tall—literally or figuratively, with humility and grace—to embrace the above, may define you as a human being more than what could ever make you comfortable right now. As may your refusal to do so. Step into this courageously anyway. Indeed, for those of you who are parenting, this is one of those moments where you can decide what kind of moher or father you want to be for your children. We Black American people of African descent are not the ones you need to control, contain, indenture, incarcerate or exterminate to feel safe or to feel alive, or to protect your children from the indignity of inconvenience. We never have been. We are representative of the people you need to listen to, ask questions of, and learn from; to cultivate your character, save our country, and redeem your soul. Without a strong adult with the kind of character only we can help cultivate in you, you'd have every right to fear for your children and their country’s future. Parent to parent: you've looked at the fiercest enemy of your children in the eye before. Every parent does when they brush their teeth in the morning. You and only you, via denying your role in the institutionalization of evil, can jeopardize the lives of your children. Indeed, If you continue to celebrate the toxicity of your moral weakness as the imaginary burden of genetic strengths, there’s a good chance that your children won’t have a future. Consider facing these truths with courage now, alone, before lecturing Black people about how to politely and inadequately defend our right to survive.
Instead of demanding us to reconstitute delusional images of what is behind the murder of innocent Black people by American police, or engaging in a pornographic display of “Not All White People” virtue signaling as emotional currency—offered for the purpose of buying center stage in our conversations—consider that white supremacy, the global pandemic far older and more destructive than COVID-19, will not be cured or even ameliorated by your feelings. It needs a vaccine. Below is a seventeen-part vaccine that I want to see you, a white person who says they truly want meaningful and positive change, spread amongst your friends, through spoken word and committed action:
- Demand, immediately and publicly, the complete dissolution of all police unions across America. They may be the only unions in the country that don’t serve democracy or human rights, directly or indirectly.
- Demand a radical redistribution of wealth via the return of the Eisenhower tax rates, to bring about the end of the debtor’s prison business model in criminal justice and begin the inter-generational rehabilitation of Black, People of Color and poor white communities across the country. This would include
- a) a demand for the rigorous and progressive taxation of people regarding financial products, estates and all capital gains
- b) a demand for the removal of the ceiling for the compulsory contribution to social security, such that all millionaires and billionaires must contribute a percentage of their wealth to maintain its solvency, and
- c) a demand for the United Nations, Security Council and other international governing bodies to establish a universal minimum corporate tax, as part of ongoing efforts to dismantle all national and international tax shelters for American citizens and corporations.
- Demand reparations for the American BIPOC, i.e. Black and Indigenous People of Color.
- Demand the cancellation of all debts to Puerto Rico (the current deal barely scratches the surface), Mexico, and the entirety of the Caribbean.
- Demand the progressive decriminalization and heavy taxation of the production, sale, distribution and consumption of all class 1 narcotics, as part of a move away from the Prison Industrial Complex /Drug War model of criminal justice to the Portuguese model of rehabilitative healthcare.
- Demand New Deal era-like financial investment in full-time jobs to rehabilitate America’s dilapidated infrastructure.
- Demand direct financial investment for the transformation of the American energy grid.
- Demand the progressive taxation and criminalization of plastics and cheap plastics manufacturers, to establish the combination recyclingand biodegradeable plastics business model that will be central to the cleaning of the world’s oceans and America’s rivers, lakes and streams.
- Demand the establishment of Universal Voting Rights legislation and the legal responsibility of Americans to vote in all elections, similar to the Australian model.
- Demand a system of socialized medicine in America, similar to or better than what the rest of the industrialized world has long since taken for granted.
- Demand the reestablishment and extension of the Fairness Doctrine, dismantled under the Reagan administration, for all network and cable news media. Also, legislate the demand for fact-checking and hate speech notifications to be posted on all social media communication and advertising.
- Demand a rigorous and relentless application of antitrust legislation against all Big Tech and Media corporations and monopolies, enabling each and every one of these corporations to be broken up into smaller companies (e,g. Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft; Disney, Comcast, News Corp, and Sinclair Broadcast Group).
- Demand the full reestablishment of the Glass-Steagall Act.
- Demand legislated audits of the Federal Reserve and the Pentagon every five years.
- Demand a 40% decrease in defense spending, enabling a radically decreased footprint in Africa and the Middle East; with the expenditures to be directly rerouted to healthcare, STEM education & science funding, and liberal education from Kindergarten through trade school or a Bachelor’s degree—which would include the established study of civics & citizenship; historical materialism; African-American history & culture, and the arts.
- Demand a full CDC study of firearms in America. And finally,
- Demand the legislative establishment of three (3) official languages for the United States: English, Spanish and French.
Do you really want to have a substantive conversation about the current riots, associated looting and the extrajudicial killings which facilitated them? During the spread of the coronavirus? Know this: if that conversation does not consist of, at least in part, the real world solutions above—and holding politicians accountable for advocating them—it will be nothing more than a white supremacist, theatrically surreptitious apology for a cannibalistic system that is slowly eating us all. Black people have neither the time nor the interest—nor the safety—to waste time with something, or someone, so heinous as an apologist for monsters. Don’t be that woman; don’t be that man. Don’t fill our phones, tablets, laptops, Facebook pages, Zoom meetings or exhausted ears with toxic white noise. Especially when we were talking exclusively amongst ourselves—precisely because, though we may like you, we have no reason to trust you or believe in you.
“White supremacy needs a vaccine.”
The mirror will not lie to you anymore: you are not the fairest of them all. The revolution will not lie either: it is not being televised; the revolution is now live. Stand up. Be quiet. Own your filth. Ask questions. Listen. Read all of the above again, including the links, and talk about it with white people, Black people, politicians of every level, your children, and all People of Color. (And please, my Christian brethren, don’t run to a fake white Jesus to protect yourself from the discomfort of accepting the ugly truths of your nation at our expense—the real Jesus being the one whose crucifixion, according to voluminous circumstantial evidence, you would have personally facilitated had you been living in his day and time.) Ask more questions. Be quiet some more. Read some more. Listen some more. Lather, rinse, repeat it all, until you are clean. Then and only then should you go to work, real work, for the planet you’ve almost destroyed while trying to save it for yourself. Then, and only then, will you have something substantive to say to us.
With these words, __________, I am giving you an opportunity to be more than the cultural soil in which killer cops grow. Stop talking, and take it.
Earl Hazell, native New Yorker, Basso Cantante opera singer and jazz composer/arranger, is the Executive & Artistic Director of Jazzoperetry (“Jazz-OP-ruh-tree”), Inc., the innovative production company combining jazz, opera and spoken word poetry in performance. He has worked with, among others, Max Roach, Zuben Mehta, Jon Hendricks, James Levine, Abbey Lincoln, Kurt Masur, Billy Taylor, Jimmy Heath, Karen Slack, Donald Byrd, Eric Owens, Frederica von Stade, Morris Robinson and the New York Philharmonic, as well as numerous opera houses globally including San Francisco Opera, the Semperoper of Dresden, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Teatro dell’ Opera of Rome.
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