On one of her many appearances on the Context of White Supremacy (COWS) internet radio program, the late, great grandcestor, Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing relayed a very interesting anecdote. She spoke about how she once came across a “well meaning” white person who I believe attended one of Dr. Welsing’s talks, and attempted to appear to be sincerely interested in helping produce justice. She, very similarly to the famous scene in the Malcolm X movie, tried to make it clear that she was “not racist” and was very interested in helping to eliminate racism/white supremacy. She, as a white person, claimed to be confused about what she could do in order to assist in such a task, and asked Dr. Welsing exactly what she could do to help. Dr. Welsing, quite brilliantly as per usual, simply answered that what she could do is “tell Black people what whites talk about (regarding Black people) when Black people are not around”. The book, Two Faced Racism, Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage, written by two white people, Leslie Houts Picca and Dr. Joe R. Feagin, brings the readers, many like myself, who do not and will never have unfiltered, “fly on the wall” access to all-white, closed off environments, into the spaces where whites are free to be themselves and speak their minds and feelings freely. They reveal what is often said and done in environments where whites are free to spout all of their views about Black people and racism with no regard to “political correctness” or whatever other societal restrictions which are supposed to guide polite speech and behavior. They bring us into a world in which Black people can only imagine and speculate on the nature of the conversation concerning racial matters that take place among whites, with an insight that could only be delivered by a white person who is familiar with these scenes and the mentality of those involved, from firsthand experience.
In this book, Picca and Feagin conduct a study in which about 600 anonymous white college students document all racial incidents and/or conversations that they see, hear, witness or participate in in journal form for a specified time. Their recollections range from incidents that take place in the “frontstage”, spaces where people of all racial classifications have equal access (public places, for instance), the backstage, the insular, all-white environments which are guarded fiercely by whites, and which are closed off or extremely hostile to outsiders (non-whites) attempting to intrude on their territory (white homes, dorm rooms, parties, gatherings, kwk), and the in between areas, which can be, but are not always all-white, and can act as an impromptu backstage, but is an area in which non-white people typically have easier access to (the office/workplace, for instance). The results range from merely interesting, to eyebrow raising, to shocking (to some), to infuriating, to very familiar, if you’ve ever dealt with whites on any sort of personal or professional level, like for instance sharing a dorm room with whites at college, or working with whites at a job, which many Black people have.
Out of the dozens of recollections offered by the test subjects, there were quite a few patterns which highlight the pathology of what I would consider to be typical of suspected racists. First is the constant presence of alcohol in these recollections, and how alcohol typically acts as an inhibition lowering substance which emboldens the white racists to spew their racist thoughts, sometimes in the form of general ranting, and sometimes in the form of “joking”, that they often keep latent in the frontstage area, but are more than comfortable to use in conducting their racist performances for their audience in the backstage. That audience often offers at most winking, giggling quasi-resistance to the performance, which simply encourages the performer to continue. Gus T. Renegade, a very sharp and perceptive counter racist in the Welsing and Fuller tradition, and host of the legendary radio broadcast, the aforementioned Context of White Supremacy, often says that “whites and alcohol are the worst combination in the known universe”. Instance after instance chronicled in this book prove that assertion to be correct.
Another pattern is the prevalence and importance that racist “joking” has within the system of racism/white supremacy, in terms of spreading the atmosphere and ideology of white supremacy in a way that is presented as humorous. This is designed to lower the defenses of the person witnessing the racist performance. These jokes are meant to be a deceptively dangerous way of presenting, spreading and perpetuating white racist culture, with the often-implied expectation that all of the witnessing whites would be receptive to the attempts at humor. Quite simply, practicing racism/white supremacy is fun for white people, and the suffering and oppression of Black people caused by living under systematic racism/white supremacy is very funny to white people. These jokes, aside from providing a bit of naughty entertainment for those who witness these performances, also serve as a way for whites test the waters, so to speak, to see who’s openly and firmly on team white supremacy, or to see which non-white and/or Black people are “cool” (which means accepting of their place within the system, and thirsty for the white validation in the form of scoring “cool points”), by gauging the reaction to these performances by the witnesses who serve as the audience. If the reaction is not what the performer expected or wanted, they can always lean back on the “I was just joking, can’t you take a joke?!?” justification.
Which brings us to another very interesting pattern observed in these journal entries, which is the constant justifications offered by whites for their racism. Sometimes these justifications are defensive, sometimes aggressively so, where whites assert their right to be racist because of some perceived slight against them by a non-white (often Black) person, or by Black people in general (i.e. the classics, “It’s not fair that they can say n—–, but I can’t!”, “Blacks need to get over slavery, I never owned slaves!”, “Why do Blacks get BET or Black History Month, but whites don’t get WET or white history month?!?”, and so forth). But sometimes these justifications are simply little affirmations that despite carrying on with their racist charades, tirades or performances, that they are “nice people” or “not racist”, despite the fact they engage in these behaviors, and in doing so are practicing and promoting the most unjust system to ever exist. This relates to the very inaccurate idea that circulates, I suspect, specifically to keep Black people confused about the nature of racism/white supremacy, that “real racists” are klansmen, skinheads, or tiki-torch carrying alt-righters, when the deceptive racism of everyday white people who don’t wear the uniform, and who go through the charade of common civility with non-whites daily, but are stone cold, die hard white supremacists in thought, speech and action in the backstage, is far more dangerous to Black people due to the deception, in my view.
One thing that I do not engage in in any way, shape or form is “white saviorism” or what I call “John Brown-ism”, where whites who appear to attempt to make a contribution to counter racism or to solving THE problem are given disproportionate, undue praise for their efforts by Black people/victims. However, I must give Picca and Feagin their due here, as they have really put together a fascinating, constructive, illuminating and for some, very eye-opening piece of work. There are some people who I know personally who question why I read books on racism by white authors (and at one time, I also foolishly refused to read books written by white authors regarding racism). But one reading of this book should make the answer obvious; reading books such as this, written by white people on white people, gives the readers, hopefully Black people, an opportunity to see the system of racism/white supremacy from a perspective that we could never get from another Black person/victim. I honestly do not think that a Black writer could have written a book such as this, while being able to secure the honest recollections that they were able to pull directly from the test subjects.
I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book, as it confirmed my suspicions even further about the nature of the people that I call my mortal enemies, those who practice racism/white supremacy. But I can also see how reading account after account of white people, sometimes gleefully, sometimes viciously, sometimes simultaneously gleeful and vicious, practicing racism in a sneaky, two faced way, embracing what it means to be white, which means to practice racism against those classified as non-white, with special enmity toward Black people, could be very tough for Black people, especially those who have convinced themselves that racism is dying or whatever. But if I had my druthers, I would force every single Black person to read this book, in order to get a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of the system of racism/white supremacy, as well as the natural inclinations of those who practice, promote and perpetuate it. With this book, Picca and Feagin, more than any other that I’ve read, fulfills the request that Dr. Welsing had from the “well-meaning” white person who claimed that they “wanted to help”. This is a highly recommended, phenomenal read.
Osei, 21st Century Race Man