Don Ray SmithOpinion contributor
Given the unvarnished song lyrics, the insulting monuments, the incendiary flags, the grim historical recountings — sometimes I get the low feeling we whites should just clear out of America. Go before we screw up the place any more.
It would only be right.
We whites (Europeans, from the git-go) came to this new land as “colonists” and soon began rearranging this territory’s resources and its natives. Laying claim to this vast New World!
My oldest reference book, my huge 1878 Webster’s Dictionary, features an interesting quote. A person named Bancroft, presumably a man — what else, given the era — delivered it: “The wide continent of America invited colonization.”
Invited? Ask the Native Americans who sent out the invitations.
As the years and generations passed, we white colonists-turned-Americans drove these indigenous people off or, if need be, killed them out of the way.
Early on, some of us whites envisioned vast fields of sugar cane and tobacco and cotton. And thus anticipated the need for tens of thousands of laborers to do the backbreaking work required: Plant it. Harvest it. Load it on ships bound for northern and European markets. The cheap answer: slaves!
In time, elsewhere on this continent, some of us other white Americans wound up stealing a good chunk of Mexican land from the Mexicans. We decided to call it Texas.
These truths were among those whitewashed — how’s that for an apt description — in our history books.
The whitewashing continues to this day, in an American society so entrenched in white privilege that some of us whites have never considered this good fortune to be anything other than what God and hard work willed to us.
But there’s so much evidence, right there in front of us, that the system has been gamed all along…
- Some of us whites might notice that — well lookee there! — it was the white guys who ran city hall. The police department. The state legislature. The newspapers.
- Some of us whites might notice that most of our cities and towns, if they’re named for people, usually take the names of white men.
- Some of us whites might notice that, over the generations — wow, what are the odds! — white families just happened to live in the nicest parts of town.
- Some of us whites might notice that whites just happen to have most of the good jobs.
- Some of us whites might notice that the multi-millionaire owners of virtually every NFL, NBA and MLB team is a white man.
- Some of us whites might notice that public schools in affluent white parts of town have the best materials, best facilities.
- Some of us whites might notice that expensive white neighborhoods seem to have more police patrols, cleaner streets, less violence.
- Some of us whites might watch those “golden age of television” reruns on oldies channels and notice that they seemed to be set in an America that was 100% white. And if a Black man or Black woman, or “Indian,” or “Mexican,” or “Chinese,” did walk across the screen, they were nearly always presented as predictable, inferior stereotypes.
- Some of us whites might notice in today’s news that immigrants are often labeled as bad influences on America. Arabs, Muslims, Cubans. Central Americans.
- Some of us whites heading to downtown Louisville for jury duty might notice that the attorneys walking the halls in the courthouse are usually white men in sharp suits and white women in expensive business outfits. While their clients are often poorly dressed Black people who don’t look to have two dimes to rub together.
What’s that old folk song? “This Land Was Made for You and Me.” Did some of us whites really think You and Me was us Caucasians and nobody else?
As I said, some of us whites — like me — get the feeling we descendants of white immigrants have messed up this country so bad, we should just go back to where we came from. In my case, it would be England, Scotland, Ireland.
I could take a trip back to the homeland, inhale a deep breath, and knock on the doors of my now-distant relatives. The McCartneys. The Newmans. The Buchanans. The Allens. Ask them to take me back.
Depending on their politics, they might greet me at the door like this: “Take you back, Cousin Don? After you made America a rubbish heap? The whole world knows what you did. Killed off the Indians, who were already there ahead of you. Made slaves of Africans, who you stole. And today you’re still up to no good, closing your doors to immigrants, just because they have dark skin! Why should we take you back? Some of you uppity Yanks need to be brought down a notch or two, don’t you think?”
Just to let you know, some of us whites — OK, me — plan on staying put after all. And try harder to find ways we can all live in the same country without killing each other.
And if your mind leans more toward self-preservation than, say, The Ten Commandments, you might consider this: The U.S. Census Bureau says that by 2044, we whites will be a minority in this country ourselves.
So it might be a good idea for some of us whites to make a few more friends of color — while we still can.