This piece – “Ten Cracka Commandments“, submitted by “Christopher Driscoll”, ostensibly an African-American professor at Lehigh Universithy, as a suggestion for the rules white people should follow in dealing with race – was making the rounds of the clickbait sites last week.
All the usual disclaimers apply; unknown professor (likely trying to make a name, in an academic community where inflammatory publicity-whoring is as important as teaching), clickbait site, the fact that I’m referencing him at all gives him more attention than he’s worth, yadda yadda.
1. #AllLivesMatter won’t matter until #BlackLivesMatter. This commandment is a litmus test and the greatest commandment.
OK, since that would seem to be a matter of mathematical logic, that’s not too big a stretch.
2. Always remember that white privilege is real, even if you do not understand it. Use it to convince other people that black lives, including black women’s lives, matter. Show up for protests, write letters to representatives, and start discussions with other white people about black lives mattering.
OK, privilege is real. I’ve even defined it, at least for part of “white culture”.
What do we do, once we’ve made this assertion?
I’ve never gotten an answer on this.
3. Always remember that ignorance is real, and is a product of privilege. Treat the ignorant with compassion, but hold them accountable.
I love getting lectured about “privilege” by tenured academics. But I do try to treat them with compassion. For what it’s worth.
4. Never think that the critique does not apply to you. Just because you were at Barack’s inauguration and your dad was a freedom rider, or because you are the head of your local chapter of GLADD, that does not mean you do not have more work to do on yourself, your family, and your community.
Read: “Your zeal will always be insufficient to satisfy The Movement”.
Lavrentii Beria went from “Stalin’s #2 man” to “dead” in less time than it takes Mark Dayton to flip-flop on an issue.
5. Always remember that it is never a question of if violence, but whose violence are you going to defend. Unjust state-sanctioned and racist violence, or justified resistance; the choice is yours, the choice is ours.
This is where it’s probably a good thing we’re not having this debate in person. I’d start laughing right about here. It reminds me too much of “last call” at the craphole bars I used to work at.
It’s a false dilemma. Those aren’t our only choices. The real range of options is:
- Unjust State-Sanctioned Violence: the shooting of Eric Garner qualifies.
- “Justified Resistance”: We can argue about examples – I‘ve written about a few – but it’s certainly a choice.
- Unjustified, out-of-proportion, opportunistic violence with a thin veneer of “resistance” daubed on the top: The LA riots, the looting and destruction of innocent peoples’ property and livelihoods in Ferguson and Baltimore and, really, anywhere.
- Justified State-Sanctioned Violence: It should be rare, and much more closely scrutinized than it is in much of the country. But it exists.
And you’re right, Professor Driscoll. The choice is mine. I’ll take “2” and “4”. Thanks.
6. Never tolerate racism from your friends or family. Whether it is coming from your eighteen-year-old friend, your thirty-one-year-old cousin, or your eighty-year-old grandmother, confront it always. Confronting racism does not mean you will lose your friend or family. It means you will help to make them act and think in less racist ways.
OK. Professor Driscoll: Stop using the term “cracka”. It implies that white people are inherently slave-masters. It’s degrading and insulting and racist, and I won’t tolerate it.
7. You cannot love cultural products without also loving the people who make those products. If you like black art or athletics, that appreciation is an entryway into recognizing that black lives matter.
Wait – racism is hatred, right? You can’t simultaneously love and hate.
So if I “cannot” love cultural products – as I do Levi Stubbs and Walter Payton and Clarence Clemons and LeBron James and Jimi Hendrix and James Brown (both) and Prince – then I cannot simultaneously hate black people?
I mean, that seems reasonable – and seems to contradict the rest of your thesis, Professor Driscoll.
8. Never quote black leaders like Dr. King in order to criticize protesters and activists.
Bullshit. I absolutely will. You don’t make those rules.
9. Always embrace uncertainty. Life is uncertain; death is certain. Uncertainty promotes life; certainty produces death and destruction.
I love getting told to “embrace uncertainty” by tenured professors.
10. Never put white fragility ahead of justice. If you are more concerned to argue that you “aren’t racist” than you are with racism or with people dying, you’re priorities are skewed. Do you want justice or comfort?
I’m not concerned about arguing I’m “not racist”. I’m not. There’s no argument.
Everyone in the world is a “we-ist” – more comfortable around, and forgiving of, people like them than people not like them. I am, you are, everyone is. There’s evidence it’s programmed into our DNA; babies recognize adults of different races very early in life.
I just have a hunch our definitions of “Justice” are very different.
UPDATE: I’m informed that, counter to BuzzPo’s foreword, Professor Driscoll is in fact white.
Which changes none of my conclusions above – except that using the term “cracka”, like he’s a native speaker of ghetto argot, isn’t just presumptuous; it’s a comfortable, fat ‘n happy academic playing “minstrel show”.