white rage: despite the “angry blacks” stereotype, most race-based street harassment comes from angry whites

May 24, 2017
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“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” Some of the truest words (and there are many) on the black experience were uttered by James Baldwin. And, yet, in spite of this rage, what we don’t really see is black people taking that anger out on whites or other people who are minding their own business ( an important distinction), co-existing in this lovely world. 

I spend a lot of my time oscillating between incredulity, anger, and delirium. I am exhausted from the ways in which white people assert their entitlement in any number of ways while making my way through a white world. But even with the persistent anger looming behind the forced smiles and over-politeness aimed at presenting myself as an agreeable, non-aggressive black. Still, despite the righteous anger I feel, not once in my life have I felt even slightly compelled to attack a white stranger for daring to leave the house in their whiteness. More than inappropriate and misdirected, doing so seems pretty cruel. But, hey, that’s just me.

By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor

White people don’t seem to have a problem with this. White folks seem to have pretty much a lock on harassing others in public spaces because they are different than them. Often red-faced, finger jetted outwardly towards another. And, of course, these instances have only increased since Donald Trump was elected. There are countless videos, in fact, of stale white people belligerently screaming, chasing some poor POC, or an immigrant/multicultural/multilingual person down a grocery store aisle, down the beach, or down the street. Surely, Trump’s win symbolized the legitimization of white racism and white fear of becoming racial minorities that have enabled the boldness of their confrontations, but my question is why do white people seem so eager to behave in such ugly ways? It’s one thing to have these evil thoughts and to keep them to yourself, but it’s unfathomable that one would become totally unhinged by hearing a passerby speaking Spanish.

At the risk of being too generous, I’m starting to think it’s possible that White Americans sometimes experience a type of psychosis that enables and encourages them to behave in profoundly inappropriate and deranged ways. A psychosis that’s triggered by the reminders of how they, historically, have treated marginalized racial groups, and when the horrors of that reality and the fact that America’s non-white population will grow to become the majority intersect, white people lose their goddamn minds.

I don’t have a cure for white folks on this one. It is true that one day, they will, in fact, become racial minorities in America. But just because they treated us badly doesn’t mean we’ll treat them badly in this hypothetical future. However, carrying on like this, now, of all times, ain’t gon’ help. And if we can keep it in…so can y’all.

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at erin@afropunk.com.