Why ‘White Ignorance’ Is a Lame Excuse for Racism

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Nancy Tuana
Nancy Tuana

By Gus Renegade

“People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb.” Stephanie Pappas corroborates a widely distributed, infrequently contested concept. Racists are morons.

White philosophy professors Nancy Tuana and Shannon Sullivan lament “contemporary white people’s obliviousness to racism and white domination.” MIT legend Noam Chomsky insists that “intentional ignorance” encourages a robust amnesia of white barbarism. In 2014, Donald Sterling was ejected from the NBA following the release of racist audio commentary. President Barack Obama remarked that Sterling announced his ignorance.

The commander-in-chief also said Black survival is premised on the absence of falsehoods. For many, it seems plausible or provides comfort to process racism as white incompetence. But it’s false. The white race has privileges and responsibilities. White people are expected to be knowledgeable enough to maintain and refine their dominion over Black people. It is a successful, spectacular deception to conceive of centuries of redlining, eugenics and untold exploitation as the product white stupidity.

Texas A&M scholar Dr. Tommy Curry repudiates the totality of this idea. He finds “it untenable and apologetic to endow white people with virtue and almost a childlike innocence” when evaluating their racist tendencies. Counter-racist logic compels him to reject the fairytale that says: “Even when white people do seemingly deliberate acts against [Black people,] even those acts where they directly benefit from it are done out of ignorance.” Curry submits that this misconception sustains a ludicrous belief of white people “willing to learn and to correct their behavior if just the right Black person came along and taught them what to do.”

When it comes to the science of racism, whites have no use for remedial studies or tutoring. They are prodigies. Johns Hopkins University historian N.D.B. Connolly informs us that many whites had few nickels but enough sense to grasp that “the way that you move up the economic ladder” is by looting Black people. The desecration of 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street was “coming up” for white folks. Do not misconstrue this as primitive savagery; Connolly underscores that white rioters “burned what ever proof existed about the land owners” being African-American. This eased the theft of Black land, figuratively and literally obliterates the idea of Black wealth. Elliot Jaspin’s “Buried in the Bitter Waters” confirms that whites replicated the razing of Black Tulsa hundreds of times.

Generally, those who duplicate violations are viewed as repeat offenders, not ignorant.

Speaking of Oklahoma and dumb racists, Levi Pettit recently demonstrated the region’s racial progress and yet another pledge of ignorance. He was one of the University of Oklahoma’s white students who were recorded while harmonizing about lynching n*ggers. A melanin–rich congregation nuzzled Pettit as he begged pardon and earnestly confessed that the dog ate his assignment on lynching. He was a drunken, oblivious participant in a regrettable spectacle and could benefit from a longer, more rigorous Black History Month.

Former Howard University Dean Carter G. Woodson did not flee miseducated white folks. Cameron McWhirter’s “Red Summer” documents Woodson’s perilous escape from 1919 Washington, D.C., white marauders: “Woodson ducked into a store entranceway and watched servicemen chase a Black man who screamed for mercy. … He witnessed what he called ‘the most harrowing spectacle’ he had ever seen. The mob caught the Black man and hoisted him up ‘as one would a beef for slaughter’ then shot him.”

United States history confirms white culture as a Ph.D. study of lynching. Boasting and reminiscing about the slaughter of Black people is a racist hallmark. Documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp investigated the 1946 Moore’s Ford Bridge lynching, where two Black couples – including a World War II veteran and a pregnant Black female – were killed. Contrary to Pettit’s professed cluelessness, Beauchamp had no difficulty locating whites familiar with this butchering. He testifies that many of Georgia’s “great white people” possess a detailed knowledge of the carnage – including the identities of the living suspected killers. Yet no one has been prosecuted. Ignorance isn’t obstructing Georgia justice. These white accomplices are willful guardians for the family business, terrorizing and dominating Black people.

Emmett Till’s mutilated corpse and the 2011 video recording

The racist teens James Craig Anderson
Teen charged in death of  James Craig Anderson.

of racist teens driving over the body of James Craig Anderson establish that white Mississippians don’t flunk lynching either. Wright Thompson narrates the depraved, murderous, white response to James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi in the documentary, Ghosts of Ole Miss. In 1962, whites rioted on campus, killed two white people and nearly prompted the closing of the academy in opposition to one Black pupil. While viewing images of the melee, Thompson recognized a relative as one of the white delinquents.

If white people are ignorant about racism, they’re ignorant about the deeds of their white grandmas and grandpas, white aunts and uncles. Truthful acknowledgement of the white-orchestrated Black holocaust would indict generations of racist ancestors. It’s a mild supposition to suggest that many white attics and storage closets have more data on racism then most libraries. In 2014, Carol Zachary spoke with NPR about a keepsake her grandfather shared when she was 9. It was “an invitation to a hanging of three African-American men in Montana.” Granddad was in attendance for their demise.

To accept racists as ignorant is to isolate them from their white family and terrorist heritage. The choreographed brutality against Black people belies Pollyanna renditions of ill-informed but “well-meaning” whites. Centuries of global white tyranny demand generational transfer of white power and the information necessary to maintain it.

Oklahoma native and counter-racist author Neely Fuller Jr. maintains that, “White people cannot be ignorant about racism, or they will get in trouble with other white people.” The 1985 bombing of Philadelphia’s MOVE headquarters illustrates those consequences. Philadelphia officials deliberately incinerated the MOVE residence, which killed 11 people including women and children. The inferno ultimately destroyed more than 50 Black-owned houses. During the blaze, white officer James Berghaier rescued 13-year-old Michael Ward (Birdie Africa); his fellow white officers instructed him not to save the Black child. Berghaier disregarded their orders. He was subsequently ostracized and branded a “n*gger lover.” He eventually resigned.

The “dumbest” white person is expected to “overstand” that Black lives do not matter.

Andrew Hacker wrote “Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal.” He habitually asked his white college students how much money they would need to be Black. Their average sum was “$50 million, or $1 million for each coming black year.” That figure is the best testament to white people’s immense expertise on the wages of white terrorism.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies or position of Atlanta Black Star or its employees
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