Breaking the White Programming

A white man’s rant against people speaking Spanish in his presence recently went viral. He was later identified as Aaron Schlossberg, a lawyer who “has a history of being racist.”

This is just one of an ever-increasing list of white people being publicly racist. Another high-profile example was a white woman identified as Jennifer Schulte, a Stanford-educated environmental scientist, who called the police because black people had a charcoal grill in the part of a park that wasn’t supposed to have charcoal grills. In that case, Schulte was confronted by Michelle Snider, another white woman, who recorded the incident. Police did eventually arrive… to separate Snider and Schulte.

And then there was the incident at Starbucks involving two black men being arrested for wanting to use the bathroom. Since that incident and Starbucks promising to fix their problems, two more incidents involving baristas being racist have emerged.

Every day, it seems like there are just more and more stories of white people being racist against people of color. It’s to the point where some white police, still consistently defensive over murderous racist assaults by their colleagues, are refusing to buy the white nonsense.

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Despite all this, the narrative surrounding Aaron Schlossberg is constructed around his history of racism. This is common ploy: Depict the openly racist person as a lone wolf, not as a product of their society. Don Lemon responded to the inanity of this argument on his CNN show, even as one of his guests tried to defend it.

The point of the narrative is to suggest that most white people aren’t like this. He is an anomaly. “He’s got a long history” means that most white people aren’t like this, this is a Doberman who is off his chain, most of us are harmless teacup puppies.

No, that’s nonsense. We’re all programmed like this. The ones who don’t do it are actively fighting our programming.

Our society has been constructed to make white people believe that we’re at the top. Any action by someone who isn’t white to inconvenience us, to fail to give us what we want, to so much as be in our presence, is an insult. We’re entitled by our position at the top of the cultural food chain to excise the nuisance.

There’s a black person picnicking next to me, call the police.

Someone’s speaking Spanish in my presence, scream at them.

There’s a woman in a niqab, call her a terrorist.

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The goal is to make the unwanted people feel uncomfortable enough that it’s just not worth the bother anymore. As people of color increasingly segregate in order to not have to deal with the nonsense, these white people get what they want. They also get the bonus of being able to accuse the people of color, who are self-segregating out of concerns for their own safety or just plain weariness of having to deal with this, of being “reverse racist.”

These are not isolated incidents. These are not lone wolves. These are the natural product of a society that programs white people, and particularly white men, to believe that they’re entitled to get what they want.

The white narrative has long relied on the idea that these sorts of blatant racist acts were being committed by uneducated buffoons, but neither Schlossberg nor Schulte are uneducated. Quite the opposite.

We can no longer even pretend to deny that this is an intrinsic part of our culture.

To the casual white observer, it might seem like incidents like these are on the rise. Statistically, they may be, but in terms of the experience of people of color, they’re nothing new. “Racism is not getting worse,” Will Smith told Stephen Colbert in 2016, “it’s getting filmed.”

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If you’re white and you’re repulsed by this, good for you. Step up your own game. Follow a few easy steps to address the programming.

1.Realize and remember: The programming exists. If you grew up in North America, and you’re white, your society has worked to convince you of your entitlement and superiority. You can’t overcome that until you fully accept that.

2. Catch and reflect: When you find yourself having a negative reaction to people of color in your environment, ask yourself why. The common suggestion is to ask yourself what you’d do if they were white, but that’s not even a solid suggestion, since we’re so likely to convince ourselves that we’re not racist. “I’d call the police regardless,” we insist, even though we wouldn’t. “I don’t even see color,” we tell ourselves, a common claim that’s rarely true, and is counterproductive anyway.

3. Don’t tolerate racism when you see it. In the Oakland incident, Snider confronted Schulte for her racism, refusing to accept Schulte’s argument that she was concerned about safety. “Safety” is a common dog whistle anyway: It refers to safety for white people, and perceived danger created by black people. In the niqab incident, a white patron told the racist to get out of the coffee shop, and the manager refused to serve him.

4. Stop, stop, stop taking things personally. Stop spending energy convincing people of color that you’re one of the good ones. If you are, your actions will show it, and that’s energy spent that could be better used elsewhere. And if you’re still stuck in your racist programming, all the words in the world won’t unstick you.

This won’t end until we break our own programming and convince enough of our fellow white people that it needs to stop. Not superficially, but deep down.

Because Aaron Schlossberg is not an aberration, he is a product of a machine centuries in the making. The machine will not collapse overnight.

Originally published on The Good Men Project.

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