by Michael Daly
My awakening began with my realization that, while being brought up a “good” Catholic boy and becoming a “good” man, my path has been one of white entitlement — safe, supportive, a world of possibilities, innocent until proven guilty, pulled over only when driving like Mario Andretti.
Walking my primrose path, I didn’t realize that black boys were being groomed for prison as schools replaced guidance counselors with police officers. I figured that most black men were in prison because they broke the law. After all, this is America! But I’m a good person.
Not understanding that black men and boys were being shot dead for reaching for their ID’s, I just figured that most black men carried guns and wanted to shoot police officers. After all, why would someone — black, white, blue or green — kill someone unless they were defending their own life? But I’m a good person.
I remember 10 years ago at town court. Out of 60 people, I was one of the only whites. Odd, I thought. Guess it was a coincidence. Then the next time, the same thing…one of the few whites in the courtroom, then again and again (remember, I drive like Andretti). I also remember that my fines were lower than several of the non-whites. Guess I felt lucky then, but now I feel sick. But I’m a good person.
I have recently learned some new terms about racism.
The term white savior refers to a white person who acts in a self-serving way to help non-white people.
Think of all the white people selfies, surrounded by South African orphans, you’ve seen on Facebook or Instagram. In film, the white savior rescues people of color from their plight. The white savior is portrayed as messianic and often learns something about themselves in the process of rescuing (music please).
The stories are typically fantasies that “are essentially grandiose, exhibitionistic, and narcissistic”. But they’re good people.
Another recent term I came to understand is micro-aggression. The term “micro-aggression” refers to “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Think passive-aggressive:
”Oh, you’re so articulate!” (you don’t sound like a black person)
“What are you?” asked of a non-white.
“No, where are you really from?” When a non-white responds “Queens.”
“Do you swim?” Asked of a person of color.
I have said these things. But I’m a good person.
Do I not march because I am lazy? Or because I don’t care enough? Or because I’m afraid that giving more power and equality to people of color will leave less for me? But I’m a good person.
Being in the room with a person of color and saying “hello” isn’t not being racist. I must look at our policies and see what impact they are having on black people, brown people and even white people.
Do our policies lead to whites benefiting from oppression, mass incarceration, healthcare and housing? Do I know it and not fight to change it? “I didn’t do it…it’s just the way it is…THEY have to fix that.” But I’m a good person.
Our local organizations: Why don’t we have more people of color in them? What are our policies and more importantly, PRACTICES that implicitly or explicitly welcome or NOT welcome non-whites?
What do we do that makes us comfortable, but would have to change to be more welcoming to people who are non-white, non-middle class, not as highly educated? But we’re good people.
Millions of undocumented people are in danger of mass deportation and splitting up their families due to a broken path to immigration.
Black young men are in constant danger and are dying in the streets and rotting in prison due to racial policing and a rigged legal system.
Muslims are being harassed in the open and may soon be forced to register in the US because of their faith. What am I doing about it?
The more I see, the less I know. Opening my eyes to racism, I now believe that being a “good person” is no longer good enough.
Michael Daly is an East Ender and regular contributor to The Beacon on community issues he cares passionately about. He can be reached at 631.525.6000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org