22 Days to Go: How White Liberals Move Forward

There is one thing we must remember, if we are to go forward as progressives and liberals. You see, getting rid of Donald Trump and the current incarnation of the GOP is just the first step in our political evolution and, hopefully, our return to political relevance. We have to become politically savvy at both the state and federal levels if we are to make things happen and we are to return this country to living up to the ideals with which we were founded.

To become politically relevant will require us to moderate in our views somewhat, and to become more pragmatic in our approach to politics, like we were back in the previous Democratic Party-dominated era, from 1932 to about 1980. Having wild ideals is a good thing, in moderation. However, it means we have to adopt messaging that appeals to a lot more than ourselves. That’s because we’re operating in a democracy, and we don’t control a political majority, and haven’t for a long time.

Face it; liberals – especially white liberals – haven’t been politically relevant for a generation. White liberal Baby Boomers have gone from leading the “new generation of political activism” in the 1960s to being electoral also-rans here in 2020. And the primary reason for that is, we seem to have taken our “ideals” so seriously, we actually act as our own impediment to making our ideals the ideals of the nation as a whole.

Put it this way; the “Black Lives Matter” movement should be the most important activist movement in history because it means achieving equality for African-Americans once and for all. And yet, a lot f prominent white liberals seem to see themselves in competition with BLM activists. In fact, whereas we white liberals should be championing equal civil rights for all non-whites, we seem to often be at odds with the activists working on behalf of non-white Americans.

For example, take a look at all the prominent white liberals who scoff at the concept of “white privilege.” I can’t count the number of arguments I have had with white liberals who claim the concept of white privilege is ridiculous because there are more poor white people than poor people of Color. That is not only untrue, it’s irrelevant. And it seems to me, if you are going to flaunt your liberal bona fides, not knowing what “white privilege” refers to kind of works against you.

The term “white privilege” doesn’t refer to economics, for the most part. It refers to the fact that Black people who drive have to follow a completely separate set of rules when stopped by police in traffic because police aren’t naturally afraid that a white person will pull out a gun and shoot them point-blank at a traffic stop. It has to do with the fact that a white person doesn’t have to worry about being followed by security in a department store, as long as there are Black people in the store. It has to do with the fact that white people in the airport security line have to worry far less about being detained than People of Color, and they never have to worry about being detained by police as a criminal for being white, Black and brown people always have to include that contingency in their plans.

That is white privilege and it’s not something you can choose to believe in or not; it’s a fact of life. When a white person is stopped on a highway by police, it’s a good bet they have broken a traffic law of some kind, whereas non-whites can be stopped for simply being one of “the other ones.” And while white liberals should be at the forefront of the efforts to change the culture to turn “white privilege” into “American privilege and apply to everyone, we are too often seen by Black people as an impediment to that sort of progress.

That has to stop. We white liberals can often be as bad as any Red State redneck or Trumper when it comes to seeing People of Color as “others.” Look at what Arianna Huffington refers to as the “liberal blogosphere,” and you you will see more patronization than you will see anywhere. It should irritate the shit out of you that Black activists saw the inclusion of lots of white people in the protests after George Floyd was murdered as a welcome “surprise.”

It should never “surprise” anyone. We should have been there all along. We should always be n the front lines for criminal justice reform, but we’re not. We have to understand that being on the frontlines in trying to reverse climate change shouldn’t preclude us making the a better world if we do survive. We have to learn to do whatever we can to make sure everyone has easy and cheap access to healthcare when they need it. Give up the fascination with “single-payer” or whatever gimmick you have glommed onto this week and work toward universal access to quality medical care. And learn more. You may think you know about every issue you have supposedly “studied” over the years, but reality is, unless you’ve lived it, you don’t know as much as you think.

It’s also important to LISTEN. There are many reasons why People of Color don’t like white progressives very much, but the biggest reason is our side’s tendency to lecture, rather than listen. That has to change. We have to listen more and stop believing we are knowledgeable enough about being Black and/or poor to lecture poor Black people on how they can get out of their situation, and instead choose to shut up and listen to why they are in their particular situation. Not all poor people are poor for the same reason and Black folks are individuals first. Treat them that way.

If we can get more people to vote this year, we have an opportunity to make this country better than it has ever been, and we have a chance to take a leadership role in this new, progressive government. However, there will be a lot more work for us to do, and we will have to change ourselves to be able to do it. It will take many years and it will require us to shift our attitudes toward government and democracy to get it all done. Instead of working outside the democratic process, we will have to use it.

Let’s get started by voting happily for Joe Biden and every Democrat on our ballots.

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