White America has all kids of labels and catch phrases for those who dare to confront racial injustice.
“Stirring up trouble!”
They think it’s divisive, which is ironic. It’s ironic because racial division is one of white America’s core values.
Today, because of residential segregation, people of different races largely live in separate neighborhoods. In many American cities, one knows that there is a black part of town, a Latino/a quarter, a mostly white area—you get the point. These separations are not inevitable, naturally-occurring, nor accidental.
These color lines in housing were drawn by government policy. Housing policy expert Richard Rothstein explains:
We still largely live along those color lines today. My friend John Williams, director at the Center for Racial Reconciliation at Fellowship Monrovia, recently did a presentation on redlining that showed that the districts in the San Gabriel Valley where black citizens were relegated in the 1950s remain largely black, and poor, to this day.
Residential segregation has all kinds of other consequences, including segregated schools, a sustained racial wealth gap, and even police brutality. And white people often, politely or virulently, maintain these divisions.
Studies are showing that white people are self-segregating through a combination of moving out of neighborhoods that are diversifying (“white flight”) and refusing to move in to neighborhoods that are already diverse; They’d rather build gated communities or move to the countryside.
Studies are showing that many white parents express that they value diversity in education but are generally reluctant to send their children to diverse schools.
Studies are showing that white Americans generally say they value diversity at church but often create hostile environments for people of color entering those spaces, especially if said people of color hint that the interests of whites are not their top priority.
I guess George Wallace was right when he said “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!" We are still a deeply segregated country.
America was built this way.
Then there is the obvious. That this tradition of preserving white space and hegemony is not new.
I mean to implicate the long line of divisive legislation and policies throughout American history—like Jim Crow, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the proliferation of “Indian Residential Schools.” I mean to remind you of the legacy of racial lynching. I mean to highlight the miscegenation laws that forbid interracial marriages.
Many white Americans don’t want to know what I’m saying is true. That white America created the racial divides in this country, and have worked to keep those divides through a collaboration of hostile-active and benevolent-passive racisms. History shows that many white Americans have always wanted a white America. Our moment in history tells us that many still do.
With these things considered, it should be clear that racism divides America, and not antiracist activism. If white Americans are as interested in racial unity as they claim, they should stop wasting their energy snapping at antiracist activists, and redirect it toward changing their political, economic, and social habits that reinforce the partitions their ancestors built.
Those most harmed by racial division—which, again, is a product of white America—have no obligation to take it quietly or with grace. The person standing on your neck doesn’t have the right to forbid you to cough. Those who try to impose sanctions on the people that call out racial injustice are essentially fighting to preserve existing racial divides. What could be more divisive than that?