In the Great Migration, millions of Black Americans left the South for other parts of the country. Millions of white people migrated in the same patterns and at the same time, but their experiences were very different. Two of those white migrants were my grandparents.
All of a sudden we have a new national holiday: Juneteenth. Most states recognized the holiday before that, but until this week, most white Americans knew little or nothing about it. We might want to listen and learn for a while before we decide how to celebrate.
When we speak about someone “passing,” we often mean someone has died. It’s also used to mean pretending to be someone you’re not, especially someone Black pretending to be white. The two kinds of passing are more alike than we might think.
Voter fraud has been with us since the early days of the republic. It supported a century’s worth of political machines. It’s still with us, although it's harder to do and there's less of it. But it's still an excuse for voter suppression.
Stories of voter fraud, machine politics, and other forms of political skullduggery have been a prominent feature of the American story since the country’s founding. When I was much younger, I did some low-level work investigating suspected fraud. Thinking about that has helped me see how things have changed.
Most of us white Americans learned an American history that was all about us, white people. The stories, the statues, the books, the museums, even the songs are all about us. State songs that honor the heritage of each state are usually about us, too. And maybe what they say isn't something to be proud of.
Americans voted in record numbers in 2020. You’d think that would be good news. But state legislators all over the country are working to restrict access to voting. They want to protect white people. This white backlash, this white rage, has surged up against every major advance made by people of color in U.S. history.
White privilege doesn’t mean that all white people have it easy. More than 14-million white people in this country are poor. They are the largest percentage of the poor. Our racist myths about poverty keep us from working to eradicate it. Those myths also make white poor people invisible.
Some white people will tell you they don’t “see” color in another human being. Maybe what we don’t see is how our own color, our whiteness, makes a powerful statement we do not perceive and cannot control.
White people built America to benefit white people. That clashes with our founding principle that we are all created equal.