This is Alpha Unit’s response, or possibly rejoinder, to my piece, We Don’t Respect You. I actually encouraged her to write this. I think it’s great!
I’ve heard that Whites don’t respect Black people as a race. I think my great-grandparents got the same memo, which got sent along to my grandparents and parents, too.
To Black people, that’s like someone telling you that the earth revolves around the Sun.
Suppose that for one reason or another you ended up being owned by someone. Someone who saw you and treated you as if you weren’t really human. The fact that they saw you that way didn’t make you that way; you had all the human emotions and instincts they did. But this person can’t or won’t acknowledge that. How do you respect this person?
What about being in a situation in which you nominally have your “freedom,” but the people who run everything make damned sure you don’t really get to exercise it? They’re putting all kinds of barriers in your way to make sure you can’t exercise most of the freedoms they do–because, to them, you’re just not ready for that yet, and so it is for the common good that you stay in your designated place. Do such people get your respect?
While you’re in this situation, you and those like you are subject to freelance violence and you don’t have any recourse. If you irritate an employer in some way, he has the right to strike you, or even beat you. If you commit some serious breach of social “etiquette” you can be called out of your home and taken for a ride somewhere and taught a lesson, if you know what I mean.
If you really piss some people off, you’ll find yourself swinging from a tree. Or burned alive. They’ll bring the kids, too, and have the kids pose and smile in front of your corpse.
You’re supposed to respect people like that?
A lot of things have changed, but some things never change. Not seeing you as really human–that one hasn’t gone anywhere. One of the things I’ve noticed is that White people will say things to you that they wouldn’t stand for anybody telling them. Like where you belong.
In general human beings just balk at being told where they belong. Ask anybody who’s ever worked with children. Adults don’t like it, either, even though most of us are disciplined enough to handle being told “Sit here” or “Wait here” or “No Admittance.” But I think White people take for granted that they belong wherever they want to be at the moment.
To this day White people won’t hesitate to tell you where you belong. Decent, law-abiding Black people belong in dysfunctional, violent Black neighborhoods with all the other Black people–you know, to be a good example to them. Or Black people just can’t handle the pressures of modern life, so they belong in less challenging environments. (Should they be accompanied by all the slow, incapable Whites?) If White people have decided you don’t “belong” somewhere, they really get pissed about you being there and acting as if you do.
Black people know all this. We understand how White people operate. We have come to recognize the sense of entitlement that White people have to all kinds of things–including our respect.
White people talking about how they don’t respect Black people as a race? As if any Black person gives a damn.