Like many, I watched the viral video of a former racist and self-proclaimed “redneck” denouncing white supremacy and racism. His words checked every anti-racist box: as a white male, he spoke exclusively to white folk to change their systems of institutional racism, while reprehending colorblindness as a fiction meant to reinforce white supremacy. He detailed white privilege, and how, despite class rank, all white people benefit from a country built on maintaining white racial hierarchy. And he demanded that white folk don’t get defensive — that the excuses are wearing thin.
Warning: This video contains profanity.
His video is featured on media outlets with wide viewership like Upworthy, and is approaching 400,000 views on YouTube. The video is popping up on my personal social media feeds, with comments praising his “courage.” And many of my friends personally reached out and asked for my thoughts.
So here goes.
I always say that the role of the white ally is to use their power to change their systems. White allies have a unique set of responsibilities in enhancing Black and Brown racial equity — their primary onus is to transform white culture in ways that comprehensively and genuinely foster Black and Brown socioeconomic ascension. There’s no need for white folk to tell Black folk about racism — our lived experiences already tell us how parasitic racism is.
This in mind, I applaud the video because it talks exclusively to white people. He does not tell us Black folk what we need to do to end racism. He’s talking to his racial peers in a straightforward manner, and his white privilege allows them to be receptive.
But his words aren’t new. Hell, on this blog, literally every point he’s touched upon, I’ve expressed. His words are common knowledge in the pro-Black racial justice community, with many bloggers, activists, academics, and organizers repeatedly, relentlessly, tirelessly, and courageously working to end the destructive system of white supremacy. In every.single.major institutional hub, there’s a Black activist speaking up and calling out.
In academia, Dr. Brittney Cooper is speaking up and calling out.
In religion, Dr. James H. Cone is speaking up and calling out.
In the blogosphere, Mia McKenzie is speaking up and calling out.
In education, Principal Nadia Lopez is speaking up and calling out.
On YouTube, Gazi Kodzo is speaking up and calling out.
After years of painstaking labor, these names are widely recognized, but still challenged as credible representations of racial justice and equity.
When Black bodies talk racism, we’re silenced. We’re called race-baiters. We’re given the MLK sedative, and are told that vocal admonishment of white supremacy is actually “reverse racism.” We’re personally attacked and publicly humiliated. Racist trolls galore in our Twitter mentions, and our personal safety jeopardized with death threats and wishes of bodily harm.
But when a redneck attacks racism in one 5-minute video, he goes viral. The atmosphere changes; all of a sudden, there’s a shift in the dialogue, and he’s cited as a transformative voice in racial dialogue.
I get it: the idea of a redneck being anti-racist has novelty appeal. He’s an oddity, an exception; hence his perspective feels innovative and countercultural. But it’s not. They’re literally the perspective of Black thinkers and scholars before him.
Similar to when the DOJ report was released and white folk were “surprised” that racism was embedded in Ferguson police units, despite thousands of Black voices telling them so, our words were not valid until endorsed by a white entity.
That’s the core of the problem. Majority of white folk trapped in inactive trance, don’t listen when Black folk tell them that racism is a deadly reality in our societal fabric.
I’m also frustrated that when white folk do speak out against racism, they’re heralded. They go viral, get a lot of shares and engagements, and are suddenly propelled as trusted racial justice scholars. The unchecked praise is, ironically, a reaffirmation of white supremacy. Olivia Cole, white author, blogger, poet and ally, tells it like it is in her piece about how white privilege helped increase her fan base.
White allies who understand racism and can explain it are vital, and I praise all work done with a pro-Black motive in mind, heart, and spirit. But I don’t give praise to white allies who re-articulate the words of Black folk and take it back to their communities. I praise the Black folk who said the words in the first place.