I’m a white pensioner who grew up in a town of 225 in the extremely rural Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mother: home-maker and occasional substitute teacher; Father: worked in a hard-rock gold mine in his teens and twenties; became a carpenter and stone mason. Liked to hunt and fish. These are some of my bona fides.
Before we get into white supremacy, let’s start with science-denial.
Let’s say you’re an old white working class man who likes to watch NASCAR. NASCAR depends upon sound scientific consensus about everything from fuel, the physics of racing, metal alloys, compounds to produce tires, and fire-retardant suits. No one says, “I simply don’t believe the physics.” “Why not?” “Because I don’t.” So why on Earth would you deny the scientific consensus–which is tweaked now and then: that’s what all science does? When my Dad wanted to find out if a house being framed was plumb, he dropped a plumb bob. If the result was unsatisfactory, he didn’t say, “I don’t believe the plumb bob.” If I had said that on the job, I would have been off the job.
Same goes for the science behind the human genome, which proves that we are one species, period, and that variations between my DNA and one of my brothers’ DNA might well be wider than that between my DNA and that of an African American. That anyone requires DNA proof to reject white supremacy at this stage in history is beyond me, but there it is. If your sense of yourself, perhaps your manhood, depends on white supremacy, well, that’s just sad.
The same applies to climate change induced by human activity: carbon. The consensus is as overwhelming as the one that tells us what causes a cold. Something like 20,000 scientific papers across the disciplines versus maybe 2,000. You may hate Al Gore, but he was right: Climate change is inconvenient; so is a cold, but when you get a cold, you don’t say, “I don’t have a cold.” You do something about it, even if that something is resting. It’s inconvenient for a race car driver to make adjustments going into a curve, but he or she doesn’t deny the physics. Okay?
Now about Black Lives Matter. If you feel the urge to yell “All lives matter” or “What about white lives?” you are simply being obtuse. If you have white supremacist leanings, you may think that English should be the official language of the U.S. If that’s the case, then, as a native speaker, you understand context. If a basketball player is having an especially good night, someone might say, “He’s on fire.” It’s not meant to be literal. Similarly, “Black Lives Matter” occurs in the context of American history, in which Black Lives Have Not Mattered. (Yes, I know, your immigrant grandfather may have it tough, too.) If you need assistance with the context, then imagine the sign reads, “Black Lives Matter, Too,” okay? Not a single person in the BLM movement has asserted that Black lives matter more than white ones. So you’re just inventing a reason to keep yourself furious.
My mother used to say, “Come to the party” in response to someone’s being obtuse. My fellow old white working-class dudes who live in the 17th century on certain issues: come to the party. Allow yourself to absorb some knowledge. It’s quite liberating. It lowers the BP. And don’t respond to high BP with denial, please. Come to the consensus party. You don’t have to check your skepticism at the door; science depends on skepticism. You will have to check your blind denial at the door. It’s called getting real.
A final word on monuments. To say that removing Confederate monuments equals obliterating history is silly. Knowledge of history depends in no way on monuments. It depends on reading history based on reliable, peer-reviewed (or at least critiqued) books and articles. Documentaries based on sound principles. Archives. And so on. Okay?