It just happened that a very good friend with a scratchy white beard wrote a Facebook post about being a proud white man. It shocked me, which is what he was trying to do, I suppose. Here's a bit of what he wrote:
"So yeah, I'll say it...even if you all are afraid to...I love my people. Good working class white folk. They never turned their back on me and I'll never turn my back on them. This ain't no New York Times guilt trip, ya dig, this is about where you come from. And about who you are. And who you are isn't anti-anybody else, unless you really are fucked up. Either way, I love my people. White folk. We have a lot to be proud of and I'll never back away from that. Ever."
I was an editor and a writer at a newspaper and this guy was my friend. We flirted a bit, went out for coffee, a beer, but there was something that made me nervous about him. He is a very good writer, loves the outdoors and the cold, and drinks a lot too. He told me I was a good-looking woman as though he were a folk singer from Canada. So when I moved away to study racism in the Caribbean, I kept connected to him, through FB mostly, but also because we knew the same folks in Los Angeles.
When I wrote my book, Some Feet Not Meant for Shoes, I knew that some people would be upset with me. I did not back down, though, but followed my heart. Skin color is makeup for the soul, I said. My geneticist cousin from the University of Minnesota said that was basically true. At the smallest levels, we are all the same, he told me. No differences. History made us different. His story.
So here is a white man I know with lovely blue eyes who is proud of his whiteness, and here I am, feeling lowly and meek about my white privilege. I think that this is America, and why we are at such a standstill. If we cannot get past this to our basic humanity, then we are doomed. I cannot apologize enough for my ancestors, but I can stand up against the cavalier and the superiority, against a kind of tribalism that separates us from them.
I told the guy this publicly, but rushed here to tell you. My people are the warriors, the militants, the humanists, the feminists, the preservationists, the ones who rise up and fight against the privileged elite. That is who I am proud of, where I come from. There might not be a shade of makeup by Rihanna for that yet, but surely one will come.