When the Only Thing You Have Going is Being White
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When the Only Thing You Have Going is Being White

What Are You Besides Your Skin Color?

In the first Avengers movie, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark have a verbal altercation.

“Big man in a suit of armor," Steve said "Take that off; what are you?”

Tony replied, “ Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist!”

Tony Stark might have been an arrogant egomaniac, but he had some things going on in his life besides the suit he wore on the outside.

I was an athlete in high school and college. It wasn’t unusual for athletes to be stereotyped and placed in a category as if we couldn’t also be scholars, poets, and successful in other areas of their lives. Unfortunately, some athletes only saw themselves in terms of their athletic accomplishments. Even professional athletes often struggle when their careers ens as they eventually must. They have to discover what they are besides the thing they were always known for.

In every segment of society, a hierarchy forms where people can rise to the top of their environment. Some people distinguish themselves in the worst of environments, creating metrics that may have no value elsewhere. In the worst slum, there are pimps, drug dealers, educators, athletes, gamblers, and musicians. People use their talents to achieve success, whether it be making money or finding some measurable yardstick that makes them better than someone else.

Some people are their careers or claim status for the company they work for. I’ve worked for major corporations, including Procter & Gamble and AT&T. I’ve seen my co-workers proudly announce where they work when asked; I’ve done it myself. People get proud of their income level, what kind of car they drive, or the house they live in. Do you rent or own?

It’s human nature to find something about yourself that you’re proud of. Many have several things; everyone isn’t Tony Stark, but most people could come up with a list of accomplishments and things they value about themselves besides the suit they wear daily particularly their skin color.

Related: The Unintentional Racism Found in Traffic Signals

When it comes to white supremacists and white nationalists, it seems they’re suffering from low self-esteem. They see others as taking something that belongs to them. Most have jobs, perhaps not the careers they hoped for, but many are employed. Some might be rich, determined to hold onto their possessions, or not be replaced. Their whiteness is what makes them unique, which requires them to suppress all others to maintain their elite status.

I recently wrote a story about a hate group, the National Justice Party (NJP), whose leadership comprises top members of other hate groups. I wrote about them attending a Trump rally, passing out their new platform that calls for ensuring a permanent white majority and segregated schools, police forces, and separate courtrooms. I share all my articles on Twitter, where I have a relatively small following. I was surprised by the number of responses I got from NJP members. They weren’t especially nasty; some thanked me for including their entire platform and not singling out the most racist parts. I got the impression that they didn’t have much going on besides being white.

I once wrote that whiteness isn’t inherited; it’s learned. Children aren’t born racist; they pick it up along the way. The low self-esteem comes from not recognizing the value in the other things they are. I encourage parents of all colors to praise their children for all their virtues and talents, especially those that don’t require diminishing others.

There was a time when indentured servitude was the base of America’s economic model. Black and white indentured servants worked side by side, along with a relatively small number of Black enslaved people. Bacon’s Rebellion changed all that when those forces joined together and burned down Jamestown, VA. A new model was created, doing away with indentured servants and making enslaved Black people the new bottom rung of the ladder. Every white person was now above every Black person, and it became the responsibility of the lowest of white people to maintain that order. This was less race-based than class-based, with the primary beneficiaries being the upper classes. People began to celebrate their whiteness as never before, sometimes having nothing besides being white to give them status.

If someone out there has no good answer as to who they are under their suit or skin color. Their self-esteem is dependent on being superior to someone else. I worry about the lengths they’re willing to go to establish their supposed superiority. It’s why we have hate crimes and voter suppression. It would be nice if only a few people equated their status with their color. Very nice, indeed.

This post originally appeared on Medium and is edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of William Spivey's work on Medium. And if you dig his words, buy the man a coffee.