Whiteygate

What black people call white people…and it ain't 'whitey.'

Posted:
 
whitey
Getty Images

And so continues the conundrum of being a post-racial black candidate in a still-very-racial world. To speak the truth about anything involving race is to be accused instantly of dragging out that famous racial deck we've all been dealt that stands us in such good stead in America.

The campaign of Barack Obama has had to rebut, not once but several times, the wild rumors that his wife Michelle used an insulting term for white people while railing from the pulpit of Trinity United Church in Chicago. His campaign has had to set up a website to refute the charge, and Obama himself has had to chastise mainstream reporters for spreading the lie.

What he hasn't done—because he cannot if he wants to win the presidency—is roll out the clearest and most obvious knockdown of Whiteygate. Namely this: "When the hell was the last time you heard a black person call somebody 'whitey?'"

I mean, come on. White man, please.

Speaking as a person who has been black all of my 40-plus years on the planet, I can say with some authority that no self-respecting black, African-American, Negro, colored or even "there's only one race: the human race" person I know would use the word.

Not unless they were quoting Rush Limbaugh. Or maybe George Jefferson.

The accusation is insulting not only because it so clearly reveals the desperation of right-wing zealots terrified of losing their stranglehold on a gasping America by playing to baseline anxieties and sad, unfortunate fears of those hard-working white Americans we've heard so much about; but because, frankly, it's so ham-fisted in its mendacity.

I mean, 'Whitey?'

The woman has a law degree from Harvard, for crying out loud. If, for some reason, she was trying to rile up a congregation she could do much, much better than that. I have spent the afternoon trying—with all the honesty and courage and humble introspection that is called for in this historic moment, with America poised to finally cast off its original sin and move into the full realization of those ringing words in the Declaration of Independence—to think about the terms black folks use when talking among themselves about white people.

I could barely move my pencil tip. Probably because black folks spend a lot less time talking or even thinking about white people than most white, right-wing reactionaries and their black counterparts dream in their hot little dreams. I had trouble, and, after hours and hours, the best I could come up with was this:

White folks. Whites. White people. They.

Or, in the case of Limbaugh in particular: Hophead. Pill-popper. Junkie nincompoop.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.