Not all white people.
I think I should issue that caveat at the beginning. Because I was partially homeschooled, I probably missed the day in first-grade language arts when they instruct people that, whenever the word “white” is used as an adjective to describe the word “people,” the reader should automatically assume the word “all” is invisibly implied.
I never learned this lesson, so from now on, whenever I use the phrase “white people,” I implore you to add the words “not all” to the expression. Let’s see if we can use our new example in a sample sentence:
When Saira Rao replied “yes” to a New York Times Article titled: “Should I Give up on White People?” Rao received so many death threats from white people that she was forced to pack up her family and leave the state of Colorado.
Rao, who lost her bid for Denver’s Congressional seat two weeks ago, is known for her outspoken criticism of the three worst kinds of whites: white supremacy, white liberals and white feminism. After The Root wrote an article about Rao’s white tears-inducing tweet, the story was picked up by notorious right-wing outlets like Breitbart and the Daily Caller.
In an apparent attempt to prove how not racist they were, Rao was immediately inundated with death threats from white people. She eventually passed the information along to the FBI, filed a police report, and decided to temporarily move her family out of the state of Colorado.
I guess white people showed her.
Now, not all white people threatened Saira Rao and her family. In fact most white people didn’t send hateful messages to Rao’s social media accounts. But if she was trampled to death by elephants, and someone asked me how she died, I’d simply say: “Elephants killed her.”
And you know what would sound stupid as fuck? The most idiotic response imaginable would be some salty, self-righteous, tartar sauce-colored ball of white fragility and suppressed hatred saying: “... But not all elephants.”
Nothing is ever “all.” Not all snakes are venomous. Not all sharks eat meat. But when discussing the danger of serpents and sea life, there are only two types of people who will interject with a caveat about garter snakes and vegetarian sharks:
- Stupid people
- Someone who wants you to get bitten.
I hope my article wasn’t the thing that prompted this insane reaction against Rao, but white backlash is like an avalanche—any small thing can set it off. When the Rao article first appeared on Breitbart, Saira asked me if she should be concerned. She told me she was scared. I told her there was nothing to worry about.
I should have told her that I wouldn’t worry about it.
While talking to a colleague about this incident, I explained how I don’t really a clear understanding of the phrase “death threat.” Growing up reading about black heroes like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Rosa Parks, their stories would always contain a paragraph about receiving death threats from their detractors. Almost any public black figure would probably tell you that accepting vile, hate-filled threats is part of the job.
As a black writer, especially one who writes about race, I am constantly reminded how overwhelmingly hateful some people can be. Most black writers receive hate mail laced with the word “nigger” so often that we eventually become indifferent to it. When one receives the gift of blackness, hate is an included accessory. It comes with the package.
Only hours after the article about Rao went live, my mother, who probably spends 98.3 percent of her time worrying about her children, saw some hateful comments directed at me and asked if I ever worry about those kinds of people.
As I did with Rao, I assured her that there was nothing to worry about. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked. “Let them win?”
But if there a way to detect paranoia in the bloodstream, most black people would test positive for traces of the neurosis that stems from hatred. How many times has a black person wondered if they were denied employment for valid reasons or because of their black-sounding name?
When walking into white spaces, we often wonder if the stares we receive are because we are strangers, or if the puzzling looks are because of the color of our skin. We either become numb, paranoid or ...
What else are we supposed to do, let them win?
Last week, while standing in line at a huge entertainment complex, I asked one of the employees if I was in the right line to reserve a table for the restaurant. Before I could even finish, she cut me off dismissively and said: “You’re in the right line.”
I waited for a few minutes and asked her again. Before I could finish, she cut me off again with: “Sir, I said ...”
I interrupted her: “Could you wait until the end of the sentence to answer the question?”
She paused, stared at me and just walked off without answering the question. For a brief second, I thought: “Damn, I hope she’s not going to call the police.”
I am sure that some white people call the police on black people for altruistic reasons but, when swimming in shark-infested waters or walking through a snake pit, it would be stupid to tell yourself “not all sharks...” or “not all snakes ...” and assume that you won’t be bitten.
And that is the stupidity of believing “not all.”
While the phrase “white people” not adorned with a modifier might be an example of reverse racism, for a non-white person to say “not all white people goes against the principles of logic, human nature and self-preservation.
So to the people who called me a “nigger” because of the title “White People are Cowards,” I would like to issue an apology for not titling the article “142,215,517 White People are Cowards” (the number of white people who say people talk too much about race, according to a 2015 poll).
And, when Saira Rao answered “yes” to a rhetorical question in a story she had nothing to do with on white people, I suspect she didn’t mean that she has given up on every single white person in America. Not even every person in Colorado.
Just the parade of elephants stampeding into her inbox trying to kill her. Just the snakes who want to inject her with their venom. Just the sharks who want a chunk of flesh.
Not all white people.
Just some white people.
Perhaps, if Saira Rao was a hungry professional writer like myself (it turns out, I was in the wrong line at that restaurant) schooled on using big words that can convey nuanced meaning, when Rao referred to the subset of Caucasians poisoning the world with racism, hate and white supremacy, she would use the same phrase I use that clearly explains who I’m talking about: