#WokeWhitePeople: Henry Rollins Says White Americans Couldn't Handle What Black Americans Go Through

Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins

If there is an addition that needs to be made to The Root’s Thursday "Woke White People" article, it would be singer Henry Rollins.


In his recent L.A. Weekly column, Rollins spoke about the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. He also ripped into the fact that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was being called on by media to give commentary on the recent killings by the police.

But one thing that Rollins made evident in his article was the privilege that exists in being a white male, as well as the fact that white people couldn't handle the s—t black people go through on the daily.

Rollins wrote:

The despicable litanies of willfully ignorant denial and misinformation I have heard spouted in the last several days by pieces of [s—t] like Rudy Giuliani all but ensure that things will get worse. The mainstream media outlets allow this utter crap to slide by unchallenged and, by doing so, legitimize falsehoods that could get people killed. Ratings-based, 24/7, for-profit media is the complete death of true journalism and a catapult for propaganda.

If white America experienced a fraction of what black America deals with regarding law enforcement, incarceration, the court system, employment and countless other facts of life, they would immediately and collectively lose their minds.

There are at least two different Americas. They have existed in an environment of almost unbroken mutual exclusivity. That’s over now.

Rollins went on to describe how he realized at a very early age, in second grade, that he was living in two different worlds, just by the way he was treated in school, and how he saw black kids being treated. He then went on to describe an incident involving Ice-T during a concert tour.

I learned another lesson many years later, in 1991. I was on the first Lollapalooza tour. It was one of the best summers of my life. I spent a lot of time hanging out with Ice-T. We talked almost every day. He is one of the most articulate and intelligent people I have ever met. I wish I had a teaspoon of what he’s got. I also spent time with his bandmates and crew.

On days off, or when our buses would pull into the same place, we would eat together. All his guys wore gold. I have no idea what a necklace is worth, but it all looked expensive to me. When we went into places, white patrons and staff tripped on these guys. This is when I understood one of the reasons for the visible display of wealth. My whiteness assured them that I could pay for my meal. Ice-T and his guys had to demonstrate their ability to pay by literally wearing a show of wealth.


The most poignant part of Rollins' essay was the simple statement made at the end: "Equality, tolerance and decency are not inherently American or human traits. They are values you choose to adopt and use or not."

And it's still amazing how many people choose not to adopt those values.