“Why Black Folks Can’t Really Trust White Liberals”


I want to trust my White liberal friends…I really do. When I read about and listen to the things they say they stand for they seem so closely aligned with things that are in the best interest of Black folks. They argue for civil liberties, affirmative action, equal pay, raising the minimum wage, and universal health care, to name a few. Unfortunately, when the rubber meets the road and the going gets tough they seem to always bail when it comes down to Black interests versus White privilege.
The biggest skill these liberals have is critique. As soon as the President failed to work on things exactly in the way and order they wanted they subjected him to as much criticism as the conservatives. It is such odd behavior–this cannibalism. The Right rarely does it. Even when George W. Bush seemed to be a blithering idiot, they stood shoulder to shoulder with him. But as soon as Barak Obama managed to pass an historical, life-changing health care act, the Left started critiquing him for not passing a single-payer plan. When he was willing to talk about a balanced approach to maintaining or creating jobs versus environmental preservation they screamed at the top of their lungs about his failure to take a strong environmentalist stance. Despite his constant promotion of women (mostly White) in his administration and passing the Lettie Ledbetter Act, many of my White liberal women friends bend my ear about how “disappointed” they are in his leadership.
Outside of the presidential realm I am thoroughly disappointed in my White liberal friends’ total lack of interest in preserving affirmative action. With anti-affirmative action laws especially based on race, on the books in the states of Washington, California, and Michigan I rarely see or hear White liberal outrage about what this has meant for college admission in state universities in these areas.
I can’t find White liberal moral outrage about the condition of life in Detroit or gun violence in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia. Few White liberal voices are raised about the “whitening” of an historically Black city like New Orleans. And many of my White liberal associates have all but capitulated to neo-liberal policies that have brought programs like “Teach for America” to poor, urban classrooms. In fact, many of the TFA recruits call themselves card-carrying liberals.
I think the main problem with liberals is that at base they consider themselves smarter and more virtuous than the people they purport to help. They seem most comfortable “helping” poor people of color and telling them what’s “good” for them. When poor folks and people of color decide they want to run their own lives and make decisions that run counter to what White liberals want, they decide that those people are “angry” and “bitter.”
The place that White liberals seem most uncomfortable is any place where a person of color–particularly a Black person–is the one with stronger academic or professional credentials and authority. White liberals struggle to take orders and directions from Black folks, no matter how capable. And maybe that’s the crux of the President Obama issue. He is smarter and more knowledgeable than a lot of people who have held that office, but he has never received the kind of support that Bill Clinton did. Bill Clinton advanced a center-right agenda that dismantled Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC-welfare). He promoted NAFTA, a policy that has virtually destroyed the Mexican agricultural industry, and supported drug policies that had adverse impact on the Black community. He did this all while maintaining illicit sexual relations with a 20-something intern in the White House. But the White liberal establishment never wavered in their support of his presidency.
Something about me keeps hoping for a pang of conscience to emerge in the White liberal community. I keep hoping they will look at the quality of life disparities that exist between themselves and Black and Latino folks. I keep hoping they will be so embarrassed by their own actions and begin to work sincerely toward justice.
I don’t need White liberals to call out Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or John Boehner, or Mitch McConnell. Those people have made clear what their interests are and they have indeed been true to them. Instead, I want White liberals to measure their behaviors against what they claim they stand for. If they can look at their expressed values and say their actions are consonant with those values then Black people can expect some progress to occur. But, if they continue to look at these problems in esoteric ways but fail to act I can’t imagine I will arrive at a place where I can trust them.

Stay Black & Smart!

4 thoughts on ““Why Black Folks Can’t Really Trust White Liberals”

  1. Oh yes. As a white person who deals with White Liberals it is excruciating to come up against self interests. A white woman I have done some work with in this says white liberals get up close to the edge of accepting it all: violent history of US toward people of color and especially African Americans and Native Americans, white privilege, present day virulent racism, opportunity gap, and then…..they step back from that cliff of knowledge, back off, don’t have your back, go on home and enjoy what they have–their advantages and perks. I find this very often with teachers who just don’t want to have the discussions about race, slavery, history, culture with their high school students,even when those students are primarily white but especially when they are young people of color. It feels to scary. What a privilege that is! NOT to have those dialogues with students, with adults, with colleagues because they make you uncomfortable. So ..yep I agree with this last Black & Smart whole heartedly. Once in awhile the radical white teacher comes along who needs the support to keep going, or the education student gets it quickly and wants to know and do more. Maybe that is why I keep going, for them and for the person I was when I became estranged from my father for work in the civil rights movement, and for, especially, all those brilliant young black minds we are losing to prisons or poverty or despair or even depression because white liberals get stuck on the edge, peek over see the truth, and then back off.


  2. I am a white female and I understand the writers position, at least as much as a white person can. I, also, have been frustrated with my liberal friends who supported Barack Obama in his quest for the presidency, and afterwards were critical of him. I also agree that President Clinton has been canonized, while having made some rather egregious decisions. In comparison, Mr. Obama has accomplished almost super-human feats in his governance and handling of war and foreign policy, especially considering the obstacles that that were placed before him at every step by Congress. It is my belief that Barack Obama will be considered one of our most successful and most ethical presidents, ever, in our country’s history. He certainly is brilliant and very-well educated, not to mention his charisma, good humor and articulateness. We would be hard pressed to find another man, either before or after him who has all the qualities that he possesses. Why cannot most of us see it now?


  3. The Democrats needed a program for the country run on; and they ran away from the only man who, for all his faults, had any semblance of one still left. I will call myself a Democrat and vote Democrat, but that the party was ashamed to tout the accomplishments over the last six years just confirms how flimsy white liberals can be.
    And after all the distancing, they still lost.


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