Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Quiet Whiteness



(Walter Scott, South Carolina, and uncounted others)


If you've ever asked yourself
what we did to deserve these
depraved politicians of ours,
you may have considered
genocide of the indigenous
people, slavery, Northern investment
in slavery, Jim Crow, Northern
acceptance of Jim Crow, lynching,
child labor, eugenics,
imperial lust, monopolies,
Chinese expulsion, Japanese
internment, anti-Semitism,
McCarthyism, the blasting of
air, land, water, and people.
We've done everything to deserve
the depraved, you might have thought
in a moment of clarity, or
in a moment of despair (same
difference?)

White supremacy remains robust,
is the truth. Remains robust
because of quiet whiteness:
the indifference, the privileged
numbness, of whites who know
better but cast out the knowledge
because it asks too much.
The smug passivity
of whites who won't educate
themselves. The endless string
of lame excuses, casuistry,
and weaselly rationales.

Quite whiteness likes these
politicians. Otherwise,
they would be intolerable
in 2015. So much would be
intolerable, including
quiet whiteness itself.

If you've ever asked yourself
when the white choruses will
stand up and sing, stand up and
shout, get up and make damn sure
the depravity's demolished,
maybe in a moment of clear
despair the word
(printed in white against
a black background) "NEVER,"
came to mind.


hans ostrom 2015



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