philadelphia

Philadelphia Magazine published a story called “Being White in Philly,” in which writer Robert Huber attempts to capture the angst of race relations in the city from the perspective of whites. He claims that the objective of his article is to invite an honest conversation about race, writing:

“What gets examined publicly about race is generally one-dimensional, looked at almost exclusively from the perspective of people of color. Of course, it is Black people who have faced generations of discrimination and who deal with it still. But our public discourse ignores the fact that race—particularly in a place like Philadelphia—is also an issue for White people. Though White people never talk about it.

Everyone might have a race story, but few Whites risk the third-rail danger of speaking publicly about race, given the long, troubled history of race relations in this country and even more so in this city. Race is only talked about in a sanitized form, when it’s talked about at all, with actual thoughts and feelings buried, which only ups the ante. Race remains the elephant in the room, even on the absurd level of who holds the door to enter a convenience store.”

According to Huber, today’s political correct culture discourages whites from speaking up about how hard it is to mesh with people of color. He paints himself as courageous for publishing the “things that never get said.”

But those things are deplorably racist.

Huber’s interviews with anonymous sources paint blacks as criminals, thieves and drug dealers who are predisposed to violence and general bad behavior. The interviewees, who are all white, tell their sad tale of being victimized by the black people in their neighborhood. The only trait connecting the criminals the interviewees describe is the fact that they’re all black, which suggests that race is the reason they behave as badly as they do.

And that’s not all. Huber points out that blacks disproportionately populate the prison system, drop out of school and live in poverty, but never addresses the systematic racism behind it.

He fails to consider factors like class; though he briefly mentions there’s a black middle class, the article only addresses the behavior of black people who “live below the poverty line.” He never even acknowledges the obvious truth that actions of one, or even a group of black people, don’t represent the entire race.

Instead, he interviews several people who recount unfavorable experiences with blacks. Some describe being robbed while others lament giving black kids candy on Halloween when they didn’t even have the decency to dress up. Huber’s anecdotes communicate one strong message: how very hard it is for good-natured whites to live among blacks in Philadelphia.

Huber even interviews a law school student “Anna,” who says:

“Blacks use skin color as an excuse. Discrimination is an excuse, instead of moving forward. … It’s a shame—you pay taxes, they’re not doing anything except sitting on porches smoking pot … Why do you support them when they won’t work, just make babies and smoking pot?”

There is no rebuttal to her obviously racist and offensive statement, nothing to contest the egregious claim that melanin alone might cause someone to spend all day smoking pot, having babies and failing to become a contributing member of society.

In fact, Huber appears to tip his hat to her, saying that her international background and absence of a “historical filter” informs her honesty or “raw view,” as he puts it. To make it plain, Anna has the balls to say what white people think about lazy, entitled, drug-abusing blacks because she doesn’t have to grapple with the guilt of slavery, which was a really long time ago by the way.

Huber might not call black people the “N-word” or rally against them with KKK supporters in the deep South, but he is just as racist. What’s scary and unsettling about Huber’s kind of racism is that it isn’t overt. The black people who Huber so selflessly held the door for at Wawa have no idea how he truly feels about their kind. His is the type of racism that might cause a person to follow accomplished actor Forest Whitaker through a deli, frisk him and accuse him of shoplifting, the kind that might lead a neighborhood watch volunteer to shoot and kill a teenager in a hoodie who had nothing more than candy and tea in his pockets.

Instead of coming from a place of openness and understanding, Huber was driven by fear and ignorance. In “Being White in Philly,” he tried to force a discussion about race relations by blaming black people; he implied that we’re the reason why white people can’t talk about race and why they can’t even feel safe in their gentrified city neighborhoods. If Huber’s race conversation will only consist of white people pointing the finger at us, excuse me if I sit this one out.

What do you think of Robert Huber’s article “Being White in Philly,” Clutchettes?

  • Fiore Scott

    The comments on that article are some crazy stuff. Not surprising, unfortunately, but jeez.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i live in philadelphia. there are poor white people who live here. they behave EXACTLY the same way as do poor black people. it shows that it is as much a matter of class as race.

    the difference is no one is writing articles about the poor whites.

  • Kay

    I’ve met tons of so-called well-meaning Whites who don’t want to acknowledge their own racism. In fact, some of them will whine and complain that they have nothing in common with Blacks and have a hard time relating to them, when in reality they shun relationships with Black colleagues or others working in the same industry or reject genuine offers of friendship by some of these same colleagues, neighbors, service persons, etc. I can have all the same interests, same values as some of these undercover racists and they will still claim we have nothing in common with each other. In fact, in a GRADUATE level course, I had a young White woman tell me that Black people and White people have nothing in common really. I’m like “We’re all sitting in the same freakin’ classroom at the SAME university! Have the same major!! Speaking the same language! How is it we don’t have anything AT ALL in common?!!” Bottom line is, they don’t WANT to have anything in common with anyone of color because they don’t see them as being the same.

    And I wonder how hard some of these interviewees worked to ingratiate themselves with the people they claim wanted nothing to do with them. Perhaps some of the Black people they interacted with didn’t appreciate being some kind of pet project or the recipient of some “Oh you poor Black person who is so downtrodden! You should be grateful that I am coming to save you!” b.s. Or maybe they tried to talk to them as if they were one-dimensional people, you know the old, “You people dance/sing/play ball so well!” kind of ish. Perhaps by talking to people of color like–I don’t know–they’re fellow HUMAN BEINGS maybe these racist douches would get a better response. This kind of racism is based on some patronizing kind of thinking that isn’t really that different from the KKK kind. Basically, they think that Black people are inferior. The only difference is that undercover racists feel that they have a duty to try to “uplift,” Blacks from their inferior status all the while never really thinking that said Black people are really and truly human.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i really HATE those passive/aggressive white people….

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Bingo! Not surprised, there are plenty “functioning” racists/prejudice people among us and some don’t even know it. I can deal with a person who is a flat out racist or know they hold prejudices tendencies because at least their honest but the ones who grin and pretend are the worst kind of people to deal with because you can’t really have an “honest conversation about race relations” when they don’t want to show their hand and own their view point. But these are usually the same people who cry “reverse racism/discrimination”…insert article… But honestly, I’ am not surprised, again people show you who they are and how they view you the first time. But um…I’ am lost at what giving a kid candy who is not even in costume (regardless of said kid’s race) during Halloween have to do with this issue….

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