As much as we all know Europeans, more commonly referred to as simply “white people,” gravely effed things up for Native Americans, Africans, and subsequently African-Americans, it’s also common knowledge that different ethnic groups didn’t exactly live together in perfect harmony across the globe before slavery, colonialism, or the trail of tears wreaked their havoc. Still, the running belief is race is nothing more than a social construct, and one which undeniably and substantially benefits white people. And it’s for that reason that Margaret Cho argues nobody was really even thinking about race before “they,” i.e. white people, got in the mix.
Speaking to Steve Colbert mostly about race-based jokes and the sensitivity that now surrounds them, but also the overall racial climate of the time, Cho told the Late Show host:
“What’s really annoying is that nobody really cared about race until white people got involved and now all we do is talk about race. All that white fragility is so annoying — you’ve got to walk on eggshells around white people.”
When I first heard Cho’s words, I immediately thought about the n-word and all of the debate that now surrounds its use. While there have always been Black people who’ve disagreed with the word’s resurgence into everyday African-American vernacular given its sour history, it wasn’t until white people started boldly saying the word (and being called out for it) and demanding answers as to why they couldn’t use the label that black people began an internal investigation on its use and, in some cases, even took on the blame for white people’s ignorance when it came to their adoption of the word.
Really, what’s happened is the more minorities push the boundaries in terms of what’s acceptable to say about race the more white people step in and say “ah, ah, ah, you told us this wasn’t okay for us, why is it okay for you?” Now we’re left with this society where everything is suddenly offensive, or appropriation, or racist, and we’re too far gone to turn back the wheels of motion.
I personally miss the ’80s and ’90s when a white person could sing with a little soul and not be accused of trying to be black. Or a black person could make a provocative off-color joke and no one batted an eye because it was all in good humor. While I’m not sure white people can solely be blamed for the racial big brother we all now have hanging over our heads, their fragility and inherent privilege which has led them to believe they shouldn’t be kept from saying or doing anything any other racial group can certainly hasn’t helped.