Maybe We Should Stop Wishing We Could Do What the Worst White People Do

Illustration for article titled Maybe We Should Stop Wishing We Could Do What the Worst White People Do
Screenshot: Good Morning America (YouTube)

Although black people wanting to get away with the things that white people seem to be able to do will always leave a bitter taste, I’d get it if the black people who do/did this sort of thing were a tad more ambitious. I’d be inclined to grant their whataboutisms more sympathy if they made their requests a little more practical.


Instead of “If y’all are coming for R. Kelly for being a sexual predator, where’s that energy for Harvey Weinstein?” how about “If Mr. Rogers rocked cardigans in all seasons, why are you shitting on me for rocking Tims in July? If he can have a sweaty chest, why can’t I have sweaty feet? #AllSweatMatters, g.

Or maybe instead of “Donald Trump hasn’t apologized for shit, so why should Kevin Hart?” use that energy to question why “If Meryl Streep is kinda, sorta playing the same character in every movie now, why do I need a passport?” (OK, so this last comparison doesn’t really work in any context, but that doesn’t matter! The premise should be clear by now!)


Either way, it’s mind-boggling and depressing that, when making these sorts of comparisons, the worst and the stupidest and the ugliest white people are always chosen as the standards of enviable behavior. Donald Trump. Woody Allen. Adolf Hilter. Trashcan Lannister. Susan in accounting. Ben Roethlisberger. These are some pretty shitty benchmarks! The shittiest benchmarks! A bench glazed in shit! No, seriously. Saying “I just want to be able to get away with the things that Kevin Spacey was able to” is like saying “I just want to be able to smell like that shit-glazed bench.

Thing is, there are actually white people who aren’t shit-glazed benches—perfectly decent whites who’d make good role models for black people desperate and thirsty for whites to emulate. Ernie Johnson. Celine Dion. Tom Hanks. Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Dirk Nowitzki. Flo from the Progressive commercials. Forrest Gump. Captain America. Like 83 percent of the people at Gizmodo Media Group. Shit, even Betty fucking Crocker. And I’m sure there are at least dozens more I’m neglecting to mention.

In summary, basing your liberation and happiness on what white people are able to get away with is a bad idea. Perhaps the worst idea. (Yes, even worse than the sweater vest.) But, if you’re going to travel down that shitty road, at least choose a rest stop with clean benches!

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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I’d like to add Tony Bourdain posthumously to the list of good white people. He may be the only white person I’ve ever seen who willingly traveled the world to be with people of color and appreciate them for who they were as genuine human beings. I mean, who else could go to Vietnam, and drink a beer with President4EverBarackObama?