Salon: Being A Nice White Person Means You’re A Racist Or Something
Living in Liberal World means never having to admit you’re bat guano insane
This past week, Chris Rock noted in an interview that although racism remained a real and persistent problem, he was glad to see that America is now producing the nicest white people in its history.
Perhaps. But if so, this only suggests the pitiable limits of niceness and its utter irrelevance for the production of something approaching justice, or for that matter even insight. And if so, it may merely signify how far we had to come out of the pit of whatever one takes the opposite of nice to be: mean, nasty, cruel, selfish, and so on. In short, it’s pretty thin gruel in the pantheon of praise, however sincerely Rock may have meant it.
One can be perfectly nice, after all, and still fail to see that which is right before you, staring at you from the computer screen as you watch Eric Garner killed on the streets of Staten Island with an illegal chokehold. The officer who applied that pressure to Garner’s neck might himself be “nice” in the sense that he is kind to old people, babies and animals. Likewise, the grand jury that decided yesterday not to indict him for any crime might well have been filled with nice people, who send get-well cards to sick friends and relatives, participate in Secret Santa at work and volunteer at the local food bank. And what of it? Their niceness did not, clearly, provide them with the gift of comprehension, as they managed to watch an officer kill a man who posed no threat to him whatsoever—no reaching for his gun, even in some paranoid fever dream, no charging him like a bull, or as Darren Wilson put it to justify his killing of Mike Brown, like “a demon.” Their niceness came laced with nothing so helpful as empathy as they watched a man choked to death, gasping for air, all because he had been selling loose cigarettes on the street and dared to tell the officers to leave him alone when they decided to harass him for that most serious of crimes.
Of course, not one thing in that paragraph denotes any sort of racism, any type of white supremacism, just people who wanted to follow The Law rather than their feelings. And, in Liberal World, feelings are apparently king. Just to be clear, I think that the Grand Jury failed in their duty, and should have forwarded charges to a jury trial. But, then, I wasn’t in the GJ room. Nor were other people.
In fact, I’m starting to wonder if nice might actually be the problem.
Nice is like a set of noise canceling headphones, which disallows those possessed of it from hearing the cries of others suffering under the weight of injustice. Nice is precious, nice is content, and nice does not want to hear of pain. Niceness cannot brook anguish because anguish disturbs the sleep of the just.
Nice is like one of those aromatherapy masks you can get at a day spa. It slips right over the eyes and lulls you into a state of relaxation with the pleasant aroma of lavender. Nice is a soothing massage, a warm cup of tea, or Enya.
Nice is the enemy of justice because to raise one’s voice against oppression is to be instantly pegged as not nice, as disruptive, as unruly, as dangerous. To block traffic, or interfere with the all-important Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center is not nice. To interrupt the symphony orchestra in St. Louis, or the drunken revelry of nice white baseball fans at a Cardinals game is not nice. To signify sympathy for a murdered young man in Ferguson, with even a gesture as simple as raising one’s hands as you come out of the tunnel before the football game is not nice. It is, to some—who would rather just watch black men entertain them with a few nice interceptions—worthy of punishment, or professional discipline. How dare they, say the nice white people who paid good money to see black men play gladiator for the glory of the hometown team.
So, um, er, if you act like a jerk, putting other people’s lives in danger (remember the freakout of the lane closures blamed on Chris Christie, and how it was falsely claimed that a woman died because an ambulance was delayed? How many emergency service vehicles were blocked by these protesters?), damage property, etc, then you are part of the solution, you are simpatico with Justice, so, you can’t be a white supremacist.
In short, and though I know it won’t strike you as, well, nice: fuck nice. And if you’re more disturbed about my language here than the death of black men at the hands of police, then know that you are the problem, and you’ve made it clear what side you’re on. It will not be forgotten.