July 19, 2020 Editor

George Yancy: To Be Black in the US Is to Have a Knee Against Your Neck Each Day

By ,Truthout

Published July 18, 2020

photo above: reddit.com

WN: A close relative saw the post, The Case for Reparations, ((a long essay about the history of Black repression in the U.S.),  and in response merely indicated that these things happen and moved on  . . .

Another close relative who did not read the piece would simply reject the content or if briefly acknowledged as true, indicate that all that needs to be done is rise above it, and move on . . .

The interview highlighted with philosopher George Yancy is another gut-wrenching article. Deeply troubling in its overall assertion:

For me, “white America” is a structural lie. And by this, I mean that it was/is predicated upon abstract ideals that it never intended to apply to Black people or people of color. And even where there is “progress” for those of us whose lives don’t matter, it is important to recognize that such alleged progress occurs within the framework of white interests. The critical race theorist Derrick Bell made this clear with his theory of interest convergence, which shows that racial justice for Black people only happens when white and Black interests converge. So, the implication is that Black progress is tolerated as long as it doesn’t fundamentally challenge white interests. This still prioritizes whiteness.

In deeply troubling ways that would make my relatives howl foul, it questions “white ontology itself.” In other words, our very being on the planet is to benefit from structural whiteness downstream from domination of nonwhites the world over: it’s in the white structural DNA of colonization/domination across the planet. So Dr. Yancy says:

Like Theodor Adorno and Cornel West, I believe that we must let suffering speak. I also ask that white people learn how to suffer along with, and take responsibility for, the social and historical wreckage that Black people experience because of anti-Black racism that exists here in the U.S. and abroad. And for those white people who say that they do suffer in this way, then I would ask that they show me their scars, allow me to place my hand in the wound that they’ve endured fighting against Black degradation, and fighting against the insidious structure of whiteness — their whiteness. I want white people to know that they are not pre-social, neoliberal subjects, that we are always already entangled in the lives of others and that they are especially entangled in the lives of Black people. Because of this, there is no “white innocence.”

Aboriginal leaders in Canada say that just because we did not institute the structures of our white forebears does not mean that we do not benefit downstream. We by birthright are “the privileged”–but massively at the expense of nonwhites.

So Jesus in Matthew 23: 29-32:

Woe to you, [white structural beneficiaries], you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the [nonwhites].’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the [nonwhites]. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your fathers.

In replacing “Prophets” with “[nonwhites]” points to the prophetic nature of every nonwhite reckoning with mere existence in an oppression-saturated world. Dr. George Yancy is one uniquely gifted Prophet. The Spirit might say: “Hear him”!

Please read about another eminently commanding Prophet, whom the same Spirit enjoins hearing: Cornel West Says ‘Neo-Fascist Gangster’ Trump and Neoliberal Democrats Expose America as ‘Failed Social Experiment’.


What drives the current rift between white and Black America, and how as individuals can we effectively contribute to the fight against the worldmaking of whiteness?

Philosopher George Yancy, a leading public intellectual in the critical study of race who received backlash for pointing out the U.S.’s yoke of whiteness, argues that white supremacy breathes at the site of Black asphyxiation.

Artwork: “Mama,” icon by Kelly Latimore

In this exclusive Truthout interview, Yancy discusses the racialized dimensions of COVID-19 vulnerabilities, Donald Trump’s displays of white nationalist aspirations, the unsutured pain of living as a Black person in the United States, and the much-required insurrection against white ontology itself.

Woojin Lim: A lot has changed since you published your series of interviews on The Stone and penned your provocative letter, “Dear White America,” in 2015. How have these changes impacted your views, and which parts of your column would you revise, if at all?

George Yancy: One might think that I would revise my view within the context of the recent massive protests that are both local to the U.S. and global. One might surmise that given the multiracial composition of the protests that I might change how I addressed white people in that letter. The protests, however, only reveal what I had in mind back in 2015: whiteness is the problem, not Blackness. Moreover, once we reach a “post-George Floyd” moment, those same whites who protested will continue to reap benefits from being white in a country that will continue to be based upon white supremacy. That is the recursive magic of white supremacy. It is able to accommodate or to consume what we throw at it. It is able to make a space for protests and even reform while precisely sustaining itself through the power of its consumptive logics. So, in retrospect, I would not change anything in terms of the argument delineated within “Dear White America.”

Please click on: Ontological White Racism

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    Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

    Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.