Posted on June 17, 2019

Seeing Poor White People Makes Me Happy

Nicholas Powers, RaceBaitr, June 11, 2019

“Should I kick him in the face? Hard? No, chill, he’s not worth it. But why is this white boy begging for money in a Black neighborhood? Is he stupid?”

{snip} The homeless white boy flaps down like a dirty migratory bird, makes himself a nest from garbage and sleeps on the sidewalk. A sign on his shopping cart asks for money—I never give. I should tho ‘cause he makes me feel good.

White people begging us for food feels like justice. It feels like Afro-Futurism after America falls. It feels like a Black Nationalist wet dream. It has the feels I rarely feel, a hunger for historical vengeance satisfied so well I rub my belly.

{snip} I have the ghost of Martin Luther King Jr. in my head like a life coach exhorting me to “be my best self,” “show compassion to those who spite you,” “turn the other cheek” and “don’t give our enemies more reasons to hate us.” I need to kick Martin Luther King Jr. out of my head. Go fuck another secretary Martin! I need to ask what this white homeless boy means to me.

White homeless poor in the ‘hood are a Rorschach test. I see in them the history of colonization, slavery and mass incarceration that makes their begging Black people for money ironic—if not insulting. You wasted your whiteness! Why should we give to you? {snip}

{snip} It is the trick of internalized racism that Black anger is transformed into showy altruism to show the “white gaze” that we’re safe—good Negroes. So we aren’t attacked by more powerful whites—instead rewarded by them.

{snip}

Sometimes folks see that same history and want to get even. I saw three brothers run up and spit on him as people cackled at the white boy who wiped sticky gobs from his eyelids. The laughter was cruel, joyful and belly deep. They might as well shook slave chains in his face and said, “Now you get to wear these nigga!”

{snip}

But when a white person begs, maybe a white woman breastfeeding or a young white boy whining like a broken flute, I feel better. Good. It’s not just us. I feel happy. I feel like the scales of justice could shift.

The other day I jogged up the subway stairs and saw the homeless white boy again. “Can you get me something to eat,” he barked out to the river of people passing by. “Someone stole all my shit!” Scabs covered his mouth. He was sunburnt and thin. I ignored him but thought “Baby, you stole all mine.” I glanced at his blanket, shopping cart and books. Who is he? Why is he here? Where are his people?

I stopped myself. It’s the Martin Luther King Jr. life-coach again, saying, “Love your enemies! Get to know them as people.” No Dr. King! Today I own my anger. I want to snatch his food and say, “Go beg in a white neighborhood!” And eat it. And rub my belly. And laugh.

{snip}

As I walk away, a white man in tailored clothes and exfoliated skin talked to the homeless white boy. His face is a mix of fear and disgust, race loyalty and pity. He’s doing what I did, confronting history.

How do I know? The fear in his tight mouth is disgust. The fear in his eyes is forced and unwanted racial empathy. He’s worried, like many whites are, that as they become the minority, fewer and fewer places will exist where they have power. They worry that at some point the roles will be reversed and they will have to beg for food. He looked at the homeless white boy and saw a hungry ghost, seemingly expelled from some alternate dimension where Europeans are enslaved, segregated and mass incarcerated. He sees the fall of America.

{snip}