Making White People Comfortable

by By Burnett W. “Kwadwo” Gallman, Jr., M.D.
Burnett W. “Kwadwo” Gallman, Jr., M.D. Burnett W. “Kwadwo” Gallman, Jr., M.D.

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness... one ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” W.E.B. DuBois (The Souls of Black Folk)

White people have most, if not all of the power in the United States. I’m sure that there are many people reading this who would disagree with that statement. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule but in the courts, in public opinion, in schools, in most print media (newspapers and magazines), in grocery stores, in state and national legislative bodies, in the board rooms of Fortune 500 businesses and in police encounters there is a stark difference in the way that AUSA (Afrikans from the United States of America) are treated compared to the way that whites are treated. Yes, things did seem to be improving for a while but over the past few decades (in my opinion, since the Reagan presidency), many whites have become increasingly comfortable with their racism. In fact, they have created methods to make racism palatable to the masses of white people through things like creating fear of “CRT” and demonizing “woke”. Most white people in the United States rarely, if ever, come in direct or personal contact with an AUSA person so their opinions of us are forged from what they see on TV and read about us. So, when a racist “talking head” on TV states that AUSA are the problem in America, these white people (“middle America” or “the silent majority”) readily believe the lie.

Since the Ancestors of most AUSA were kidnapped, transported across vast oceans and enslaved in order to enrich others (wealthy white folks), we have recognized that the “race card” was not a “trump card” (definitely no pun intended) but was a card that was also not a winner in the United States. We have realized that our race, here in the United States, was/is the reason for our oppression. Why this is the case can be debated because it makes no sense to me.

As a result, we tried to become more like our oppressors. Indeed, they rewarded us with kinder and gentler treatment. the more we tried to look like them and act like them. I would guess that this made them more comfortable around us. In fact, even today, they frequently do all they can to prevent us from having hairstyles that are natural for our hair (many AUSA have been convinced that these natural hairstyles are “unprofessional” and unattractive). So, starting during enslavement, AUSA felt it advantageous to act one way around whites and another way around other AUSA.

In the Afrikana framework as espoused by the brilliant scholar, Dr. Greg Kimathi Carr, there are several categories of analysis. Two of these categories are the “social structure”, which has to do with who we are to others (non-AUSA) and the “governance structure”, which has to do with who we (AUSA) are to each other. The way that many, if not most of us approach the social structure relationships is in what is frequently called “code-switching”. Many of us often speak and act differently in the presence of whites.

There is a palpable. and significant difference in relationships between the social structure and the governance structure. Comedians have made it funny. The comedy show that was hosted by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele did a hilarious skit in which Key portrayed what President Obama really wanted to say in different situations. The comedic genius Richard Pryor, on his short-lived television show also portrayed how a Black president from ”da hood” might behave at a press conference.

It doesn’t have to be full “Uncle Tom” or “Aunt Jemima” mode (although that happens), but most AUSA do act differently around white folks. Many young people call this differential behavior “shape shifting” (if they are “into” Afrofuturism or sci-fi).

An exception are those sistas and bruhs who value not being “fake”. Unfortunately, very few of these folks who dare to be true to themselves rise very high in the social structure. And why is it that so many of these non-fake black folk value and parody behavior that is actually not intelligent or “cool”? Before you jump, not all of them but y’all gotta admit that many of these non-fake sistas and bruhs are acting and spouting stupidity.

This “code-switching” has become so common that it actually has become natural for some AUSA and is frequently the expected behavior and comes naturally, without thinking for many people. In certain areas, especially the Southeast United States in the treasonous former Confederate states, until relatively recently, this “code-switching” was necessary for survival. The story of Emmett Till is illustrative of the fact that deviating from this behavior around whites could be deadly.

The uproar about Critical Race Theory is based in making white people comfortable (as well as suppressing the truth). Will we give up the fight for our truths without a fight? Is keeping white people comfortable that important?

What does this pretending do to us psychologically? Does it reinforce inferiority complexes? Does it demonstrate fear of white folks? Does it take us further from our true selves? Does it make us forget who we truly are?

Food for thought.