My wife, who’s a nurse, often tells me that this or that isn’t good for me. I will then promptly forget that she told me this. Sometime later I’ll see something on television or read about a new medical study saying the same thing, and I’ll tell her about it with the enthusiasm of the newly converted. She’ll look at me like I’m an idiot. (Full disclosure: I am an idiot.) Angry, she’ll say, “I already told you about that. Why do you trust everyone else about these things, but you don’t trust me? This is what I do for a living.”
I imagine this is how my friends of color experience the stunning revelation to white people that racism still exists: “We already told you about that. Why do you trust everyone else about these things, but you don’t trust us? This is literally what we do for a living.”
Over the past month, I’ve heard white friends express shock at the racial brokenness in our country. They say, “I can’t believe that something like Charlottesville could happen in 2017,” which translated, I suspect, means: “I thought we’d already dealt with racism. (We elected an African-American president, after all.)”
Unfortunately, outrage at safe targets like the Ku Klux Klan or the neo-Nazis betrays a belief that racism is overt — something we don’t have to confront until it’s out in the open.