This a a question and answer session with Joel Gardner the Founder of White Washed USA
I have always been drawn to the topic of race relations, specifically between those who identify as “white” and those who identify as “black” or African-American, it has always been something that I didn't fully understand. So many voices complaining and blaming problems on race, it just didn't make sense to me based on the history of race I had been taught and experienced. Finally this disconnect irritated me enough that I set out to find the real cause, I studied the history of both Africa and the Americas, with a focus on the black experience in this country, I was shocked, as I researched I discovered that the roots of almost every major social, political, and economic problem we have in America today can be traced back directly to the violent history of race relations. Many of the social conflicts today are just echoes of past problems we did not learn the lesson from. I started Whitewashed USA so that by sharing and discussing that history in a new way, we can finally stop repeating it.
Why race, why not child hunger, poverty, crime, or any bigger issue?
This goes back to the first answer, I believe that income inequality, high crime rates, overburdened prisons, government overreach, failing schools, political corruption, militarized police, and any number of other social issues that we face all came from starting this country with unsustainable levels of brutality, putting social systems in place that still disenfranchise and harm minorities, and then putting a cone of silence over any discussion of repairing the damage that has been done. If we can crack open and heal the racial rift in the United States, all of the problems I listed above melt away. If we stay silent and keep trying to ignore the damage, civil unrest will eventually tear the country apart. This is how it has played out in history over and over, there is no reason to believe it will work differently now.
You talk about white on black crime, isn't the real problem black on black crime?
Two thoughts on that: First, even if the numbers really told that story (they don’t, ask any statistician), the black community like any other, does have problems, they also have very capable people working on them. I don’t feel the need to go tell my neighbors how to sweep their floors, it’s not my business. Second, exponentially more Americans are killed by drunk drivers every year than by terrorists. Using the same logic, we should be ignoring terrorists and bombing suspected drunk drivers. Telling white people to stop working on their problems because black people also have problems is just another way to avoid something you are afraid of discussing.
Do you consider yourself an ally for people of color?
No. People of color are solving their own problems; anything I do to try and solve other people’s problems will most likely backfire. I think too many people go around trying to fix the people around them, or the groups they DON’T belong to thinking it will improve their own lives, in the end this is wasted energy and you wind up with the same personal flaws you started with and more enemies as a bonus. I am here to help course correct the group I am in, namely white Americans, which happen to be the dominant group in our society.
What’s in this for you personally?
Sleep. I don’t sleep well when there is a problem I might be able to fix and I’m not doing anything about it. Also, I love the USA, I wave the flag, cheer for the troops, love my Mom, and apple pie, but I also see a lot of trouble in our society that is just not going away. My kids are going to have to deal with most of that. I want them to know that you don’t have to settle for bad things, if I can make one little dent in this core problem, then that’s one less bad thing in the world and a pretty good life pattern for them to believe in and follow.
You write and speak to predominantly white audiences about topics like white privilege
Is this organization in any way a product of “white guilt”?
No, I freed all my slaves back in 1983. But seriously I don’t believe guilt is any kind of real motivator for change. This is not a personal debt that I need to repay for my ancestors. This is not a black problem that I need to fix for black America. This is a problem white America has that is damaging everyone, I need to fix that for humanity.
What would you do if the racial problems in this country suddenly disappeared?
I would probably go take a nap.
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