“I’m proud to be white,” someone recently told me. He interjected the comment in a contentious political conversation. I responded by advocating “more caution” in expression. The exchange fizzled without resolution. Yet this phrase, “proud to be white,” continues to disturb. My conversation partner was no white supremacist. But his chosen phrase would have fooled many. What lies within it is a key for understanding a threatening and intractable problem of American society: what I call “the problem of white people.”
Khristie’s sustenance of racism hurts not only themselves and the Tiffanys of the world, but also rolls the clock back and provides an incubator for white supremacy that stunts the growth of all communities—more specifically communities of color, the same supportive communities that will “stick with her” through thick and thin.
It might seem that memory and heritage have lost their power to excite political action and are no longer the medium through which white supremacy is asserted. Yet Lost Cause mythology has never gone away and maintains its firm grip on the thoughts and emotions of many white Americans.
The road to Charlottesville is a mighty traffic circle—at once our future and our past. It has a driveway into every home—an entryway into every American life. The goal of this issue is to map its ideological and physical expanse. In so doing, we hope to close some lanes or, at the very least, to make a few potholes.
In the December 5, 2016 issue of The Atlantic, journalist Emma Green wondered “Are Jews White?” This is a question that seems to be quite simple – very few people in the United States in 2017 would consider Jews to be members of a minority group, at least not anymore.