In recent years, we often hear liberal black Americans say publicly, “We need to have a conversation about race.” Yet, what I always find is they want to dictate what the rest of us think about race; they don’t want to hear about our experiences, too. Well, I think it’s time that changed. Here’s my two cents:
During the #BlackLivesMatter riots over the killing of George Floyd, Stephen Colbert interviewed Charlamagne – who calls himself a deity (but it’s against my religion to call him that). Steven asked Charlamagne about his experiences with racism growing up in South Carolina. Charlamagne replied, “I never really experienced overt racism. I think I experienced more covert racism.” In other words, his entire obsession over “smashing white supremacy” comes from what he “thinks” in his imagination. He was raised to be obsessed with anger over slavery and has always been taught that discrimination against blacks is out of control. Now, he demands repayment from white people for something they, as individuals today, never did and that he never experienced.
Well, where he lacks experience, I have some. That’s because, being born after the civil rights movement, I’ve lived in a world where racism has reversed. Yes, I know Democrats will cite some wealth or unemployment disparity numbers to claim otherwise. They choose, however, to ignore the impact that a black violent crime rate three times higher than other races has on business investment in such neighborhoods, or how those who have committed such crimes are unattractive to employers. But for black Americans who avoid crime and try hard, there has been an abundance of affirmative action, race-based aid, and race-based programs over the past 50 years that give them significant advantages over low income whites who go out into the world empty-handed.
And that’s where I come in. I grew up in a white, predominantly Pennsylvania Dutch area, about 45 miles northwest of Philadelphia. My dad worked in a factory 15 miles away with quite a few black coworkers. As a blue-collar guy, he was on the same level as they were. Prior to attending college, myself, I had never known anyone socially (not counting school teachers, etc.) who had a college degree – not my extended family, their friends, nor my friends’ families. In public school, my friends and I learned about civil rights, and not a single one of us kids spoke against it, not even personally. I specifically remember my black 4th grade teacher repeatedly condemning prejudice, saying that people should never be pre-judged according to their race. It made perfect sense. I remember saying aloud in class that treating someone worse because of skin color would be just as dumb as treating someone worse because of eye or hair color. My racial values came straight from black civil rights proponents. Based on the message at the time, I thought they thought racism was wrong. Today, I know they think racism was right, but was just pointed in the wrong direction.
After my first year of commuting 25 miles a day to the Berks campus of Penn State in the fall of ‘86, when I had a GPA of 3.92 and was voted officer of two clubs, I knew I had the credentials for some performance based scholarships. I would need this extra money to transfer to the main Penn State campus for years three and four, despite having worked 16 to 35 hours per week in a restaurant my last two years of high school and my first two years of college. The aid office directed me to their scholarship list. At first, I was thrilled to see that I met the requirements to apply for most of the 30 or so scholarships listed. But then I noticed the special requirements column to the right. Every single scholarship had a race requirement – black, Hispanic, and, in one case, Hawaiian. I would have to drop out after year two, knowing that the son of the black family that had just moved in across from my parents would someday be able to take advantage of race-based scholarships like these, despite his parents earning twice what mine did. While I and many other white students needed to drop out or go part time, I never knew a black student who needed to (although I realize that may have changed in recent years, with the cost of college having gone far higher).
Then, between years one and two, I was appointed to a hiring committee, as student government vice president. It was for an administrative faculty position. When we kicked off the search, the chief hiring administrator from the main campus told us, “We want you to hire a black or Hispanic woman.” I was a bit shocked. I expected an equal opportunity mandate, not a mandate to discriminate. Naturally, most of the applicants we brought in were black and Hispanic females. I was appalled that just about every one of them volunteered the fact that their greatest passion would be giving special attention to black/Hispanic (depending on the race of the applicant) students. That’s right, they openly said they would discriminate in favor of their own race – first hand proof that systemic racism by minorities against whites is prevalent and goes unchallenged. However, they also balked at our $19,500 annual pay, which was low for a position that required a Masters, even for 1987. All of them declined requests for a second interview, because they had better paying opportunities at other schools, who were tripping over each other to hire minority candidates. We wound up having to choose between two white males who were the only ones desperate enough to take such a low paying job.
Now, here I was, never having yet applied to a single full-time job, going into the world empty-handed, knowing that, as a white male, my resume would go to the bottom of the pile for every professional job I sought. After six years of physical labor jobs, the most professional jobs I ever got were telemarketing and door to door sales.
One of those sales jobs was at RCN, where I saw a white coworker give his two weeks’ notice, which was not against company policy, only to see his Hispanic boss return to his desk two minutes later and say, “You’re fired. If you don’t wanna be here, we don’t want you here.” He fired him for spite, because he didn’t like him. Around that same time, a black sales rep parked his car in a residential driveway without permission when he was making his door to door sales rounds. The resident was parked in and was 1 1/2 hours late for work. They came to RCN for compensation. Yet the black employee could not be fired out of fear of a lawsuit. I remember the director of sales saying to the black man’s manager, “Make sure you get all of this in writing from the customer. And this is only strike one. He would need three strikes in order to be fired.” That’s quite a racial double standard.
Granted, not all companies take such precautions, like Comcast, who in late 2013 fired my black manager. He was a go-through-the-motions guy who got poor results. He was not the aggressive or deceptive kind of guy middle management liked, but he did nothing officially wrong, either. Therefore, they gave a bogus official reason for firing him. My manager sued for racial discrimination, despite there being no evidence of it, and he won. Around the same time, they gave me fewer daytime calling hours (which are important for a business to business sales job) than all other reps. I got only one hour of inbound calls per day versus 2 1/2 hours for the people at the very bottom of the stats (normally, reps got at least three daytime calling hours). This kept me from hitting my numbers, and I lost my job. Rather than be given a bogus reason, I was given no reason, because it was a secret who made the schedule. I think they didn’t like that I, as a Christian, refused to tell some of the lies they told us to tell customers. Had I been black, however, I could have sued and won, too. Instead, I got nothing but unemployment.
I’ve also experienced discrimination on the personal side. In 1993, I got my first apartment in a black neighborhood in Nashville, TN. It was a studio apartment building, mostly comprised of single black men. One day, a black guy downstairs whom I had had several friendly conversations with, said he was going away for a couple of days, and he needed something like $40 badly, and that he would pay me back when he got paid the next week. He even gave me stereo speakers as collateral, which he claimed were of such high quality, I could profit by getting $80 for them at the pawn shop. Since he was the pawnshop expert (always hocking and buying back his own personal items – one of the numerous ways in which I’ve seen black Americans impoverish themselves), I took his word for it and gave him the $40. A week later, I learned that he had moved out permanently. He scammed me all the way. As for the pawn shop, they offered $10 for the speakers. This was, most likely, racial targeting. To the best of my knowledge, he did not scam any black tenants in the building. Regardless, I have never, and all my years in white neighborhoods, had a white person do this to me, nor have I ever seen a white person do it to a black person.
As a small business Rep for RCN, in 2004, I was invited to the black Chamber of Commerce in Easton, PA. Our GM was supposed to speak, but he never got a chance, because the mayor of Easton spoke first. It’s not that he was long-winded; it’s that black business owners took up the whole meeting hounding him for more and more handouts. I remember thinking that I could use some grants if I wanted to start a business myself, since I went into the world with no assistance, but I would get no help, because of my race. As the speaking concluded, several black folks converged on me, trying to sell me stuff. Direct solicitation is not how chamber events are supposed to work. Nonetheless, I gave in to a couple of them. One took my money and never sent the product. The other sent the product, and then used my card number for fraud. Again, this never happened to me at any of the regular Chamber of Commerce events, and more importantly, I never knew a white chamber member, or an RCN coworker, to scam a black person.
In 2007, I had a licensing class in a conference center on a highway outside of town, whose main room was used that day for a large black church event. As I returned from lunch, I realized, after walking about 50 feet from my vehicle, that I might have forgotten to lock it. So, I pointed my remote back at the car and pressed the button, but could not see if the parking lights blinked to show that it was locked. I wanted to go back and check whether it locked, but there were about 10 young black churchgoers on their lunch break, standing near my car. I was afraid I would look like a racist for not trusting them if I returned to make sure it had locked. So, what did I find when I returned to my car, later? You guessed it. They cleaned out and vandalized the inside of my car. Perhaps, this church was too busy preaching how horrible the white man is to have time for “thou shalt not steal.” Again, I spent decades going to predominantly white churches. Never did anyone break into my car, nor did anyone break into the car of a black member or visitor.
Most of my experiences with anti-white racism come from selling merchant services and point of sale systems to businesses, mostly restaurants and mini markets, in and around Philadelphia, through my company’s partnership with Restaurant Depot, from 2011 to 2013. We had a special program for small business owners with bad credit in which we would withhold 10% of all credit card transaction revenues until a $1500 reserve was attained, and then the money would be held for three years in case the owner defaulted on the lease. Otherwise, the money was returned after three years. This enabled lots of low-income business owners and start-ups to have a system without having to pay high risk rates on leases.
This program resulted in about half my business coming from black business owners, as many had bad credit, in North and West Philly. As I sold, installed, and trained employees on these systems, the black business owners and employees were totally nice to me. And some black business owners were real with me about the dangers, such as one guy saying, “It’s not safe for you to park three blocks away and walk. So call me when you get here. I have a parking space saved for you in the back.” Now, I’m sure he didn’t tell his black customers it wasn’t safe for them to walk to the store, or he would have had no business. I was a target because I was a white guy wearing a tie.
Of course, he wasn’t telling me anything I hadn’t already experienced. It was quite common for me, when walking to or from my car on a business appointment while wearing a tie, to get what I call the threat-stare. That’s where a black man would stare me down with a glare so hateful that I don’t think I am capable of replicating it. When I looked away and then looked back half a minute later, the guy would still be glaring at me. When I turned the corner and looked back one last time, he’d still be at it. I assumed this was racism. And most of the time it probably was, because I even experienced it riding my bicycle on the Schuylkill River trail when I was not wearing a tie.
But the first time it happened, I told the banker who had sent me on the appointment about it, and she said, “They think you are one of the feds.” I didn’t even know what a “fed” was, but apparently they think you’re some level of law enforcement. Eventually, I heard the same from a black man in his 20s, leaning up against the wall with his friends on Wayne Ave, about a mile South of Roosevelt Blvd. As I walked by, he said, “How are you doing today, officer?” To which I laughed a little and replied, “Oh, I’m not an officer.” He then erupted on me, yelling as loud as possible in a heavy metal, drill sergeant style, flailing his arms wildly and rapidly. I don’t remember a word he said. I kept walking, looked straight ahead, afraid to even look back out of fear that he would either shoot me or tear me limb from limb, which he was clearly muscular enough to do. Again, not only has no white person ever given me the threat-stare or blown up on me just to randomly intimidate me, but I certainly have never seen a white person, out of all those I have ever known, do anything to intimidate a black person. Furthermore, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, I can’t help but think what it must be like to be a new police officer and receive this kind of hate and intimidation day in and day out from day one onward. And if it’s only blacks who treat them like this, it’s no wonder some of them become racist, even if they had never been racist a day in their lives before joining the force.
So, those are my personal experiences.
I could tell you some other people’s experiences, such as my cousin teaching school in the inner city and having black kids tell him that their parents said they need not to listen to a white teacher (which is yet another way in which African Americans impoverish themselves). But this article is already long enough. I’ll bet that few black Americans who live and work in white communities receive this level of racism in such a short period of time from whites. In fact, Charlamagne never experienced it in his whole life. Likewise, I’ll bet there are very few white Black Lives Matter supporters who can tell this many stories about how their white friends and coworkers mistreated and discriminated against blacks; most can only tell you what they have been taught by the political world. So, I think my experiences are significant evidence that racism has reversed from what it was prior to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
These experiences are why I cringe when I hear, “I need to be scared to go into a white neighborhood,” when blacks murdered whites at 11 times the rate at which whites murdered blacks in 2018. I cringe at hearing, “There is systemic racism,” when blacks openly discriminate against whites on a mass scale, perhaps trying to offset an anti-black conspiracy scheme that is mostly imaginary. I cringe at hearing, “We demand reparations,” when black Americans have received hundreds of billions of dollars of reparations over the last 50 years in the form of scholarships, small business grants, affirmative action hirings, and protection from at will firings.
What we need now is to change direction and complete the equality movement. For over half a century, new generations of white Americans have been raised on the value of judging others “not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character (MLK).” And they’ve done an amazingly good job of it. Now it’s time for African Americans to do the same. No longer should they mockingly stereotype whites, target whites, discriminate against whites, demand race-based special treatment, or accuse America of racist discrimination for holding black Americans to the same standards and laws as all other races. It’s time to #EndAllRacism with an #IndividualEquality movement intended to create a #PostRacialAmerica. And the first step is to teach all people from little on up to no longer place their identities in their races, but to identify as individuals in the human race.
– K. Scott Schaeffer