You’ve seen them before.
They are your friends, neighbors and coworkers. They lurk in the shadows bouncing back and forth on the balls of their feet like a skilled double-dutch dancer ready to hop between the twirling ropes and derail any conversation about race, police brutality, politics, or white supremacy. They are opinionated, they are relentless, and they are everywhere.
They are the “whatabouts.
WHATABOUT: (noun) a person who distracts from a salient point by using a false equivalency or a marginally related, tangential point.
Example: Whatabouts always say: “I don’t mind NFL players protesting injustice. But what about the troops who fight for our freedoms?”
Whether it’s black-on-black crime or illegal immigration, whatabouts maintain that the negro retina is blind to certain facts that would disprove the existence of racism and officially certify America as a post-racial society. They actually believe black people refuse to acknowledge or admit we have shortcomings.
So, in an attempt at becoming more efficient, we’ve compiled this handy-dandy list of oft-used topics raised repeatedly by black conservatives, Facebook trolls and people who once fantasized about living in the apartment across from Ross, Chandler, and Joey. Feel free to bookmark this link and forward it whenever a random whatabout employs this technique in an argument to make themselves look smart or feel like they’re not a part of the problem.
1. Black people need to stop killing each other and talk about black-on-black crime.
Dear black people,
Murder is bad.
I know. I know you’ve heard this in every barbershop, church and family event, but there are people who believe we rejoice in pain, crime, and death or avoid the subject altogether. Even though white people can never explain why they should be privy to conversations black people have among each other, they believe they know what we don’t talk about. They apparently assume that negroes throw a parade whenever a black person kills another black person, and after the confetti celebrating a successful black-on-black crime is swept away, we never speak about the subject.
In most cities, the number of community organizations, church initiatives, youth groups, nonprofits, fraternal organizations, after-school programs, charities, and collectives dedicated to furthering education, reducing crime, and finding alternatives to violence far exceeds the number of organizations like the hated Black Lives Matter. There are far more peace rallies than protest rallies.
For all of 2018, I kept a running tally of community events in Birmingham, Ala. Using an admittedly unscientific method consisting of news stories, Facebook events, Eventbrite invitation, press releases, and Google alerts, I counted 68 unity events, peace marches, stop-the-violence rallies, and community forums.
There were only 14 events related to police brutality or Black Lives Matter.
2. Too many black children live in single-parent homes.
67 percent of black children grow up in single-parent homes, according to the CDC and every white person trying to explain what’s wrong with black people. This is one of the biggest things black people don’t want to talk about.
Except when we hear preachers say it. And when grandmothers and grandfathers say it. And when hoteps say it. And when educated black people say it. And when the guy at the barbershop says it. And when everyone else acknowledges it.
There isn’t a black person in America who doesn’t think black men need to step up. We’ve heard it at every church service, hair salon and Thanksgiving dinner. While the reason for the proliferation of single-parent homes in the black community is due to a number of factors, including the history of slavery an…
Oh shit. I said the s-word.
3. Slavery was a long time ago.
It’s time for black people to realize that slavery ended more than 150 years ago and every race has been enslaved at some point. Did you know black people owned slaves? Plus, it was our own black people who sold us to the slave traders.
Yes, there were black slave owners. Blacks did sell captives into slavery. But it is Europeans who created, ran, and perpetuated the Transatlantic slave trade. It was white America who fought the bloodiest war in American history to keep it. It was white America who held onto slavery for 400 years.
Slavery is a larger part of America’s history than any other country. The legal Transatlantic Slave Trade lasted about a quarter of the Netherlands’, Spain’s, Portugal’s, and France’s existence. It comprises a third of England’s history. No other first-world country except Brazil and Cuba waited as long as the United States to outlaw slavery. And when those countries abolished slavery, they didn’t have racist laws embedded in their constitution and a legal system relegating an entire race of people to second-class citizenship.
The first British settlers established Jamestown in 1607. The first African slaves arrived in 1619. In 1629, Virginia enacted the first law mentioning black slaves. In January 1639, Virginia’s Act X created a legal distinction between white and black men. Laws outlawing intermarriage, integrated schools, and equal housing were not stuck down until the late 1960s. And the 400 years of racist policies that governed black people were not “slave laws.” These were race laws.
But we can talk about it if you want.
4. Hard work and education.
Because, you know… 400 years of free labor that transformed America into an economic superpower shows that blacks are lazy.
And the people who fought to attend equal schools are all proof that black people don’t value education. Neither does the fact that enslaved Africans risked being killed for learning to read but still did it. In fact, black people hate education so much that, just to be safe, white people outlawed citizens from teaching slaves how to read and write.
We also need to explain why black people would rather get handouts and be on welfare than work.
And by “welfare,” I mean the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) known as food stamps. Don’t call farm subsidies welfare, because 95 percent of agriculture subsidies go to white farmers. Blacks receive fewer small-business loans than equally-qualified white borrowers, so that’s technically not a government handout. Black businesses get disproportionately fewer government contracts than white-owned businesses, but you know… small government and all.
Black people need to talk about education instead of racism despite the fact that majority-black schools receive less funding than white schools. And it has nothing to do with economics or poverty. A 2018 Edtrust study found that school funding gaps at schools that served Black, Latino and Native American children were twice as high as the school funding disparities in the poorest neighborhoods.
So even though the food stamp program has had work requirements since 1996, and 40 percent of food stamp recipients are white while 25 percent are black, we still need to talk about hard work. Even though the college enrollment rates for black and white students are nearly the same, whites earn more money and are employed more often than equally-educated whites.
Hard work and education, though.
5. Asian Jews who live in Chicago.
After we talk about all those things, we must discuss how Asians escape all this make-believe racism that we claim exists. Don’t mention the fact that Asians weren’t historically subjected to slavery, Jim Crow, and anti-black violence. Don’t mention that adapting and excelling in a system meant to foster and ensure the supremacy of whiteness does not mean that white supremacy doesn’t exist.
In 2019, someone will be sure to ask why Jewish people were able to overcome the Holocaust so quickly but black people are still whining about slavery and Jim Crow. If white people read more books, we might be able to explain that a 4-year atrocity for which the world adjudicated in court, demanded an apology, and made reparations apologies, is a little bit different from a 450-year, constitutionally enshrined, legally endorsed, socially accepted system of economic, political, and mental subjugation whose remnants persist to this day. If we studied history, we could explain that comparing antisemitism in Nazi Germany to America’s institutional racism is like comparing an apple to the entire global apple industry.
And when and if a certified, card-carrying whatabout hears you mention any of these things, they will resort to their last line of defense. They will pause for a second, as if they are deeply engrossed in thought and ask, with all earnestness and sincerity:
“But what about Chicago?”
There is only one way to respond to that question about the city whose homicide rate is ninth among large cities and steadily decreasing. It requires a calm demeanor, knowing that the only thing scarier to white people than Chicago is being outsmarted by a colored brain. You must look them straight in the eyes, as if you were staring at high-definition footage of their blackened soul. Then you must mimic the whatabout’s sincerity and their pause. After a few seconds, with your voice exuding happiness and no sign of scorn, you should say:
“Well…That’s certainly an interesting way to say the N-word.”
Follow those instructions and you should be whatabout-free for the rest of the year.