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White Lies

Ethan Miller & Kate Boverman
Language: English


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[2005]
Lyrics and music by Ethan Miller
Album: If All The Land Would Rise

It is all-too-easy for white folks to see racism as simply a white-supremacist attitude (that we, of course, don’t have) or a set of overtly discriminatory actions (that we, of course, don’t do). What more difficult to see—and to acknowledge—is the racism that is built into the very structure of our "whiteness": racism as a historically-constructed system of power which benefits some people (those marked as "white") at the expense of others (those marked as "black", “non-white", or simply "other”).
Those of us marked as “white,” no matter how well-intentioned our anti-racist attitude, benefit in various ways (differently, of course, depending on gender, sexuality, age, class, and ethnicity) from "white skin privilege". By our very birth into a racist system, we exercise this privilege. And we internalize this privilege, along with more subtle elements of racism (vague stereotypes surfacing in the back of our minds, unconscious fears and prejudices, etc). There is no neutrality in this picture, no white person who is "definitely NOT racist". We who are white, no matter how radical, are complicit in maintaining a racist society – even if it is the complicity of silence, the complicity of looking the other way while others are made to suffer. From this complicity must come not shame (which wallows in self-pity) nor guilt (which often pushes us to run, to escape), but responsibility – the ability-to-respond that inspires us to struggle toward real solidarity and anti-racist practice.
For a great introductory resource on white skin privilege and anti-racism, check out the book Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel (New Society Publishers, 1996).
White is a tool that was made by a nation
To justify slavery and colonization
To divide up the world into an Us and a Them
The primitive animal savage and the civilized human

"Race" is a story we're told, embedded deep in our brains
We call it natural order, but it's socially ingrained
Systematic exploitation by division of the people
Into some who're made as slaves to serve the ones created equal

Yes, the first thing they conquer is their own people's minds
The colonizer's the first one to be colonized
We're born with pale skin and they tell us we're "white"
Implying some will live in darkness and this child will walk in light.

What color is God in our pictures?
And what is the color of sin?
If two came to your door, one pale, one dark-skinned
Who'd be the first one that you would let in?

Shame — hangs its head and guilt tries to run
But complicity demands we undo what's been done
Name our history, find the courage to rise
Shout it out loud,
with bold angry cries
No more white lies!

We're the wealthiest nation on earth so they say
But where did this wealth come from 'cept the labor of slaves?
All those who suffered and toiled and died
Feeding the hunger of rich white men's pride..

Who works in our orchards? Who picks our fine crops?
Who sweats in the sweatshops?
Who pushes the mops?
Who rots in our prisons for the crime of their skin?
Who dies in our wars so that others can win?

Who lived here before us and who stole their land?
And who where the heroes of Custer's Last Stand?
Who wrote the history books?
Who makes the rules?
And who mines the ore for the master's own tools?

Shame — hangs its head and guilt tries to run
But complicity demands we undo what's been done
Name our history, find the courage to rise
Shout it out loud,
with bold angry cries
No more white lies!

"Oh I am not racist", many white folks have said
But racism's not just a thought in your head
It's the privilege we wield when we walk down the street
And don't have to fear each white cop that we meet

It's the power we're handed from the moment of birth
When we're told our pale skin is our measure of worth
"Colorblind" is a code-word for "the problem's not mine"
'Cause white folk have the privilege to say, "Everything's fine".

It's in the history of our families,
In the stories that we bear
It's in the small, subtle perks
along the way that got us there
It's in the shit we never went through,
All the pain we never felt
It's in the stacked deck of cards
And the hand we were dealt…

You know you used to be Irish or Italian or Basque
Call up your Grandma if you can and just ask
We traded history for power and tradition for slaves
Buried our pride with the bodies in the unmarked graves

Shame — hangs its head and guilt tries to run
But complicity demands we undo what's been done
Name our history, find the courage to rise
Shout it out loud,
with bold angry cries
No more white lies!

So who's really to blame? It's not easy to say
And of course those in power want to keep it that way
These troubles run deep, to the core of our souls
For we were formed by the power that our ancestors stole

Is it the structure or the person that keeps racism alive?
Well it's both, and they're nourished by the great white lie
We've got to struggle on the inside, struggle on the out
'cause struggling together is what solidarity's about

Shame — hangs its head and guilt tries to run
But complicity demands we undo what's been done
Name our history, find the courage to rise
Shout it out loud,
with bold angry cries
No more white lies!
No more white lies!
No more white lies!
No more white lies…

Contributed by giorgio - 2009/10/11 - 13:08


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