The article below, taken
from the British Guardian, is exerted from Michael Moore’s best-selling book (currently
#1 on NY Times list), Stupid White Men
Saturday March 30, 2002
I don’t know what it
is, but every time I see a white guy walking towards me, I tense up. My heart starts
racing, and I immediately begin to look for an escape route and kick myself for
even being in this part of town after dark. Didn’t I notice the suspicious
gangs of white people lurking on every street corner, drinking Starbucks and wearing
their gang colors of Gap turquoise or J Crew mauve? What an idiot!
Now the white person is coming closer, closer – and then – whew! He walks by
without harming me, and I breathe a sigh of relief. White people scare the crap
out of me. This may be hard for you to understand – considering that I am white
– but then again, my color gives me a certain insight. For instance, I find
myself pretty scary a lot of the time, so I know what I’m talking about. You
can take my word for it: if you find yourself suddenly surrounded by
white people, you better watch out. Anything can happen. As white people, we’ve
been lulled into thinking it’s safe to be around other white people. We’ve been
taught since birth that it’s the people of that other color we need to fear. They’re
the ones who’ll slit your throat!
Yet as I look back on my life, a strange but unmistakable pattern seems to
emerge. Every person who has ever harmed me in my lifetime – the boss who fired
me, the teacher who flunked me, the principal who punished me, the kid who hit me
in the eye with a rock, the executive who didn’t renew TV Nation, the guy who
was stalking me for three years, the accountant who double-paid my taxes, the
drunk who smashed into me, the burglar who stole my stereo, the contractor who
overcharged me, the girlfriend who left me, the next girlfriend who left even
sooner, the person in the office who stole checks from my checkbook and wrote
them out to himself for a total of $16,000 – every one of these individuals has
been a white person.
Coincidence? I think not.
I have never been attacked by a black person, never been evicted by a black
person, never had my security deposit ripped off by a black landlord, never had
a black landlord, never had a meeting at a Hollywood studio with a black executive
in charge, never had a black person deny my child the! college of her choice,
never been puked on by a black teenager at a Motley Crew concert, never been
pulled over by a black cop, never been sold a lemon by a black car salesman,
never seen a black car salesman, never had a black person deny me a bank loan,
and I’ve never heard a black person say, "We’re going to eliminate 10,000
jobs here – have a nice day!" I don’t think that I’m the only white guy
who can make these claims. Every mean word, every cruel act, every bit of pain and
suffering in my life has had a Caucasian face attached to it. So, um, why is it
exactly that I should be afraid of black people?
I look around at the world I live in – and, I hate to tell tales out of school,
but it’s not the African-Americans who have made this planet such a pitiful,
scary place. Recently, a headline on the front of the Science section of the
New York Times asked "Who Built The H-Bomb"? The article went on to
discuss a dispute between the men who claim credit for making the first bomb. Frankly,
I could have cared less – because I already know the only pertinent answer:
"It was a white guy!" No black guy ever built or used a bomb designed
to wipe out hordes of innocent people, whether in
, Columbine or
No, friends, it’s always the white guy. Let’s go to the tote board:
* Who gave us the black plague? A white guy.
* Who invented PBC, PVC, PBB, and a host of chemicals that are killing us?
* Who has started every war
has been in? White men.
* Who invented the punch card ballot? A white man.
* Whose idea was it to pollute the world with the internal combustion engine?
Whitey, that’s who.
* The Holocaust? That guy really gave white people a bad name.
* The genocide of Native Americans? White man!
* Slavery? Whitey!
companies laid off more than 700,000 people in 2001. Who ordered the lay-offs?
White CEOs. That’s who.
You name the problem, the disease, the human suffering, or the abject misery
visited upon millions, and I’ll bet you 10 bucks I can put a white face on it
faster than you can name the members of ‘NSync.
And yet, when I turn on the news each night, what do I see again and again?
Black men alleged to be killing, raping, mugging, stabbing, gangbanging, looting,
rioting, selling drugs, pimping, ho-ing, having too many babies, fatherless,
motherless, Godless, penniless. "The suspect is described as a black
male… the suspect is described as a black male….." No matter what city
I’m in, the news is always the same, the suspect always the same unidentified black
and I swear the police sketch of the black male suspect on TV looks just like the
black male suspect I saw on the news last night in
and the night before in LA. In every sketch he’s frowning, he’s menacing – and
he’s wearing the same knit cap! Is it possible that it’s the same black guy
committing every crime in
I believe we’ve become so used to this image of the black
man as predator that we are forever ruined by this brainwashing. In my first
film, "Roger & Me"! , a white
woman on social security clubs a rabbit to death so that she can sell him as
"meat" instead of as a pet. I wish I had a nickel for every time in
the past 10 years that someone has come up to me and told me how "horrified"
they were when they saw that "poor little cute bunny" bonked on the
head. The scene, they say, made them physically sick.
The Motion Picture Association of
gave Roger & Me an R  rating in response to that rabbit killing.
Teachers write to me and say they have to edit that part out of the film, if
they want to show it to their students.
But less than two minutes after the bunny lady does her deed, I included footage
of a scene in which police in Flint, Michigan, shot a black man who was wearing
a Superman cape and holding a plastic toy gun. Not once – not ever – has anyone
said to me, "I can’t believe you showed a black man being shot in your movie!
How horrible! How disgusting! I couldn’t sleep for weeks." After all, he was
just a black man, not a cute, cuddly bunny.
The ratings board saw absolutely nothing wrong with that scene. Why? Because
it’s normal, natural. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing black men killed –
in the movies and on the evening news – that we now accept it as standard operating
procedure. No big deal! That’s what blacks do – kill and die. Ho-hum. Pass the
It’s odd that, despite the fact that most crimes are committed by whites, black
faces are usually attached to what we think of as "crime". Ask any white
person who they fear might break into their home or harm them on the street
and, if they’re honest, they’ll admit that the person they have in mind doesn’t
look much like them. The imaginary criminal in their heads looks like Mookie or
Hakim or Kareem, not little freckle-faced Jimmy. No matter how many times their
fellow whites make it clear that the white man is the one to fear, it simply
fails to register. Every time you turn on the TV to news of another school
shooting, it’s always a white kid who’s conducting the massacre. Every time
they catch a serial killer, it’s a crazy white guy. Every time a terrorist
blows up a federal building, or a madman gets 400 people to drink Kool-Aid, or
a Beach Boys songwriter casts a spell causing half a dozen nymphets to
murder "all the piggies" in the Hollywood Hills, you know it’s a member
of the white race up to his old tricks. So why don’t we run like hell when we
see whitey coming toward us?
Why don’t we ever greet the Caucasian job applicant with,
"Gee, uh, I’m sorry, there aren’t any positions available right now"?
Why aren’t we worried sick about our daughters marrying white guys? And why
isn’t Congress trying to ban the scary and offensive lyrics of Johnny Cash
("I shot a man in Reno/just to watch him die"), the
Chicks ("Earl had to die"), or Bruce Springsteen ("I killed
everything in my path/I can’t say that I’m sorry for the things that we
Why the focus on rap lyrics? Why doesn’t the media print lyrics such as the following,
and tell the truth? "I sold bottles of sorrow, then chose poems and
novels" (Wu-Tang Clan); "People use yo’ brain to gain" (Ice
Cube); "A poor single mother on welfare…tell me how ya did it" (Tupac
Shakur); "I’m trying to change my life, see I don’t wanna die a
sinner" (Master P).
African-Americans have been on the lowest rung of the economic ladder since the
day they were dragged here in chains. Every other immigrant group has been able
to advance from the bottom to the higher levels of our society. Even Native
Americans, who are among the poorest of the poor, have fewer children living in
poverty than African-Americans.
You probably thought things had got better for blacks in this country. After
all, considering the advances we’ve made eliminating racism in our society, one
would think our black citizens might have seen their standard of living rise. A
survey published in the
Post in July 2001 showed that 40%-60% of white people thought the average black
person had it as good as or better than the average white person.
Think again. According to a study conducted by the economists Richard Vedder,
Gallaway and David C Clingaman, the average income for a black American is 61% less
per year than the average white income. That is the same percentage difference
as it was in 1880. Not a damned thing has changed in more than 120 years.
Want more proof? Consider the following:
* Black heart attack patients are far less likely than whites to undergo cardiac
catheterization, regardless of the race of their doctors.
* Whites are five times more likely than blacks to receive emergency clot-busting
treatment after suffering a stroke.
* Black women are four times more likely than white women to die while giving
* Black levels of unemployment have been roughly twice those of whites since
So how have we white people been able to get away with
this? Caucasian ingenuity! You see, we used to be real dumb. Like idiots, we
wore our racism on our sleeve. We
did really obvious things, like putting up signs on rest-room doors that said
WHITES ONLY. We made black people sit at the back of the bus. We prevented them
from attending our schools or living in our neighborhoods. They got the
crappiest jobs (those advertised for NEGROES ONLY), and we made it clear that,
if you weren’t white, you were going to be paid a lower wage.
Well, this overt, over-the-top segregation got us into a
heap of trouble. A bunch of uppity lawyers went to court. They pointed out that
the 14th Amendment doesn’t allow for anyone to be treated differently because
of their race. Eventually, after a long procession of court losses,
demonstrations and riots, we got the message: if you’re going to be a
successful racist, better find a way to do it with a smile on your face.
We even got magnanimous enough to say, "Sure, you
can live here in our neighborhood; your kids can go to our kids’ school. Why
the hell not? We were just leaving, anyway." We smiled, gave black
a pat on the back – and then ran like the devil to the suburbs.
At work, we whites still get the plum jobs, double the pay, and a seat in the
front of the bus to happiness and success. We’ve rigged the system from birth,
guaranteeing that black people will go to the worst schools, thus preventing
them from admission to the best colleges, and paving their way to a fulfilling
life making our café lattes,
servicing our BMWs, and picking up our trash. Oh, sure, a few slip by – but they
pay an extra tariff for the privilege: the black doctor driving his BMW gets pulled
over continually by the cops; the black Broadway actress can’t get a cab after
the standing ovation; the black broker is the first to be laid off because of "seniority".
We whites really deserve some kind of genius award for this. We talk the talk
of inclusion, we celebrate the birthday of Dr King, and we frown upon racist
jokes. We never fail to drop a mention of "my friend – he’s black…" We make
sure we put our lone black employee up at the front reception desk so we can
say, "See – we don’t discriminate. We hire black people." Yes, we are
a very crafty, cagey race – and damn if we haven’t got away with it!
I wonder how long we will have to live with the legacy of slavery. That’s
right. I brought it up. SLAVERY. You can
almost hear the groans of white
whenever you bring up the fact that we still suffer from the impact of the
slave system. Well, I’m sorry, but the roots of most of our social ills can be
traced straight back to this sick chapter of our history.
African-Americans never got a chance to have the same fair start that the rest
of us got. Their families were willfully destroyed, their language and culture
and religion stripped from them. Their poverty was institutionalized so that
our cotton could get picked, our wars could be fought, and our convenience
stores could remain open all night. The
we’ve come to know would never have come to pass if not for the millions of
slaves who built it and created its booming economy – and for the millions of
their descendants who do the same dirty work for whites today.
It’s not as if we’re talking ancient
here. My grandfather was born just three years after the Civil War. That’s
right, my grandfather. My great-uncle was born before the Civil War. And I’m only
in my 40s. Sure, people in my family seem to marry late, but the truth remains:
I’m just two generations from slave times. That, my friends, is not a
"long time ago".
In the vast breadth of human history, it was only yesterday.
Until we realize that, and accept that we do have a responsibility to correct
an immoral act that still has repercussions today, we will never remove the single
greatest stain on the soul of our country.