Unapologetically white: Why Elon Musk is the greatest American in history
Opinion: The Tesla CEO’s decision to reinstate Donald Trump’s Twitter credentials is just the latest example of America’s unapologetic whiteness.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Donald Trump is back!
Well…not yet. But the news that Twitter’s new potential buyer would lift the ban on Donald Trump angered many and increased the value of the company that Elon Musk will probably buy with other people’s money. Sure, Donald Trump may have incited an insurrection in the country white people love dearly, but, according to Musk, denying a white supremacist the right to spew randomly capitalized tidbits of domestic terrorism advice “alienated a large part of the country.” And you’d be correct in assuming that white people are the “large part of the country” to which Musk refers. However, the news doesn’t anger me for one reason.
I feel sorry for white people.
Setting aside the need to count silently before clapping on the beat and the quality of Caucasian cuisine, being white looks hard AF. I cannot fathom how difficult it is to stare one’s own mediocrity in the face while knowing that you exist in a place that has handed you every political, social and economic advantage. I’ve always wondered why white people who fall on hard times just don’t save their money, purchase a nice wool suit from Jos. A. Banks, move to middle America and start over with nothing but a knapsack full of ironic T-shirts and the privilege that their alabaster skin affords them. If you think carrying the burden of 400 years of racial discrimination on your back is hard, imagine being a 47-year-old white man working the graveyard shift at Waffle House handing hash browns to a first-generation HBCU student wearing an Obama shirt. But that is not why I pity whiteness.
I weep for whiteness because it is nothing.
The mythical backstory that has somehow bamboozled the world into believing that Germanic barbarians, English colonizers, Italian immigrants and French friars are all the same thing depends on the acceptance of a fabrication that falls apart upon the slightest inspection. Perhaps this is why people of European descent react to the phrase “white people” like a sneak thief caught under a floodlight during a burglary. They are afraid their ruse will be exposed and the quadruple century-old jig will be finally up. Oh, how onerously self-oppressive whiteness must be.
To be fair, white people are very good at being white. The way they couched human trafficking as a necessary ill to bring forth a democracy founded in white supremacy. The way they swiped the land from natives, segregated it after slavery and cemented their plan with redlining was such a racist masterstroke that even Hitler had to take notes. It was white excellence that managed to euphemize Jim Crow as “states’ rights” and prolong civil rights until they had to hose bits of Black blood and bone off their sidewalks. If nothing else, we must applaud whiteness’ ability to separate itself from its forefathers’ sins while still enjoying the fruits of their lack of labor. Kudos to whiteness.
But in the age of unapologetic whiteness, things are different.
I don’t know if white people have gotten lazy or they’ve just grown tired of covering their filthy bloodstained hands with the white gloves of patriotism and conservative values, but they don’t even try to hide their racism anymore. Even the Confederate white supremacist traitors apologetically referred to slavery as a “peculiar institution.” But these MAGAmuffin-brand white people don’t wear white hoods. They put their white nationalism on full display every night during Fox News’ primetime hour. Instead of updating their “lost cause” mythology, white women put on their yoga pants, marched into school board meetings and made truth illegal by calling it critical race theory. This time, they didn’t have to summon their billy-club-wielding stormtroopers to rewind Black people’s right to vote and refused to acknowledge that Black lives even matter. Who else but whiteness could openly oppose anti-racism?
And while some people believe that Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson could stand as the everlasting mascot for this new wave of unrepentant caucasity, I believe there is a better example.
I feel sorry for Elon Musk.
Setting aside the fact that he is considered to be an automotive mogul and inventor even though he has never invented anything and owns a car company that doesn’t make money selling cars, I cannot fathom how tough it is to grow up privileged and white in apartheid South Africa and then move to a place where Black people can sue you just because you are racist. Imagine having to hoodwink a bunch of white boy bootlickers into believing that you are a self-made success story after growing up so rich that your dad’s precious jewels sometimes spilled out of your overstuffed pockets. Think of the level of chicanery required to make people think you started a company that already existed.
This is why whiteness is so pitiable. How can you prove that you are supreme when everyone knows the truth? How can you fight the inevitable? How can you perpetuate the rags-to-riches myth of the American dream when you are nothing more than a colonizer with a fictional history? And what privilege do you give to the race who has everything?
Unapologetic whiteness is the answer.
Musk is not an elected official, so he doesn’t have the political authority to criminalize history like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott or weepy white women. Because of the way words work, Musk is technically an “African American,” but because of the way whiteness works, Elon Musk’s skin serves as a proverbial knapsack that allows him to reinvent his past by clothing himself in whiteness. And now, with nothing but that whitewashed version of his personal history and the company he colonized from Tesla’s founders, the billionaire tycoon walked into the world’s largest banks and put Twitter on layaway. And what was his first course of action?
More white supremacy, please!
No longer will white people suffer the tyranny of being silenced while planning to commit treason or spew racism. This is the kind of unapologetic whiteness that has freed the entirety of Caucasiandom of having to preface their sentences with “I’m not racist, but…” Elon Musk is the Thomas Jefferson of Twitter. He is willing to fight for the inalienable right to free speech…but not for “all men”—just white people. It is as American a thing that has ever happened.
Right now, on Twitter, there is a white person fashioning their own version of “not all white people.” I feel sorry for that person, too. I cannot imagine how burdensome it must be to be so unoriginal that you can read a thousand words that never mention your name and, like all the other white people, feel the need to clarify how you are different from all the other white people. But that, too, exemplifies America. In the land of white excellence, where history is based on a true story, it is reasonable to believe that Elon Musk alone can Make Twitter Great Again.
And he doesn’t even have to apologize.
Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2022.
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