TheGrio Daily

Frequently Asked White Questions: Not All White People

Episode 104

“We know that nothing applies to all people.” When society refers to a neighborhood that houses predominantly white residents, it’s referred to as “the middle class” or a “rich neighborhood” but when an area that houses mostly Black families is described, it’s called “a Black neighborhood.” Why is that? Michael Harriot is here to explain and introduce you to default socialization.


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] You know how white people don’t be using the white cloth? You know how they don’t season their food? Right. And, you know, white people, you know, say they don’t take a shower every day. I know what some people who are watching or listening are saying right now. Not me. What about me? Not all white people. And that’s why we’re doing this series on frequently asked white questions. And it’s also why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, where we are going to answer your question about not all white people. Have you ever Black tweeted something like a joke or, you know, a comment or even mentioned the words white people in context and a white person raise their hands and say that doesn’t include them, not all white people. And they wonder why we do that. And I want to answer that question for you today. But first, we going to need some context. First you are going to have to understand this phenomenon called the Default Fault. Right. Like, have you ever wondered why, if you draw a circle with spikes or lines coming out of it and make it Black people will say, well, is that a wheel or is that, you know, a whole. But if you make it yellow, people will understand automatically that it is a picture of the sun. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:46] Or if you, you know, say a man was apprehended robbing a bank today. You probably think that a white man robbed a bank. But if they saw a Black man, then you understand that it’s a Black man. And that’s because of the phenomenon known as a Social Default. And every society has this right, even though we might not consciously recognize it, we all believe in defaults. Right. And one of the default things in America is the exclusion of the adjective white. So if I tell you that, you know, a man came by my house today and he was a bill collector, you’re going to picture in your mind most people, a white man, even most Black people, because most Black people, because of the Social Default, will assume that if it was a Black person, I would have described him as a Black person or even like a Hispanic person would have probably described a person who looked like them as a Hispanic person unless it was a white person. Because we all ascribe to some extent or another to the social default that whiteness is the default, right. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:19] That’s why for most of the history of, for instance, the music charts, there was a category, R&B, was called the Black music charts. Now, that’s after the 1930, because when they first created that chart, it was called Race music. If you’re talking about Black activists now, even before there were Black activists like Martin Luther King, what they used to call Black activists were Race MAn. W.E.B. Dubois was a race man. Right. Like they would call people who fought for equality Race Men. Because in America, part of our default socialized socialization is that race applies to everyone but white people. Whiteness is the default. Everything else needs a descriptor, an adjective pronoun, something to describe the thing that isn’t white. Whiteness is just the normal thing. And notice I said normal, right? Because what the default socialization does is it normalizes whiteness as brightness. For instance, when we talk about music, white is Black music and then is all other kinds of music, right? There’s the music that white people listen to. Right. Even though hip hop is the most produced and most listened to form of music in the world, it’s still considered Black music. But if I refer to, for instance, Led Zeppelin ir the Beatles as white music, it seems kind of strange because they’re just playing music. This is playing rock and roll. Right. And, you know, a lot of times we don’t even recognize that default thinking. And because of that you lumb all white people as beneficiaries of default socialization. 

Michael Harriot [00:05:46] For instance, if somebody asked, Why is there so much crime in Chicago, you kind of know they’re talking about Black people. Even though white people are about 30% of Chicago, Black people are about 30% like it’s about a split length, three ways. Or, here’s good one, right, like because this one always happens. Black on Black crime. Like, have you ever heard anybody ask why we don’t talk about white on white crime? Or, we talk about soccer moms. We talk about NASCAR dads. We talk about the suburban vote. But when we talk about how Black people cast their ballots, it’s called the Black vote. When Black people live in a neighborhood, it is a Black neighborhood. When white people live in a neighborhood, it’s usually distinguished by socio economic phenomenon, Right? It is a rich neighborhood, a middle class neighborhood. It is a poor neighborhood neighborhood. But Black neighborhoods are described by the color of the people who live in them for. By how dangerous it is for Black people to live there. Right. So it’s a dangerous neighborhood, a crime ridden neighborhood. It’s a euphemism for Black. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:17] But we don’t talk about white neighborhoods. We don’t talk about white owned businesses quite like him. He is an example, right? Like when I talk about shopping at a Black owned business, does anybody if I tweet out right now, does anybody know a Black owned music store that I can buy a guitar from? I guarantee you there’ll be somebody under that tweet saying, well, why does it have to be a Black owned? Like why you got to make it about race? And if you notice, if you look at the data. Most white people shop at white owned stores. And it’s not just because most white people own businesses. If you look at the data, Black owned businesses in a majority white city or a majority white neighborhood are still frequently usually by just Black people. White people skip over it. Right. And they don’t think that there’s a problem with that because of default socialization. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:22] Now, why does what does this have to do with not all white people? So if I say white people don’t use washcloths and you bring up not all white people. It’s stupid because we know that nothing applies to all people. Like when you say the Black vote, we know some Black people don’t vote. We know some Black people vote Republican. We still call it the Black vote. Eminem makes Black music. Right. But we know that it’s not a Black dude making Black music cause we know that not all rappers are Black. We know that not all Black neighborhoods have exclusively Black people. There are some white people. There are some Hispanic people there. Everybody in this country understands that nothing is ever all even when we say white people. If I said, well, you know, you got to put gas in your car, and somebody who I wasn’t talking to said, not me, because not all cars drive, use gas. Some cars are electric. I understand that. I understand that not all birds fly. Not all snakes are poisonous. When I say put gas in cars, I am talking about the average car. And when I say white people, I am talking about the average white person. But. You can’t understand that because you benefit from two things the privilege of individuality and default socialization. And to combat that, the only thing you can do is go subscribe to this podcast, of course. Maybe tell a friend about it. Maybe download the theGrio app, or maybe listen to a famous Black saying. And the one for today is, “If you have a mind, why not mind your own business?”. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:37] If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcast at theGrio dot com. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:02] I’m political scientist, author and professor Dr. Christina Greer, and I’m host of the Blackest Questions on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. This person invented ranch dressing around 1950. Who are they? 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:11:15] I have no idea. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:16] This all began as an exclusive Black history trivia party at my home in Harlem with family and friends. And they got so popular it seemed only right to share the fun with our Grio listeners. Each week we invite a familiar face on the podcast to play. What was the name of the person who was an enslaved chief cook for George Washington and later ran away to freedom? In 1868, this university was the first in the country to open a medical school that welcomes medical students of all races, genders and social classes. What university was? 

Roy Wood, Jr [00:11:50] This is why I like doing stuff with you, because I leave educated. I was not taught this in Alabama Public Schools. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:56] Question three. Are you ready? 

Eboni K. Williams [00:11:57] Yes. I want to redeem myself. 

Amanda Seales [00:11:59] How do we go from Kwanzaa to like these obscure. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:05] Diaspora, darling. 

Amanda Seales [00:12:06] This is like the New York Times crossword from a Monday to a Saturday. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:10] Right or wrong. All we care about is the journey and having some fun while we do it. 

Kalen Allen [00:12:14] I’m excited and also a little nervous. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:17] Oh, listen. No need to be nervous. And as I tell all of my guests, this is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves because Black history is American history. So we’re going to have some fun. Listen, some people get zero out of five. Some people get give out of five, but it doesn’t matter. We’re just going to be on a little intellectual journey together. 

Eboni K. Williams [00:12:33] Latoya Cantrell. 

Eboni K. Williams [00:12:35] That’s right. Mayor Latoya Cantrell. 

Mchael Twitty [00:12:37] Hercules Posey. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:39] Mm hmm. Born in 1754 and he was a member of the Mount Vernon slave community, widely admired for his culinary skills. 

Kalen Allen [00:12:45] I’m going to guess AfroPunk. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:48] Close. It’s  AfroNation. According to my research, it’s Samuel Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon. 

Jason Johnson [00:12:57] Wrong. Wrong. I am disputing this. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:02] Very, very, very, very 99.99. And I’m sure that it is Representative John Lewis, who is also from the state of Alabama. Then that, you know, Christina, we got some good this come out of Alabama. There is something in the water in Alabama. And you are absolutely correct. 

Diallo Riddle [00:13:16] The Harder They Come. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:19] Close. 

Diallo Riddle [00:13:20] Oh, wait, The Harder They Fall? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:22] That’s right. I’m one of those people that just changes one word. 

Roy Wood, Jr [00:13:27] I just don’t know nothing today. Ima pour for myself a little water, while you tell me an answer. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:31] The answer is Seneca Village, which began in 1825 with the purchase of land by a trustee of the A.M.E. Zion Church. 

Roy Wood, Jr [00:13:38] You know why games like this make me nervous? I don’t know if I know enough Black. Do I know enough? How Black am I? Oh, my Lord. They they gone. We gone find out in public. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:46] So give us a follow. Subscribe and join us on the Blackest Questions.