TheGrio Daily

White mediocrity explained

Episode 64

The term “white mediocrity” isn’t meant to offend, it’s simply a reality. Michael Harriot explains why average white people can achieve great things because they live in a society that’s designed for them to succeed. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified

Full Transcript Below:

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

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Don’t you just love Black excellence? I mean, we all love to see Black people achieve extraordinary things. But in a sense, you have to ask, why is Black excellence so important? And that’s why we’re here today. And that’s why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that will tell you about white mediocrity. I’m Michael Harriot, a world famous wypipologist. And this is theGrio Daily. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:44] See, when we talk about Black excellence and white mediocrity, we have to realize that Black excellence is not a bad thing. You know, it’s great when Black people achieve things that most people couldn’t do, right? Like Kentaji Brown Jackson. You know anybody Black? Right. Like there’s always the first Black something or the greatest Black something. Or like a 15 year old Black kid gets into Harvard. Right. And we love to see those things. But one of the things that Black Excellence does and our reverence for Black excellence does is it kind of obscures the notion that Black people have to be excellent or the best to achieve anything. And that’s what I want to talk about today. Right? Like what I wanted to talk about is white mediocrity. And I know it sounds like a slur, but not I mean, again, most people are average, right? If there is such a thing as above average and below average, then, you know, by proxy, some people have to be average. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:59] The thing about white mediocrity is that when when white people are mediocre, it doesn’t stop them from achieving great things. Right. One of the most mediocre people that achieved something great, for instance, is Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court justice. Why? Like, Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t a great high school student. He wasn’t a great college student. Like most of what he did was drink beer. And then he went to his confirmation hearing and admitted, like, I like beer. 

Justice Kavanaugh [00:02:31] Sometimes I had too many beers, sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:40] And he still became a Supreme Court justice. Right. If you juxtapose that with Kentaji Brown Jackson. Right. Like she was attacked for being good at things. She was attacked for being good at getting people who were unfairly incarcerated out of prison. She was, you know, unfairly attacked for supporting actions that fight for equality in college admissions or what white people call affirmative action. Because white people have, a lot of white people, a majority of white people, according to polls, believe that affirmative action unfairly, you know, disadvantages white people. And that’s because white mediocrity allows white people to advance because we built the whole system for them. Right. And that’s the difference between white mediocrity and Black excellence. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:45] Like I often tell people I only go to Black doctors and I only use Black lawyers and people say, that’s kind of racist. And I was like, Nah, because I know how America is constructed and the way America works is whenever you find a Black doctor, they were probably the smartest person in their high school, probably the smartest person in their middle school, their elementary school, in their college class. And then they got into law school. Right. Versus a white person who’s dad was probably a doctor. They probably went to a good what they call a good high school. So mediocre, regular, everyday dollar general brand white people can achieve beyond their talent, beyond their aptitude by just following the rules because the rules were built for them. And there are great examples of this besides education. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:53] One of the greatest examples is education, though, and what I mean by that is that most Black people, 60% of Black high school students, attend schools that are majority Black. And we know that majority Black schools are underfunded compared to majority white school districts. So when a Black child manages to get into Harvard or to a good college, it means they had to work harder because they didn’t have the resources that white kids have. Right. And so the mediocre white student has achieved the same thing as this Black student who worked very hard, but the Black student achieved it with less. Black schools have fewer libraries for instance. Black schools have bigger class sizes. So they literally had fewer things to read, less computers, and they still managed to do the things that got them to the pinnacle of achievement. And all the white kid had to do was just go to school, graduate. And that’s why you can achieve things through white mediocrity. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:16] And one of the metaphors that I like to use when people assault white mediocrity as something that’s anti-white or this is the big one. Reverse racism. White people really believe in reverse racism because they think stuff like affirmative action policies that try to equalize the disparities in education, the criminal justice system, economics that they are anti-white. And here’s a metaphor for that. So imagine if you were born into a village where your great great grandfather was the Chief. And your great grandfather was the Chief. And your grandfather was the Chief. And your father was the Chief. And now it is time for you to become Chief. And the reason that you will become Chief is because you are bigger and stronger and wiser then all of the other villagers, just as your grandfather was, and his father and his great grandfather. And when it’s time for you to be named Chief, someone steps forward and say, “Hey, wait. Like, why does he get to be named Chief?” And everybody explains, you see how big it is and you see how strong he is and you see how wise he is. Like, that’s why he should be Chief, because he’s stronger and wiser than everybody else. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:49] And the one villager said, Yeah, but, you know, like when we go out hunting the Chief gets the first pick of the food, so he has better nutrition than us. So if you ate better for five generations, wouldn’t you be bigger? Wouldn’t you be stronger? And yeah, when we’re out hunting, he’s at home studying. So it makes sense that he’s wiser, right? Because his grandparents let him study and his parents let him study. And you know what? Like when we go out or when we go to war, he doesn’t have to come. So not only does he have more time to study, but he doesn’t face the danger that we face. So he has more generations with longer life to pass down, more generations of knowledge. So of course, he’s wise and everybody thinks about him. They say, you know what? That makes good sense. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to choose a new Chief, and we’re going to choose somebody who can be strong, wise, and a great warrior. And the old Chief says, Well, you know what? Like, I’m already strong, I’m already wise, I’m already a great warrior. Why don’t you just name and he says, nah, you can’t participate because you benefit from Chief privilege, right? Like you have generations of privilege that may big. What if there’s somebody who could be bigger and stronger and wiser than you, but they don’t get the food, they don’t get the time, they don’t get the benefit of the generational privilege that you had. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:28] And so the Chief can’t compete and the villagers decide wait instead of just choosing the Chief, why don’t we just all go out hunting and we just share all of the food that we pick and nobody gets the first pick. And why don’t we let everybody learn? And why don’t we choose the best fighters to go fight? And they do that. And what happens is the people with the aptitude for hunting, they’re the only ones who go out hunting. But because it’s the best hunters, they get more food. And because they get more food, everybody in the village gets stronger. And because everybody in the village gets stronger. Without everybody in the village having to go out and hunt, everybody in the village has time to learn. And because everybody in the village has time to learn. The smart people get smarter and become wiser because the smart people get smarter and become wiser and they have better nutrition. The best warriors only have to go out and fight. And because they have an army composed of all the best warriors, the village is safer and the people live longer, which gives them more time to pass down generational knowledge, which makes the village wiser, stronger, better educated, and bigger and stronger. And somebody says, Man, that’s a great system. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:54] But if you ask the Chief, the Chief will tell you he was once the biggest, the strongest, the wisest person in the village, and he was set to become Chief. But now he’s hungry because, you know, when he was Chief, he never learned how to. Hunt and everybody’s stronger than him now because he never had to go to war and his stomach can’t handle the second pickings of the hunt. So, you know, he doesn’t get as much nutrition and he’ll tell you that he should have been Chief. But then his village went woke. Because they were anti-chief. And that is white mediocrity explained. And that’s why you should download theGrio app. That’s why you should follow us on every platform and subscribe on every platform. That’s why you should tell your friends about this podcast. And that’s why we leave you with a great Black saying and today’s Black saying is it takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to dismantle white supremacy. 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 podcasts at theGrio dot com. 

[00:12:29] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.