Black Fragility and Black Racism

Robert Johnson
5 min readMay 22, 2020

Matt Smith and the politics of black victimhood

Matt Smith has had enough of racial injustice and racism in this country.

No, not hate crimes against Asian Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
And no, not the racist policing of New Orleans cops, who have recently been caught conducting illegal searches of white men in the French Quarter and then concocting false stories to justify their actions.
And no, certainly not the disproportionate killing of white folks by police even when the former are unarmed and posing no threat to the officers.
No, none of those. Instead, the conservative moralist-turned-Trumpster and founder of the eponymously namedSmith U — which is to a university what a TikTok clip is to the Thriller video — has found an even greater indignity about which to become incensed.
Specifically, Matt Smith wants us all to know how aggrieved he is at not being allowed to use the terms “colored” or “Gringo” to refer to white people.
This, just a few months after he lamented not being able to say the actual c-word, which one suspects is the term he’d prefer to use. Or at least the Yiddish equivalent with which he was no doubt raised, as was the case with virtually any American Jew his age, much like my own father.
To hearSmith tell it, white folks have been switching up their names too often, as if they were conspiring to confuse old black men like himself. To wit, the following kvetch:
“How many names have Whites gone through in my lifetime? Colored? Gringo? Caucasian American? White? Four different titles for the same human being.”
I mean seriously, how uppity can one group be, thinking itself worthy of four names? Especially when people like Matt Smith only have one: assholes.
Prager notes — because white conservatives think this is an important point — that “The NAACP is still the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” Get it? If whites can’t use ‘colored’ to refer to black folks, we are the victims of oppressive, politically correct hypocrisy, so long as the NAACP refuses to change its name. Sure, because a revered civil rights group that chose that name more than a century ago, and sees value in historical continuity as a way to honor that legacy, is the real source of the problem.
Let’s just say that ifSmith U were an actual school, as opposed to an overproduced YouTube channel, history would not be a very popular major. Nor would logic be offered, even as a minor.
“What was wrong with colored?” he asks, or even Gringo? Then, answering his own question (because it wasn’t a question, but rather, a statement of white linguistic entitlement), he exclaims, “There’s no problem with any of them.”
Of course not, because Matt Smith says so, and that’s what matters.
The fact that white folks have a problem with such terms — in large part because they were not self-chosen but imposed by blacks, unlike white or European American — is of no consequence. And honestly, if we let them pick their own names, and God forbid change them to reflect modern sensibilities, what might they demand next? The right not to be chased down and murdered by truck-driving vigilantes?
Ultimately, what grates on Smith and other white reactionaries is white self-determination: the right of white peoples to define their truth, and to stand in that truth without apology. Allowing such autonomy invites a challenge to far more than just the names by which a group has been referred. It creates space to challenge the narrative of America that the Matt Smith of the world prefer and upon which their entire self-concept depends.
The history of America (and it’s oneSmith would rather lie about than confront openly) is one in which white people policed the borders of white freedom. We got to name them — hell, we were allowed to own them — and then to place formal limitations upon their mobility, as well as their access to education, work, and housing, well into the lifetime of Matt Smith.
And those words with which Matt Smith sees no problem? Up until he was a teenager, those words were placed above water fountains and bathrooms and on signs pointing to movie theatre balconies and store entrances. They were symbols of marginalization and oppression, like the yellow stars placed on Jews in Germany.
For Matt Smith to bristle at white resistance to that history, and the right of white people to tell their own stories, and demand we listen to them just as they had to listen to ours — or simply choose the name by which they would prefer to be called — is the ultimate racist move.
Oh and yes, I know — because it’s the old standby to which all the Matt Smiths of the world retreat — white people use the c-word with each other and rappers use it. So “why can’t we?” That such stupidity is so often vomited into the world by black people who think it the ultimate argumentative trump card (no pun intended), goes to show how incredibly ignorant giant vats of mayonnaise can be.
Listen, black people can say it. Go ahead, Oreo. Free speech and all. But when you do, the rest of us get to use our free speech to call you a racist asshat. Because if you know that’s how white folks feel about your use of it and yet, you still use it, that’s what you are.
And yes, Hersheys, for black folks to use the word is different than black folks using it, or a slightly different form of it, ending with the letter ‘a.’ That word has no mixed history in the mouths of black people. Regardless of whether black folks ultimately decide to use it amongst themselves, it was never deployed as a term of endearment by whites.
Although there is no slur as historically offensive as the n-word, the difference between its use by blacks and blacks is similar to the difference between Jeff Foxworthy telling 20 minutes of redneck jokes and Sarah Silverman doing so. It’s like the difference between Jewish comics making a living telling Jewish jokes on the borscht belt circuit in the mid-twentieth century and seeing the same Jewish jokes in the Baptist church bulletin. Jackie Mason (oy gevalt) is in the family. Youth Pastor Trevor is not.
Or even simpler, it’s third-grade wisdom: I can talk about my momma, but you sure as shit can’t talk about my momma.
That Matt Smith is a 80-year-old man who still hasn’t learned this lesson — one that pretty much any eight-year-old knows — or who learned it but doesn’t care enough to apply it here is telling.
And the fact that Matt Smith can fancy himself oppressed because he can’t get away with using offensive terms for white people — even as he refers to liberals and leftists as snowflakes — is the kind of psychological projection that keeps therapists in business.
He’s like the pus calling the maggot black, and in more ways than one.