It’s Hero Time: Henry Rollins Succinctly Sums Up White American Privilege

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If you like your truth handed to you like a good cuppa joe — strong, unadulterated caffeine that’ll wake you up like a hard slap in the face — Henry Rollins is your spirit animal. This man has a way of laying things out for even the dimmest among us; nobody can miss the message. Racism has been rampant in our country since forever and, despite certain steps toward equality, it continues to lurk under that fancy tablecloth we’ve draped over it. As Rollins notes, social media is like that little kid who keeps pulling up the edge, exposing the ugliness: “Hey, what’s that under there?” … knocking over glasses and a basket of rolls; we privileged guests can’t help but see what’s underneath, and it’s our own damned responsibility to lift off that cover and clean up the mess we’ve made. And, if we won’t, Henry’s right here to rip it the rest of the way off, throw it in our faces, and call bullshit on our pretenses. With his latest op-ed, Rollins lays out his own advantage and experiences and challenges white America to take matters into our own hands:

In light of the recent police shootings in Texas and the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, both killed by members of law enforcement — just the latest three of the many examples of obscene, needless deaths in America — one could conclude that all hell has broken loose and things are falling apart. I do not agree.

Things are bad, but I would posit that they have been this way for as far back into American history as you want to go. What has changed is the amount of information available to the average citizen. Thanks to cellphones and people employing social networking to spread news quickly, what goes on minute to minute has crossed the line into overload.

Now that you can watch people die on Facebook, your evaluation of the facts and the sheer amount of information you want to deal with is up to you. But you can no longer say you don’t know what’s going on.

The despicable litanies of willfully ignorant denial and misinformation I have heard spouted in the last several days by pieces of shit like Rudy Giuliani all but ensure that things will get worse. The mainstream media outlets allow this utter crap to slide by unchallenged and, by doing so, legitimize falsehoods that could get people killed. Ratings-based, 24/7, for-profit media is the complete death of true journalism and a catapult for propaganda.

If white America experienced a fraction of what black America deals with regarding law enforcement, incarceration, the court system, employment and countless other facts of life, they would immediately and collectively lose their minds.

Rollins goes on to detail his realization that there are “at least two Americas,” something he came to understand when he was eight years old and in a DC public school; the distinction of skin color and its inherent advantages were and are impossible to ignore.

I’m an educated, Caucasian, heterosexual male. Does this ensure I will have success and live the American Dream? Obviously it doesn’t, but it damn sure drops me on second base with a great opportunity to steal third.

We all realize there is no quick solution to our country’s divide — no “presidential pen stroke or SCOTUS decision” will fix a thing — but Rollins has some solid advice we as individuals can easily follow; what’s necessary for real change:

…. You have to take it upon yourself to be an infinitely fantastic person every single day. There will be times when it will be a bitch to be so awesome, but you’ll handle it. This century will be about incredible individuals. Bold acts of kindness and a genuine desire to at least try to see things from someone else’s perspective are but two of the mandatory requirements for betterment moving forward.

Don’t wait for your government. It’s a broken machine that can only deliver damaged goods. Prejudice coats the mechanics of the USA’s OS. Attempts to clean the parts are attacked as big-government, special-interest meddling. It’s by no means a Gordian knot, but a total system retool is required. It would be incredibly expensive and time-consuming, and the growing pains would be enormous. Not gonna happen.

Equality, tolerance and decency are not inherently American or human traits. They are values you choose to adopt and use or not. So, be amazing all the time.

Read Rollins’ full piece here.

 

I’m talking to you. Hero time starts right now, yeah.
If you think you’ve got 100 extra years to mess around you’re wrong.
This time is real. your time is now. it’s hero time. [Rollins Band, Shine]

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over seven years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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  • emmalita

    I read his piece about a half hour ago, and then I listened to a report on Philando Castile’s history of traffic stops. 46 times in his years as a driver. 46. I have been stopped 6 times. Two of those times I didn’t get a ticket because the officer just wanted to let me know I had a light out. We need to get angry, but we also need to be kinder. Do no harm. Take no shit.

  • Mr Bissonette
  • Freetheklingons

    Some Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door last weekend. I answered, because I have a few minutes and why not: I speak Bible and I do sincerely appreciate Jesus’ message. The lovely young women asked me if I ever thought human suffering would end in our society. I answered truthfully: No I do not think so. What, they asked me, do I plan to do about it? I answered the same way I answered my conscience: Be kind. Be reasonable. Compromise. Ask myself What Would Jane Austen Do (answer: be civil and polite). Have empathy. These are the least I can do, but they are things I CAN do. I’m bewildered by this current climate of division and intolerance. But I refuse to become hardened. That, too, I can do: remain vulnerable and human.

    I have an odd relationship with Rollins, but I cannot deny that this essay is moving and resonant and true. We have a lot to think about, Humans. And not a lot of time to act.

    • emmalita

      Rollins is definitely a complicated messenger, but I approve this message. Also, I love What Would Jane Austin Do? I usually go with What Would Julia Child Do? Because the answer to that is either add butter, or eat good food with good people.