The Nation justice correspondent Elie Mystal recently experienced something that has only made him even more nervous about re-entering society as COVID19 vaccinations become more common and the pandemic winds down.

And he’d like to tell you about it:

(White customers have most definitely never been mistaken for store employees, obviously.)

Sounds like that old white lady was pretty rude (so weird to encounter rude old ladies in New York City!). Was she racist? That’s less clear. And it certainly doesn’t seem intellectually honest to use that experience to impugn white people as a whole.

In fact, that seems pretty … what’s the word we’re looking for? Oh, right: racist.

Mystal writes:

I’ve said, here and elsewhere, that one of the principal benefits of the pandemic is how I’ve been able to exclude racism and whiteness generally from my day-to-day life. Over the past year, I have, of course, still had to interact with white people on Zoom or watch them on television or worry about whether they would succeed in reelecting a white-supremacist president. But white people aren’t in my face all of the time. I can, more or less, only deal with whiteness when I want to. Their cops aren’t hunting me when I drive through my neighborhood; their hang-ups aren’t bothering me (or threatening me) when I’m just trying to do some shopping.

That’s because I haven’t been driving or shopping in person. White people haven’t improved; I’ve just been able to limit my exposure to them. I’ve turned my house into Wakanda: a technically advanced, globally isolated home base from which I can pick and choose when and how often to interact with white people.

To be clear, it’s not that most or even many of my interactions with white people are “bad”; it’s that I’m able to choose when to expose myself to interactions with potentially bad white people. That choice is a privilege I’ve never really had until this past year. Going out into white society for me is a little bit like a beekeeper going to get honey. I know what I’m doing: If I put on the right protection and blow enough smoke, most of the bees will leave me alone and the ones who don’t won’t really cause me that much pain. But I’ve got to put on the suit and the hat with the mesh and carry the smoke machine and be careful every time I want some goddamn honey. This year, it’s been like somebody said, “You know the honey comes in bottles now, right? You don’t have to risk being stung every time you want some food.”

So, white people are like bees that you need to protect yourself from. Got it, Elie.

Here’s Elie Mystal making sweeping generalizations about white people, suggesting that, at best, they’re not aware of their own inherent racism and, at worst, black people aren’t safe around them.


Pointing out that being upset about being in the company of white people is “white fragility”? Sounds like it’s Elie Mystal whose intellectual growth is stunted.