The publication RaceBaitR describes itself as “a platform created to explore the various ways race is expressed and defined with the goal of creating a world without racism and all of its intersecting oppressions.”
“Some might call this race baiting,” the site’s “About” page reads. “Okay. This space is dedicated to imagining and working toward a world outside of the white supremacist gaze. Those who insist on wielding that gaze can call us what you like. We aren’t talking to you.”
I actually wouldn’t call “a platform created to explore the various ways race is expressed and defined with the goal of creating a world without racism and all of its intersecting oppressions” race-baiting — just eye-rollingly pompous.
But, see, it’s not just that.
It’s also the kind of place where someone can post an article called “Seeing poor white people makes me happy.”
And it’s the kind of place where it’s penned by a journalist who was, at least until recently, an associate professor of English at a state university.
The article by Nicholas Powers — which has since been deleted — is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Also deleted is Powers’ faculty webpage at SUNY Old Westbury, which returns an “Access Denied” message if one goes to it. (It was active as recently as June 14, however, if a capture of the page from archive.today is any indication. That was three days after the date on the RaceBaitR article reads and one day before the most recent capture of it.)
He’s also been featured by “Psychedelics Today” (which is a podcast that seems to be about pretty much what it sounds like):
Nicholas Powers Ph.D. is a poet, journalist, and Associate Professor of English, SUNY Old Westbury. Nick joins us to talk about psychedelics, race, cultural diversity, and the future of psychedelics. https://t.co/Yrs0TMyj1N
— Psychedelics Today (@PsydelicsToday) May 19, 2018
This article appeared at RaceBaitR. Its theme certainly matched the website’s name, even if it didn’t, perhaps, “explore the various ways race is expressed … with the goal of creating a world without racism and all of its intersecting oppressions.”
“‘Should I kick him in the face? Hard? No, chill, he’s not worth it. But why is this white boy begging for money in a Black neighborhood? Is he stupid?’” the article began.
“I shake the evil out of my head and go into the subway. He comes every Spring. The homeless white boy flaps down like a dirty migratory bird, makes himself a nest from garbage and sleeps on the sidewalk. A sign on his shopping cart asks for money — I never give. I should tho ‘cause he makes me feel good.
“White people begging us for food feels like justice,” Powers continues, in a paragraph that’s in bold text. “It feels like Afro-Futurism after America falls. It feels like a Black Nationalist wet dream. It has the feels I rarely feel, a hunger for historical vengeance satisfied so well I rub my belly.”
This guy has apparently thought about poor white people a lot, and in ways that almost seem prurient. He seems to know that he shouldn’t, except that perhaps he should.
“I know it’s not a good look. At least I think I know? I have the ghost of Martin Luther King Jr. in my head like a life coach exhorting me to ‘be my best self,’ ‘show compassion to those who spite you,’ ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘don’t give our enemies more reasons to hate us.’ I need to kick Martin Luther King Jr. out of my head. Go f— another secretary Martin! I need to ask what this white homeless boy means to me.
“White homeless poor in the ‘hood are a Rorschach test. I see in them the history of colonization, slavery and mass incarceration that makes their begging Black people for money ironic — if not insulting. You wasted your whiteness! Why should we give to you? Others see that same history, but for them, he is a chance to be MLK’s dream.
“Here is a descendant of murderers who killed our ancestors now begging us to save their life. So let’s turn the other cheek! But it’s not always honest. It is the trick of internalized racism that Black anger is transformed into showy altruism to show the ‘white gaze’ that we’re safe — good Negroes. So we aren’t attacked by more powerful whites — instead rewarded by them.”
Leaving aside the fact that “being your best self” sounds a little more Joel Osteen than Martin Luther King Jr., one wonders how this fine gentleman feels about what “Afro-Futurism after America falls” is going to look like. It’ll apparently be a lot more racist than that “history of colonization, slavery and mass incarceration” that has him loving poor white people looks like.
Indeed, he condemns “an older Caribbean woman, devoutly Christian” who gave the beggar jerk chicken while ignoring “a legless brother pushing his wheelchair through traffic, asking for change.” Powers is a bit more forgiving toward “three brothers” who spit on the homeless man, empathizing with their behavior: “They might as well shook slave chains in his face and said, ‘Now you get to wear these n—a!’”
Powers’ feelings seemed to have calcified into something uglier upon another encounter with the poor white guy.
“The other day I jogged up the subway stairs and saw the homeless white boy again,” he wrote. “’Can you get me something to eat,’ he barked out to the river of people passing by. ‘Someone stole all my s—!’ Scabs covered his mouth. He was sunburnt and thin. I ignored him but thought ‘Baby, you stole all mine.’ I glanced at his blanket, shopping cart and books. Who is he? Why is he here? Where are his people?
“I stopped myself. It’s the Martin Luther King Jr. life-coach again, saying, ‘Love your enemies! Get to know them as people.’ No Dr. King! Today I own my anger. I want to snatch his food and say, ‘Go beg in a white neighborhood!’ And eat it. And rub my belly. And laugh.
“I smile. The cruelty cures my internalized racism that forces me to empathize with him — so I can be patted on the head like a good peaceful protester. All my white editors want me to write that way. All the white institutions that pay me want me to feel that way. But I don’t — and saying I don’t is freeing. It pulls the unconscious whiteness out of my brain. I don’t need to see my best or worst self reflected on his skin.”
Mr. Powers, I’d say your worst self was pretty well-reflected, given the fact that you’re the only person I’ve ever heard of that felt the need to rub his belly over white homeless people.
Perhaps the folks at RaceBaitR realized this too, since the article is no longer there. (I have to ask — was the name “RaceBaiter” already taken? Did they want their publication to sound like an ill-advised Xbox gamertag?)
Or perhaps Powers realized that while the genuine happiness of seeing poor white people may have made him figuratively rub his belly in a sated manner, the same couldn’t be said in any literal sense — especially considering his job with New York’s state university system no doubt provided some reasonable contribution to his income.
And that’s the real problem here:
This is a guy who’s openly expressing the fact he hates poor white people, so much so that he enjoys their suffering. There’s no amount of talk about “Afro-Futurism after America falls” or “a hunger for historical vengeance satisfied so well I rub my belly” that can possibly justify this as anything but arrant racism.
So, what about the poor white people he comes across in his journalistic pursuits? What about the academically challenged white students in his classes? How does he treat them? Does he give them the same sort of odious treatment he apparently gives homeless white people and then lean back in his chair, loosening his belt at a meal of racist “historical vengeance”?
Given the tenor of this article, those are legitimate questions — particularly to the taxpayers that paid this man’s salary.
SUNY Old Westbury has been contacted regarding Mr. Powers’ article and his employment status with the institution. If we receive any response, we will update this piece.
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