A day after CNN educated us on the racist implications of words like “blacklist” and “peanut gallery,” writer David Kaufman has published a piece on Medium decrying the “unintentional racism found in traffic signals.”
Kaufman, whose Wikipedia goes out of its way to tell us that he is “openly gay,” proves in the piece that he is openly moronic as well. But then, for a journalist trying to make a name for himself in a media culture as diseased as this one, maybe he’s smarter than we’re giving him credit for. The problem may have less to do with his intelligence and more to do with his capacity to feel shame.
From Kaufman’s idiotic contribution to American conversation:
A few months back, before Covid-19 kept us in our homes and George Floyd made us take to the streets, I was walking with a friend, her daughter, and my twin sons. My friend is White and I’m not — something I’d never given a second thought until we reached a crosswalk. “Remember, honey,” she said to her daughter as we waited for the light to turn green, “we need to wait for the little White man to appear before we can cross the street.”
I realize that White people like to exert control over nearly everything everyone does, I thought, but since when did this literally include trying to cross the street?
Who knows? When did it happen that otherwise-sane writers could pen something this imbecilic, proofread it, and then think to themselves, Yes, this is ready for widespread publication!
Kaufman devotes much of the rest of the piece to a detailed history of crosswalk signals, which we won’t bore you with. Suffice to say, he learns that the “little White man” is not actually “White” at all, and there was never meant to be any race connoted by its usage. It’s simply meant to be bright and easy to understand for people who may not be literate.
A thoughtful man might have reconsidered publishing this piece after coming to this realization. Kaufman is not that man.
“While this highly politicized period does demand a racial rethink, overhauling the stoplight industrial complex is probably not the best use of our resources,” Kaufman concludes. “A White man isn’t really telling us when to cross the street, even if we hear a friend blithely expressing it in those terms.
“Nonetheless,” he writes, “that little White man woke me up to the ways that language imparts power and privilege even upon the most banal necessities. And so, as I begin teaching my boys survival basics like riding a bike, waiting in line, and… yes… crossing the street, I’ll work hard to avoid phrases like ‘little White man.’ Obviously ‘bright light person’ rolls off the tongue far less mellifluously, but a bit of extra verbal labor is worth the price of not conceding our power to even one more little White man.”
If you’re so insecure in your power as an individual that you read racial control schemes into a crosswalk sign…systemic racism is not your biggest problem.