You’ve undoubtedly heard of the “race card” before and, apparently, there’s now a “woman card” as well. But did you know that there’s also a “good person” card (GPC)?

Well, there is!

It normally gets pulled out whenever folks are talking about systems of oppression (be they patriarchy or institutional racism) and the impact and consequences of said systems on various groups of people. Upon hearing about systemic police brutality, or sexual assault, or the school-to-prison-pipeline, the “good person” (who doesn’t experience this system of opression) pulls out his card, earnestly declaring:

But, but, I’m a gooood person!  See *holds up good person card as proof*

Sometimes the GPC  sounds like this:

But, I’m a nice guy. Not ALL (insert group) people.

It’s such a nonsensical reply when you think about it. I mean, try replying “but, I’m a good person” to any of the following statements:

My grandmother died last night.

But, I’m a good person!

I was sexually assaulted by my professor.

But, I’m a good person!

My unarmed brother was shot by the police yesterday.

But, I’m a good person!

You see what I mean by nonsensical? Whether you are a good person or not doesn’t change the painful reality that my grandmother is dead, that I was sexually assaulted, or that police brutality falls the hardest on black bodies. Your self-granted good personhood doesn’t in any way diminish the system of oppression — it doesn’t make it less real, or less brutal, or less dangerous –it has zero bearing on the reality of the system.

In fact, this non sequitur only benefits the cardholder by serving two purpose. One, it acts as a set of blinders that insulates its bearers from seeing the destruction caused by oppressive systems. Activating the GPC stops the conversation in progress. It’s the literal equivalent of sticking your hands in your hears, closing your eyes and shouting “nah nah boo boo” to avoid hearing the truth (and difficulty) of reality. I’m a good person who doesn’t experience this particular oppression so I don’t want to hear about it less it disturb my comfortable bubble of ignorance.

The second purpose of the GPC is to act as a form of self-dispensation. By declaring oneself a “good person,” one exempts oneself from, and absolves oneself of responsibility for a brutalizing, oppressive system. I’m a good person; it’s the bad people out there who are responsible for this system. Not me. 

Additionally,  wielding your GPC recenters a conversation (that isn’t about you) to you. Institutional racism or patriarchy or colonialism is now about you and your feelings of good personhoood rather than the folks who are directly impacted (and killed) by such systems.

“Good person,” particularly in this context, seems to be little more than a bromide with no real life application and reminds me much of the dead faith mentioned in James 2:18:

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

Indeed, show me your goodness with your actions.  Are you really a “good person” if you watch as your neighbors are killed in the street and you do nothing to stop it? Can you still claim good personhood if the system that you benefit from does so by theft and brutality against others? Where does the good in a “good person” lie if not on the side of justice?

What you actually mean when you flash your shiny GPC in my direction is: I’m a nice, inoffensive person. I don’t curse out my children’s teacher or punch my annoying co-worker in the nose (even when I want to). And while I believe in Liberty and Justice (and all of the other Captial Ideas) in theory, I’m not willing to do anything to make that a reality. I will do nothing to rock the boat or deviate from the status quo. Your good personhood isn’t connected to any real life action; your beliefs and principles exist solely in the theoretical realm.

The next time someone starts telling you about racism, or any systemic oppression, and you’d rather bury your head in the sand, just hand them one of these cards instead:

Good person credit card
**And for the love of God, don’t teach your children to be “good people”. Teach them to be disrupters of the status quo, professional boat rockers, pot-stirrers extraordinaire. Teach them to be on the side of justice even if it cost them their middle-class comfort. Teach them that belief without action is meaningless. Whatever you do, don’t pass down your “good person” card.

3 Comment on “The Good Person Card (GPC)

  1. Pingback: The Solution to Racism | Pretty For A Black Girl

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