Notice: This post is a rant, and its target audience is disillusioned black people who socialize with whites.
I feel as if I’ve awakened to a new reality. The new reality I woke up to on 11/9 took an entire day of anger, bitterness, and frustration to work through. Prior to the election results, my world view was that while racism was not dead, it was dying. I thought most Americans had a visceral disdain for bigotry. While I was familiar with white privilege, I felt that it was passively inherited by most whites, not aggressively sought after and defended. I used to see a big difference between the rabid racism of southern whites and the condescending clueless racism of (well-meaning) white liberals.
I no longer believe any of this. While I still believe that deep down most people want to do the right thing, the persistent reality is that fear, greed, and selfishness distort our perceptions of what the “right thing” really is. Fear and greed cause humans to clamp down and react protectively, selfishly, hatefully, even murderously, in order to protect what they think they are in danger of losing.
Yesterday “we” chose a leader who unabashedly embraces principles, ideas, mindsets, and behaviors that I thought “we” rejected: overt racism and physical violence against black people; sexual assault and misogyny; the mocking of the physically challenged; religious bigotry; the destruction of families through deportation; financial unaccountability and fraud; willful ignorance; and blatant disrespect. President-elect Donald Trump is a man who unapologetically embodies the credo “might makes right.” I knew he would appeal to a lot of Americans because America houses an enormous number of bigots. But I had hoped that the equally unapologetic goodness and idealism of a Bernie Sanders would capture the American imagination and tap into their latent ambition to do well AND do good.
However, through various shenanigans, we ended up Clinton and Trump – two formidable members of the white power structure, willing and able to throw anyone under the bus in order to obtain the raw power each so lustfully craves. One represented old school phony-baloney, patronizing-lip-service-to-minorities, sleeping-with-Deep-Pockets while wearing-a-lovely-pantsuit interests. The other one represented old school Southern-Strategy, n-word-dropping-while-not-actually-saying-it, frat-boy, greedy-soulless-capitalist white male interests. The battle between these two was not a battle the American people – least of all its most vulnerable citizens – could ever win. Trump is not a fresh new voice. There is nothing new about his message. What’s new is that he said it on TV and was handsomely rewarded for it with non-stop media coverage/free advertising. The Southern Strategy is no longer southern but it still works. Having to accept this sad fact is what awakened me to my new reality.
My new reality is that white liberals and white conservatives have more in common than I was formerly willing to admit. (As it is always necessary to give this tired disclaimer when trying to discuss racism: I am not saying that all whites are racist). The word “racist” itself is played out and almost meaningless. No, white people are not all racists. But all white people benefit from white supremacy, which is the tacit acceptance and belief in white superiority. White supremacy is not the KKK. White supremacy is the assumption that everything white is normal, correct, and just, while everything non-white suffers from various levels of abnormality and inferiority. It is not necessary to believe this in order to be affected by, or to benefit from, white supremacy.
White people are not the only ones affected by white supremacy. There are a disturbing number of black white supremacists. In fact, anyone with a pulse and some degree of cognition has been affected by the tenets of white supremacy. It is hard to convince people of this because it is like the air we breathe. Watch a movie; turn on the television; read a history book; study the impact of various laws, penal codes, and institutions; or try to get a job, and you will be confronted with white supremacy. It is invisible, like oxygen, but it is there.
Because it is invisible, many white liberals explain away Trump’s presidency by talking about emails and the DNC, but refuse to acknowledge the persistent seduction of white supremacy. They will flat-out deny race is an issue and condescendingly explain to you what the REAL issues are. Emails, of course. And the DNC.
So, I’ve decided to give up. I can’t explain white supremacy or racism to any more white people. It is a drain on my physical health, my emotional well-being, and my spirit. Incidentally, this applies not only to race. Whenever you are dealing with a terrible reality that other people refuse to acknowledge, you must withdraw from those people. Find your “species”. Embrace like-minded people and make strategic plans for genuine change. Get the support you need, but don’t wallow in bemoaning reality or trying to convince others of it. Actions speak louder than words.
No one who benefits from a system will be motivated to change it – until that system also becomes painful for them. There are a growing number of white people who are finding white supremacy painful. Kudos to them! We who acknowledge and despise racism must figure out ways to make racism painful for the people who perpetuate and/or benefit from it.
I don’t believe this requires complete withdrawal from white society, as some advocate. Befriend all people, but keep in the back of your mind where their loyalties lie. Become articulate about the issues so that, while avoiding explaining racism to them – which doesn’t work – you can take advantage of teachable moments as they come up. Speak your piece while holding your ground. Recommend books and documentaries that explain the issues better than you can. Then leave them alone to believe whatever they want to believe.
What I believe in, is Black Self-Determinism. We have earned a right to have peace and justice in this country. We deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, just like any other group. We must be free to make individual choices, but should keep the good of the whole in mind. We deserve a level playing field, which is far from present-day reality. As a group, we have been tampered with, damaged, and hemmed in. And, while we must fight for full legal and social equality – such as the complete dismantling and refashioning of the police force and the end of mass-incarceration – we are the only ones we can count on. We must find ways to prosper that don’t involve begging the power structures for what they stole from us in the first place. We have to do our best to help ourselves while demanding the fair and just application of the lofty ideals this country purportedly stands for.
Again, racism will not be eradicated by those who benefit from it. They can help, but they cannot and will not end it. Racism can only fade gracefully into the background as self-determining black people demand and command society’s respect through organized resistance and the building up of our own communities. Conscious white allies can support those efforts if their conscience so moves them. But the impetus for change must come from within.
The good news is that the lines are very clearly drawn. Anyone who is paying attention can now see what we’re up against as a society. Now that we know the truth, some of us are willing to drop former illusions and deal with it. “Change” is a limp, impotent word that has little meaning. The new reality calls for a revolution. The revolution starts with one’s own consciousness and, from there, reveals itself in well-thought-out, strategic action.
Good luck to all of you who care about these issues as you find suitable places to work and serve.
Peace and blessings,