The recent demonstrations in Charlottesville by white supremacists have been all over the news in the past few weeks. My initial response is to think, “Those are the bad white people!” so that I can feel smug. But feeling smug is not conducive to ending white supremacy. It’s also a lie.
I’m writing this post to help me process some of my thoughts about white supremacy and the role I play in it. Pointing the finger at white supremacy is useful, but I think it’s important for white people to remember to point that finger at themselves as well.
If I’m being honest, I can find many instances in my life where I unintentionally practice white supremacy. But actually, whether or not these actions are intentional, they still have the same impact: supporting white supremacy. Intention is irrelevant.
Here’s some of the insidious ways I support white supremacy:
- Blaming racism on other people – This is a way of shirking responsibility. It’s a rationalization for not taking action. “White supremacy isn’t my fault – it’s those damn Nazis! Why should I do anything about it?” Truth is, even if I don’t drop N-bombs or shout ‘Blue lives matter,’ I have plenty of implicit bias that typically flies under the radar. In other words, my subconscious is racist AF. And my subconscious mind probably makes the majority of my decisions for me which means I’m pretty much racist AF.
- Take this test developed by Harvard to discover your implicit bias
- Wanting to be perceived as a “good white person.” This is on the flip-side of the last one. They’re bad, I’m good. This will likely spur more hatred and disconnect between me and people I perceive as ‘bad.’ It’s pretentious, elitist, and another excuse for me to take less action
- Getting trapped in guilt and shame – sometimes when I think about white supremacy and realize some of the ways in which I contribute to it, I get all emo. Feeling guilt and shame is fine – but when I feel so terrible that I decide to stop thinking about it and/or not do anything about it, that only makes things worse.
- Check out Robin DiAngelo’s article “White Fragility” for a much more in depth explanation of this phenomenon
- Perhaps the most problematic of them all is how unaware I am of my offenses. I’m sure I do much more terrible shit and have no idea about it. I’m so used to privilege, I don’t usually notice when it’s happening and when I’m abusing it.
White friends – I invite you to ask yourself: do you also do these things?
My hope is that by writing about this, I will shed some light on the issue so I’ll be more aware and do it less in the future. Hopefully it will also help me be a little more humble and maybe even get other white people to change their thinking and actions. I don’t believe it’s possible to completely root out my own internalized racism. I also think it’s unlikely we’ll ever see the end of systemic racism. But I think if I ignore one or the other, it’s more likely I’ll be doing more harm than good.
- I’m racist, whether I like it or not (and so are all white people)
- I need to do work on myself, not just point the finger
- I need to do work in community, not just by myself
I’ve been trying to learn about this stuff a lot lately, and am still a major noob. Here’s some of the more influential stuff that’s contributed to my understanding and writing of this post –