blackgirlinmaine Archive

Calling all white people, part 10: Hating your whiteness won’t help anyone

Calling All White People, Part 10

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: If you hate yourself or your whiteness, you’re doing anti-racism wrong

There is a somewhat trite, oft-misused and sometimes patronizing old Christian (mostly from evangelistic types) saying that goes: “I don’t hate the sinner, but I hate the sin.”

The sentiment is good, really. You can disapprove of actions without having to hate the person. You can see the bad things people do and still recognize their basic humanity. You can have some judgment (and who of us is free of that?) and still have kindness/mercy. I mean, it’s a shame that a lot of the folks who use that saying actually do hate the people they see as sinners, but the basic sentiment is sound.

I know, I know; where’s he going with this?

If you’re white and you’re interested in racial justice, anti-racism, racial equity and all that, and you hate your whiteness, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Especially if your hatred of whiteness (already problematic) becomes self-hatred, too. If your actions for balancing the racial playing field end up becoming the result of “white guilt.”

Don’t get me wrong. As white people, we have plenty of guilt historically speaking and right now in the present day. Plenty of blood on our hands, as it were. And even if we personally don’t do racist things (or very often) and even if our parents and maybe even grandparents didn’t (unlikely, but possible), we still benefit from a system and society framed around whiteness and we still have all kinds of privilege. We benefit from the sins of the past.

And so we get back to hating the sin but not the sinner. Sort of.

It’s OK to hate the large parts of our history (American history or otherwise) in which white people did terrible things to non-white people. It’s OK to hate that you get a ton benefits (often subtle and unspoken) that you wish your family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers and other fellow citizens of color also had (but usually don’t). It’s OK to see the wrongness in that and to work to change things so that they don’t operate based on the principle of more power and access the closer you are to white.

But self-hate, no. Hating your whiteness, no. There are things in life we can’t control; we should be able, therefore, to control any impulses toward self-hate while still working for justice and often letting people of color guide a lot of the process toward making society more equal.

Self-hate is self-defeating. For one thing, it’s injurious and draining. For another, it plays into the hands of white supremacist types and racism deniers. Think about it: How often and for how long have they accused white racial justice folks of hating themselves and hating whiteness? Of reverse-racism and other similarly ridiculous things.

So, don’t play into their hands by actually going down that steep and slippery slope. One of the things racist/bigoted folks almost never have going for them are facts, figures and science. The research and the numbers consistently show how racism plays out systemically as well as personally in our society. People on the far right have never been able to significantly or logically back up their claims of reverse racism or disprove racism with facts and figures unless they twist them massively or take them completely out of context.

However, if white people in large numbers start giving into the notion that they should do racial justice out of a sense of self-flagellation or begin to express hatred of their whiteness and fellow white people, then they make those racist asshats right for once. And the last thing we need to do is give them any foothold. They already ignore the real and undeniable numbers that show racism has effects over decades and centuries and has not gone away. God forbid we actually give them something numerically verifiable to back up their outlandish claims that racial justice work is only an act of senseless guilt and ultimately is “genocidal” to the white race.

In short, do racial justice (or support it heavily) because it’s the right and humane and loving thing to do, not because you are trying to work off the sins of previous generations or your own past racial sins.

Hate the racism; don’t hate your race.
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A Black mama’s dilemma, or My private fears

It was a simple request and yet in asking my permission for what should be a natural progression, it triggered my worst fears on a week where news of Black and Brown girls gone missing in the nation’s capital is finally starting to get the media coverage it deserves.

After months of my parental nagging about getting involved in extracurricular activities at school, my daughter (who is now in middle school) wanted to learn about a possible activity but it required being at school a half hour earlier than the official start of school. Given our island residence, that meant getting up an hour earlier to take the earlier ferry to the mainland and rather than taking the school bus as usual, she and her friends would walk the mile or so to school at 6:35 in the morning. Her friends have done this trek before. Island kids before them have done this trek. Hell, it’s probably some type of rite of passage as an island kid. A chance to walk the city early, grab a doughnut and head to school sans the adults. A taste of freedom.  

Yet in my mind, all I could think about was the fact that at 6:30 in the morning, the city is just starting to stir as the street people start getting out and about; the same ones I have walked past who have made comments about my blackness. The ones who leer, the ones from whom I have made sure to keep my girl sheltered. In that moment, I was aware that her white friends don’t face the same challenges that she faces. Yes, there is the potential for leering and catcalls but there are the ones who also will single her out for her color in addition to her gender; the potential for people to single her out when they might not single out her other friends.

I reached out to the mom of one of the girls, who felt that with three girls making the trek, there would be safety in numbers. Also, her daughter, one of my girl’s closest friends, had done the walk before and knew the most direct route for avoiding the more unsavory elements that might be walking around at that early hour. I talked to my daughter’s dad who admitted that he had his concerns but that she is getting old enough to start being able to walk around on her own off the the island. I said yes, but not before giving a list of directives that including calling me as soon as she made it to school safely and that if she forgot, that would be a mistake she would not want to make.

In the end, the girls got up early, hopped the boat to town and the dad of one of the other girls gave them a ride to school, thus calming this anxious mama’s heart. Yet I know I cannot hold her as tightly as I have; I have to give her space to test her wings. In some ways, it was easier with her brother. The circumstances between his father and I demanded a trust that now seems naive in my middle age. Yes, I had fears for him but I always trusted that he would be okay. My son is my emotional and mental doppelganger. His warrior spirit was always present. My daughter’s warrior spirit is not yet present; she trusts in the goodness in the world and in people and until recently I have wanted to preserve that almost ethereal quality that has been present since birth.

Yet in a world that consumes Black women and girls with little regard for our spiritual, emotional and mental well-being, I find myself at the crossroads. As her mother, I must equip her with the tools to navigate this world but at times I fear that the harshness will be too much for her. At times the burden of Black motherhood feels to heavy to carry and yet my work isn’t only to love and nurture but to literally take her sweetness and stuff it down enough for her own survival. That is a task that no mother should have to consider but, for Black mothers, we do many things that our non-Black counterparts don’t have to do.

We live in a world that has little value for women and girls like us. I probably have written this more than a few times but with my daughter growing ever closer to the teen years, I feel a greater sense of urgency around just how undervalued we are in this society. I feel it in my own life, I see it in the lives of other Black and Brown women whom I know. Some days when I think too hard about how for most Black women our worth is only tied to our labor and what we can do for others, to quote Marvin Gaye, “it makes me wanna holler!” 

I want a better world. Not for myself but for the beautiful Black and Brown girls who deserve to stay cerebral and light throughout their lives instead of being forced into society’s roles and/or forced to adopt separate and unnatural personalities with which to protect themselves from the worst of society’s predations and oppression. I am not quite sure of how we get there but damn it, we have to keep trying. In the meantime, I will work on stuffing down my fears so that my daughter can start taking the baby steps she needs to make as she starts the transition to the teen years.
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Send ‘em all to Mexico, or Trump’s plan to “other” people en masse

So, this was something that I hadn’t really seen much (if at all) online in the social media realm until recently, although it’s a few weeks old now in terms of newsy-ness: Trump and his cronies want to deport all the illegal immigrants to Mexico, whether they’re Mexican or not.

OK, that’s an overstatement; so far, I don’t think there are plans to send Europeans, Arabs (Muslim or otherwise) or Asians who’ve overstayed their visas or whatnot to Mexico. But the literal truth is still pretty awful.

Trump’s evil crew wants to deport immigrants who cross Mexico’s border illegally to Mexico, regardless of their nationality.

Now, for some of you (and I’m sure for most of the people who incorrectly think undocumented immigrants of all sorts are snatching up all the jobs and sucking up all the government welfare benefits), that might not seem so bad. They crossed over from Mexico, so send them back there.

But the fact is that you don’t generally deport people of one nationality to a country other than their native one unless you’re extraditing them because they need to face charges for a crime they are accused of committing in that country. And that’s the difference: deportation and extradition are similar in some ways but are two entirely different things.

Imagine crossing into some Western European nation on some grand tourist journey, right after you’ve been through Russia to grab some photos of their architecture and buy some good vodka, and then you overstay your visit in that European nation. And they say, “Hey, you were last in Russia, so we’re sending you back there.” So you, an American citizen, have now been deported to Russia, and God only knows what will happen to you and where you might be detained and how long before it’s all sorted out. If that thought doesn’t send any chills down your spine, there’s something wrong with you.

The idea that non-Mexicans who cross the border illegally would be sent back over and it would be Mexico’s responsibility to detain them if they’re asking the United States for asylum is ridiculous. OK, they cross illegally. They are in the United States in violation of our immigration laws. So, we should be detaining them until such time as we can arrange to send them back to their country of origin or hear their case for asylum.

If you catch you neighbor Al’s dog pooping on your lawn, you don’t take the dog over to your other neighbor Lisa’s house just because the dog is closer to it when he’s doing his business on your greenery.

Naturally, Mexico isn’t pleased with this and, much like asking them to pay for a wall that Trump wants to build on the border, they are sending up a great big south of the border middle finger, and God bless them for that.

One of the big problems with this plan, beyond the legalities and the common sense aspects, is how it so clearly is meant to “other” all people who are from Latin American/Hispanic nations. To make them one big block of “Mexicans” with no remote desire to actually treat them as individual people. It’s dehumanizing, and that’s so in line with what Trump and his people have been doing since he started campaigning to be president.

It reminds me of a story from several years back that made the news, in which a Puerto Rican man in Chicago had run afoul of the law. The authorities there were all set to send him to Mexico, despite his mother even intervening to provide proof of his identity, before U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez stepped in and things were sorted out.

Mind you, the worst thing about that story isn’t the idea of deportation to Mexico because the man “looked” to Chicago immigration agents like he “must” be Mexican (which is pretty damned bad).

What’s truly horrifying is the fact he was a U.S. citizen. Yes, people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. It’s a territory of the United States. Immigration agents almost deported a U.S. citizen to Mexico. That’s some peak white supremacy, bigotry and ignorance all wrapped up there.

And this was in 2010. Now we have Trump sounding the trumpet for all the bigots in America to look with suspicion and disdain on people who aren’t white and just maybe might not be American citizens. It’s not about illegal immigration. It’s about anyone whom the racists in power think…and the racists who voted for them think…doesn’t look like they should be here.

With Trump and his crew ready to try out mass roundups and deportations, one can only imagine whether…and how many…actual citizens might find themselves kicked out of their own country.
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If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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