Despite two years of teeth gnashing, soul searching and disbelief, American white people are still grappling with race and how racism is embedded into the DNA of America.
Recently, America’s favorite progressive politician, Bernie Sanders, played with the truth in a recent piece in the Daily Beast, where in the aftermath of the recent midterm elections he admitted that many white people have a hard time voting for Black politicians. “I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American,” Sanders told The Daily Beast, referencing the close contests involving Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia and ads run against the two. “I think next time around, by the way, it will be a lot easier for them to do that.”
Like I said, Bernie played with the truth. See, it’s true that white people struggle to vote for Black politicians, but the reasons that they struggle are deeply rooted in the fact that they don’t see Black people as their equals. They are fully indoctrinated in the myth of white superiority. To be fair, it is the myth that white people were born into and unless one is intentional in challenging it, it lives deep inside of you. It’s why even in anti-racism spaces, racial tensions flare up.
In short, they are racist, Bernie. But because white people have realized that being openly racist is not socially acceptable, most of them keep it undercover or don’t discuss it openly nor self-examine their motivations. They stick to polite racism for the most part. And, in the end, they only see racists as those who openly use racial slurs, burn crosses, carry tiki torches in alt-right marches or who openly antagonize and denigrate Black women like a certain orange guy living in a white house.
The average white person is seemingly ignorant of the fact that they they can be nice people, they can have Black or other POC in their lives and can still be racist. They remain ignorant that many of the preferences they hold (starting with the desire often live in “good” neighborhoods with “good” schools) are based on having few or no non-white people around. That they lessen Black and of POC routinely in their worldviews as a result of the white superiority indoctrination process.
Even when well-meaning white people want to do better, it still becomes a process that leaves non-white people out in the cold as the struggle to move beyond whiteness literally sucks all the air out of the room. It’s one of the reasons that talking heads in this era of hate insist on civility and hearing both sides.
That type of equivocation allows people to avoid looking too closely in the mirror and questioning themselves and maybe even facing the uncomfortable reality that they too may hold truly racist thoughts.
Racism is a cancer that robs people of their life and liberty and yet we don’t treat it like the cancer that it is. Imagine going to the doctor, complaining of a host of ailments, only to receive a diagnosis of cancer and then deciding to forego treatment that could either save your life or at least create a better quality of life and extend it. Of course you would do it; when cancer does knock on our doors we do everything we can to live.
Yet when the cancer of racism makes itself known, we do everything to avoid treatment because it’s uncomfortable. Last time I checked, traditional cancer treatments are hardly a walk in the park, but very few willingly choose to avoid them.
In recent weeks in particular, America’s past sins have collided with our present reality and made it clear that hate is and was a foundational building block in this country. The only way that we can shift from our current course is to actually move to action. That action starts with the personal work that must be done to decolonize one’s mind and then extends to looking at what systems you can disrupt. It also will require a shifting of resources and requires white people to give up something, whether that is time, money, advancement opportunities, etc. This work requires losses for white people on multiple levels; one cannot continue to monopolize the power, money and opportunities and also create an equitable society. White people don’t have to become “losers” in the process of bringing about racial justice but they need to accept that they have too much in this society in terms of access, privilege and consideration. If you really want justice and equality and equity, you can’t sit in the warm embrace of whiteness, reading and staying in your head with the idea of fighting against racism. It requires action. And right now would be a great time to take action.
Study up, roll up those sleeves and slip on the gloves, and go after those tumors of white supremacy.
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