Treating the cancer of racism

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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Hey!!! BGIM Media needs your help

For years now, Black Girl in Maine Media has served as a place of learning for white people and also a community for people of color living in primarily white spaces. My pieces have been used across the country in educational and faith communities, including with the Civil Rights Teams in Maine. The work that I have created has held great value for thousands and it has truly been a labor of love while in search of my own liberation—but as we have expanded in the past couple of years, I have had to face the reality that there is a financial cost to all of this.

All BGIM contributors are paid, and my rates are comparable to local Maine publications such as The Portland Phoenix and The Bangor Daily News. However, unlike those publications, there are no advertisers or investors generating income for this BGIM Media venture. This is a one-woman shop that only relies on the generosity of readers making either monthly commitments via Patreon or “tips” via PayPal. With over 11,000 “likes” on Facebook and 14,000 followers on Twitter, currently less than 3% of readers contribute to this space financially. Given that we post three to five articles a day on the Facebook page and on average we post two original pieces a week here at the BGIM Media site itself, long term this is simply not tenable. Especially now with the additional costs related to producing a monthly podcast. A local school has donated studio space and a sound engineer, and a local podcast producer has offered a deep discount to produce the show, but it still adds costs to my operations.

Recently, I have been personally covering the monthly shortfall but that is not something that I can continue to do long-term. The readership continues to grow; we also have more writers. But while readership is up, the financial support is not keeping pace with that and that is a problem. It means we need your help.

Many of my writing/blogging peers have moved to platforms such as Patreon where only paying patrons can read their work. I most certainly have considered going that route but recognizing that some people truly cannot afford a monthly gift of $5 or $10, so that doesn’t sit well with me. Access is important. I’m also offering my platform to new and emerging writers as contributors, and offering them access to a larger audience is important to me. So moving to a closed format is not something that I want to do.

However, after taking into consideration the true costs of this site as well as my own time that is often unpaid or greatly underpaid, I am launching a year-end campaign and asking for your help. If this space has been a part of your learning or community, I am asking you to become either a monthly patron or to make a one-time gift. Monthly pledges are preferred because it allows me to set the editorial calendar for my writers knowing exactly what I can afford. However, one-time gifts are groovy too.

If you have spent any time online, you know that most media outfits are struggling. We have created a world where it’s easy to forget that the fabulous pieces you read are written by real people with real expenses. It is one of the reasons that as part of our work here, we have paid subscriptions to numerous publications so that we have access to the latest news and commentary as well as making sure that we live our own values—much of which is shared on the Black Girl in Maine Facebook page.

Given that my day job is running a small non-profit, I know that you are bombarded with almost daily requests for support. Yet if this space has added value to your life, I am asking you to let us know by making a one-time gift or monthly pledge. Theoretically, no amount is too small, though to be honest, because of money is taken off the top before I ever see your pledges or donations or tips, anything under a  buck really is too little, as I will only literally get loose change in the end. But in the end, what I am saying is that modest support—especially by enough people—is just as welcome as large donations or pledges. And perhaps more so if enough people step up with modest pledges and tips.

Thank you for your support.

Warmly,

Shay, aka Black Girl in Maine


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.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

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