The pollution in our soil: White supremacy

The president’s response to the tragedy in New Zealand… Well. He’s a eugenicist whose shriveled, quivering mouth has only ever dribbled out an endless ooze of hate, stupidity and lies when it comes to women, Black people, Islam and basically anyone who isn’t a rich, white man. He cut funding used to fight white supremacist violence despite the fact that it’s on the rise. He plotted and enacted a Muslim ban that is still in place. And he retweets racists and religious bigots so much that, if I didn’t know better, I might think that he’s delighted by the kind of violence that is so often done in his name. And, to be clear, I do not know better.

If you’ve been paying attention at all, I’m sure the president’s reaction was anything but surprising, but there was a reaction by a world leader that did surprise me. Jacinda Arden, New Zealand’s Prime Minister actually put forth a “global call” to fight racism. It probably says something about the lowering of my own expectations that I could be surprised by a world leader’s sincere, compassionate and all-encompassing response to a tragedy. I’m sure I’m not alone, but I was surprised.

That said, given how often white supremacist ideology has been used to destroy as much of the world as possible—Native American genocide, Civil War, WWII just off the top of my head—it sure would be nice if we were beyond simple condemnations in 2019.

While in this country we are used to leadership not being able to complete a sentence, Jacinda Arden did not just offer words. She somehow, in what seems to be a plainly impossible feat, instituted an assault weapon ban in New Zealand. And she did it less than a week after the massacre.

Here, in the United States there are no amounts of racist massacres that could get us to even think about thinking about having a discussion. What I see instead are a fair amount conversations about tech companies as they have been successful in past battles with extremists online. Non-white extremists, that is. It seems that they’re having a difficult time with white supremacists, somehow.

Obviously, this is because they’re not actually addressing the problem, which is, again, white supremacy. It’s a problem buried so deep in our soil that nothing can grow without its pollution. There are no exceptions, not even tech companies.

The polluted thoughts of this country have been inspiring madmen and mass destruction around the world long before our current president started goose-stepping through the White House. Fixing ourselves will go a long way toward fixing the world, but avoidance will only make things worse.

Gun control, while a positive for society and something the majority of the country is behind, will not stop white supremacist attacks from continuing. If the recent Florida Man incident didn’t tell you that, last year’s Austin bombings should.

And while, of course, tech companies should do everything they can to top the spread of diseased thought, they could turn off the internet, put a moratorium on phone carriers, shut down the United States Postal Service and force the carrier pigeon into extinction and we’d still be left with an idea that continues to prove itself the most destructive force in the world.

In the end, white supremacist systems fight to not stay as they are, but to go backward. They don’t want to disregard human rights so much as to take them away. Talking alone will not push us forward and our silence only acts as their permission.

Fighting is the only way. Find a way to fight.

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Maybe we could start telling the stories right?

It’s almost been a year since Linda Brown’s death and so I’ve been thinking a lot about segregation. It still exists, of course, in very real ways, but it’s just not on the books in the same form anymore. Unfortunately, so much of this is because, as a population we’re still mentally segregated. This can be seen in not only our individual, specific positions on race, but in everything from our views on history to how we frame contemporary social issues.

As a child, I was taught that slavery began with Africans selling each other to white slavers. This story has been retold to me countless times throughout my life. It was taught to my father and mother and their parents and probably to you and yours as well. This story has implications that are in the very DNA of this country. From this story we are to infer that Black people inherently do not care for one another and therefore we are incapable of understanding core tenets of American society, like “Honor” and “Family.” From this story we are also to infer that whatever happened to us as a people was at the same time inevitable and exclusively our own fault.

You can see these beliefs of our moral inferiority and innate undeservedness make their way from slavery all the way through Brown v Board of Education and continuing to right now.

While whiteness continues to change and eventually include every other racial group, it will never include Native Americans or us. This is because every other racial group is allowed an origin story of self-reliance. All of their stories involve leaving a homeland that persecuted them in one way or another. Their stories, and therefore their identities support the identity of this country as a safe harbor for the tired, poor, huddled masses, etc. Native Americans, on the other hand, are thought of as noble savages who were too naïve to know that their time had come, leaches that take advantage of a system designed with only the most benevolent intentions for everyone, all of the above or somewhere in between.   

We ignore the fact that many Native Americans actually do have the same origin story as the rest of those groups. Unfortunately, most of them were also murdered en masse because, while having the same story, that story is at odds with this country’s identity.

The same, believe it or not, is true for Black people. While America tells itself the stories of Black people being responsible for our own enslavement, it avoids the true stories at all costs. America never tells the stories of the African leaders who fought against and in some cases defeated attempted enslavers. It never tells the stories of the Africans who fought against being enslaved in every possible way. It never tells the stories of the countless rebellions by the people it enslaved.

America never tells these stories because it cannot simultaneously be its own hero and its own villain. And since it cannot admit to its own villainy, it continues. But please don’t think of villainy, in this case as a reflection of an individual’s intentions. I am speaking specifically of the stories we tell ourselves as Americans about our fellow Americans that limit and destroy us as a country, and perhaps as a globe.

Currently, as a country we are struggling with addiction. The opioid epidemic has forced us to rethink our relationship to drugs entirely. We have begun decriminalizing addiction and treating it as a medical issue. Rightfully so. This change in attitude comes because it fits with our national identity of self-reliance. For white people.

Looking back at the crack epidemic, which affected mostly Black people, you can see the old, familiar story resulting in mass incarceration. White people, being self-reliant and superior find their victims of addiction in hospitals. Black people, as dishonorable things that would sell their own family members deservedly end up in cages or dead.

The same story is told about gun violence. A white person goes on a shooting spree and they are mentally ill and in need of treatment. The reaction to Black gun violence is, again, that Black people are inherently violent and nothing can be done.

Again, it’s not only in the acts of the individual where this can be seen. Currently, the most important issue the country faces is climate change. For white people. Not for people of color, though. Racism is still the most important issue for us because we’ve already been living with the effects of climate change for years and racism is why.

Humanity faces a lot of problems, but addiction and the temperature of the earth don’t care what color you are. They don’t care about your gender, for that matter, either. But if women and people of color were allowed the opportunities of a white man, there would be more doctors. There would be more scientists. Without even getting into the value of different perspectives, there would simply  be more people attacking the issues that affect our species.

That’s the story this country and the world need to start telling.

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How can you trust the system when the system put him there?

I love Elijah Cummings. His “Come on!” at the end of the Michael Cohen hearing is my new ringtone. I agree with him a lot, but we differ is when he says, “We’re better than this!”

If he’s talking about the country, I don’t think we are.

I look at all those republican reps during the hearing and their constant cry of, “This is a waste of time! We should be doing our jobs or anything else!” while they themselves are there, defending the president instead of meeting with constituents or drafting legislation or, you know, doing their jobs or anything else.

Then I look at the president.

I think it went like this…

This fool wanted to boost his brand, so he started a campaign. The best way to do that is to attack the establishment. But that’s a hard thing to do when, as a wealthy, white, male inheritor he’s the living embodiment of the establishment, but who cares? He wasn’t really trying to win anyway. He knew he couldn’t rally the majority of voters to side with him. Part of his identity is believing this. He’s a conspiracy theorist and part of being a conspiracy theorist is the belief that only a few know the real truth. He’s also a eugenicist, which lends itself to the belief that he is one of the very few who can even understand the truth.

Eugenics also tell him that he’s better that the Black guy who’s about to leave office and better than the woman he’s running against. But, again, he’s not even trying to get the majority of American voters behind him. And he doesn’t. It turns out the majority of American voters aren’t fooled by him at all. But the racist-ass electoral college appoints him anyway.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of racists to go around. Sure as shit, a whole lot of white “religious” people who spend their spare time railing against the lifestyle of someone like the new president sure love his stance on anything related to race. Same with a whole lot of white Americans who hate those East Coast elites, but, you know, just not as much as they hate darker skin tones.

Then comes the collective, country-wide crisis of white conscience. Suddenly a whole lot of white people have to start dealing with the fact that their families have way more bigots than they realized. Some are inspired by their crisis of conscience and decide to fight for a better country. And, yes, some are more interested in calling for a return to “normal” in hopes to reclaiming a time when they just didn’t have to see how ugly it can be for the rest of us.

Meanwhile, the new president gets into office and proceeds to behave exactly as expected, like someone who didn’t want to win. He doesn’t read reports, doesn’t get out of bed until pretty late. Then there’s his “executive time.” Have you seen his golf count? He’s obviously not mentally or physically capable of doing very much at all, let alone the hardest job in the world and he clearly doesn’t want to be there.

But he is there. And despite what we think of ourselves as a country, he will probably continue to be there. He will continue to be there because the democrats’ goal seems to be getting more votes than republicans even though they reached that very goal last time only to snatch defeat from the mouth of victory.

He will continue to be there because we are still unwilling to admit that racism is what put him there.

He will continue to be there because the system has no internal defense from a leader who will engage with it.

We must ask ourselves: What do we do when our systems disregard the will of the people and appoint a leader who is incapable of even reading a single report and who publicly sides with the enemies of his country over his own intelligence agencies and who openly disdains most of the people he is supposed to represent, care for and lead?

If our answer is to trust in those very systems again, but just keep our fingers crossed this time, well, then I’m never going to agree with Rep. Cummings. I don’t think we are better than this. There’s a pretty good chance we’re even worse.

We can be better, but we’re going to have to accept what we are first.

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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