Where do I start? First off, I suppose it would be good to begin with addressing my whiteness.
Yes, that’s right. I am a white guy.
To be more specific, I am a white, cisgendered male who is also heterosexual. Oh yeah, and able bodied, too.
So, you see, I am a ‘straight’ and physically healthy white guy, I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth, and I even have the blond hair and blue eyes to boot. I have all of these traits in an America (and mind you, when I say ‘America’, I am referring to the lower/middle portion of the North American continent presently known as the United States of America) that was founded with white supremacy, a settler colonial, and patriarchal narrative. For these reasons and more, I have a lot of privileges simply because of the skin I’m in.
I have an abundance of unearned advantages and privileges. It has taken me a considerable amount of time to recognize these existed, let alone that I personally had all these privileges. Oh, and it was only recently that I finally acknowledged that I am racist. And in recognizing and then acknowledging these privileges (and the racism that courses through the veins of “American” culture as well as my own), it has become evident that I am a product of, participate in, and benefit from white supremacy/superiority daily.
Except when I’m not and don’t.
Yes, it’s true, I still am a product of, participate in, and benefit from white supremacy daily of course. Writing these words is a small effort towards acknowledging that not only is racism real and still a HUGE part of our reality, these perceived benefits are bullshit and fucked up. Race may be a socio-economic construct, though it most certainly was designed for oppressions sake and that is what we’re deep in the soup of now. What I have become aware of is that there is more to being a racist than just the overt, fascist, neo-nazi forms of racism that are the blatant and extreme versions of what is still an everyday part of life here in the U.S. of A. It’s not just Republicans or your uncle Rick who are racist, you are too.
If you live here and are white, you are racist. Let me say that again. If you live here in the U.S. and are white, you are racist. We all are…
Today, you see, we merely have more nuanced racism. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is a great book to read to get a better understanding of this perspective. Think what you may, but we objectively live within an apartheid state here in the U.S., like, now, in 2019…
This all seems obvious to me, but obviously it is not for most white folks.
Like with the fundamentals of capitalism, white supremacy/superiority is a system based on winners and losers. In order to win, some (or many) lose. It’s a simple enough concept and yet I can tell you right now I’ve not always understood or remembered that. Capitalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, xenophobia, classism, and white supremacy are all parts of institutionalized systems of oppression. Systems that are largely invisible to those folks that share similar features like mine and therefore are the recipients of these varying real and perceived benefits, advantages, and privileges.
We live in a time where the mythology of today champions a story line that is now generations deep. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. The concepts of American Exceptionalism and living or pursuing the ‘American Dream’. These are a part of this persistant idea of meritocracy actually being a real thing, this idea that we can all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make it in this world. The thing is, that has never been true here. This has never actually been an equitable reality for everyone.
And there is not one single “self made man” out there, either.
The amount of support it requires to live in our modern times is ridiculous to even comprehend. From the food we eat, water we drink, and countless services that we tend to take for granted, when we take these in to account, it’s a bit easier to understand how little of this we are accomplishing all by ourselves. And I didn’t even mention the environmental/ecological elements that are absolutely crucial to us even being able to, you know, be alive. A lot of what we have today is built on the robbery of the land and human capital that has hardly been reckoned with in our modern times.
I used to naively describe myself as a ‘happy-go-lucky guy’. Presently, it is hard to consider that expression anything but a white supremacist statement. The doors that are open for me and not for so many is hard to even quantify (though it is possible). I’ve spent the past couple years earnestly working on social justice and racial equity. I see that I’ve barely scratched the surface and that I have a shit load of work to do in order to even come close to understanding this mess whiteness has created. As well as my place and role within it.
I realize I’ve not yet dipped into the subject of the problematic AF settler colonialism issues we have to address and deal with. And patriarchy is a doozy of a pickle to tackle, too. This means we’ll look at the #metoo movement and will include, but go beyond, looking at the terrible reality of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women as well. And the constant brutality and murders of black people and people of color in general by the hands of police officers.
I’ll wrap this post up for now and get into various examples and anecdotal circumstances primarily, if not exclusively, from my own lived experiences in order to untangle from the trappings of this white ass reality we are all a part of. I have enough years under my belt to have made a ton of mistakes and also to have seen glimpses of how entwined I am in the perpetuation of all of this even as I attempt to untangle from it. A friend of mine has said that my work as an ally or advocate is a process of mistakes and unlearning and in order to work through this, I need to just keep falling forward.
You may be white and reading this and are now feeling all sorts of feelings. That’s to be expected. I encourage you to breathe through them and take a few extra deep breaths before reacting in any volatile way(s). This may be a lot to process wherever you find yourself reading this. And if you are indeed white, I especially encourage you, no, insist you do not take these issues to your one friend who is a person of color to ask if what I’ve been writing about is true. It is. And just becuase you have that one friend, or once dated a black or brown person, that doesn’t make you not racist either.
The United States of America was founded on racism and white supremacy and it has informed the trajectory of this country since those days. Western expansion, manifest destiny, the doctrine of discovery, and a continous appropriation (stealing) of cultural experiences and traditions, has meant that white folks have claimed for their own the land, music, food, dance, and culture of those they’ve oppressed. It’s a sad truth and yet it is one we must acknowledge and reckon with.
A big part of making reparations at this point would be for all of our current history books (which is mostly archived propaganda and outright lies) to be thrown out and to have new ones distributed to all schools from kindergarten up so that they actually reflect how we’ve arrived where we are today. Pending that, it has been suggested that at this point to fix this, the only thing that is going to work is to burn it all to the ground.