As we look at the news coming out of America (or the tweets from the President) we are aggrieved that the country is more than ever gripped in the claws of racism, and even worse, that of a white supremacist society. Chicago-based activist Karla Thomas tells us of a country that is “erroneously predicated on white as ‘good’ and black as ‘bad’.”
There is no denying that America is strung collectively tight. Marginalised people have had an extra-large orange boot stepping on their backs, and they are rightfully angry. Immigrants, African Americans, people with disabilities, women, Muslims, and Indigenous people speak out in frustration and the Right, wavering centre and the oh-so-woke but not really Left, are all muting, ignoring, or tone policing their anger respectively. We are at war. And in the centre of this cauldron, there are some very triggered white folks who are tired of people insinuating that their actions have anything what so ever to do with racism.
Oh, the White Tears! The agony this causes because we have erroneously been socialised to believe that racism is a binary state of being. It’s either you are ALL bad and racist, or ALL good and non-racist. When in fact racism is a system.
Racism is a system held together and sustained by biases, privilege for some, oppression of others, power and those who wield it, economics and those determined to control it, all on a thick foundation of a very reprehensible history.
American has been socialised to believe that racism is predicated on negative intent. This is just false. Impact on the oppressed group is the only measure of racism that matters.
Case in point, the way most schools are funded is steeped in racism. It is the government’s responsibility to fund schools and fund them equally for all kids. However, they chose a school funding system based on property taxes in each individual community, which results in poorly funded schools for people in poorer neighbourhoods. While this may or may not have been the initial intention, this systemically disadvantages black and brown kids who are statistically more likely to be in these under-served communities. So the way our education system is funded in much of America is racist.
When the focus, however, is thought to be on the intent held by the perpetrator, defensives come out in abundance. Here’s the reality, if you are avoiding, deflecting or negating any progression towards a more just society, and you are presently on the privileged end of the inequality, the impact is reduced progression for people of colour. I repeat, if you are committed simply to just being a non-racist, and you are sitting by idly as racism is perpetuated around you and for your benefit, you are indeed racist. It is not enough to be a non-racist, you have to be an Anti-racist. There are no spectators in this sport, you are either Anti-racists and Racists.
I know that was a hard pill to swallow, so you may want to buckle up for this next bit.
We live in a white supremacist society.
Take deep breaths and try not to explode. When I say white supremacist, your mind conjures up dudes in white robes with cones on their heads, and tiki torches in their hands. Your next thought is, “Come on, that is a very very small percentage of crazy white people, not ALL WHITE PEOPLE!”
But while we will all, (save a few tiki-torch carrying cone heads,) deny that we cognitively believe in the superiority of white people over other races, study after study has shown that the idea of white as good and black or darker skin as bad seeps into the psyche of kids as young as 2 years old. Take a look at the doll experiment first done in the 1940s and since repeated in many different countries.
No one in particular explicitly taught those kids the messages they are displaying in that video. That bias is everywhere and nowhere in particular. It’s available as easily as the air they breath.
White Supremacy is defined as the idea that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Colour and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
“We don’t all believe that!” you shout as your defences kick in. Now stop for a second and think about the following:
- What culture’s idea of beauty dominates the media?
- What culture is seen as the “girl next door” or simply non-threatening?
- What culture’s vernacular is considered the “acceptable” way to speak?
- What culture holds the majority of power in almost every room?
- What culture is our education system built around and for?
- What culture created the concept of race with the names “white” meaning “pure”, when you know their skin is tan or yellowish at best, in juxtaposition to a people they then called “Black” meaning “dirty,” knowing darn well their skin is multiple shades of brown?
- So what culture have we collectively agreed is Superior?
So tell me how you are going to sit there and say that we are NOT in a white supremacist society? How are you going to act shocked and offended when that term is used? White America wants so desperately to confine the racial wrongdoing to a small group of vigilantes, (preferably in the past), so they can absolve themselves of taking a cold hard look at the part that they play in the ongoing modern-day reenactment.
You have to see it and own it before you can change it. You cannot even dream about committing yourself to racial justice work without first owning that this entire society is erroneously predicated on white as “good” and black as “bad.” We are living in a white supremacist society! What are you going to do to dismantle it?
This article was originally published on Quad-Rants 4 Change.
Karla Thomas is a writer, speaker, and real estate entrepreneur. As Black, Gay, Immigrant Woman (Quad Minority), she speaks truth to power every day yet still finds a way to maintain her BLISS! She lives in Chicago with her wife and two incredible daughters. She can be followed on Twitter @Quadrant4change.
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