feel good momentary solidarity is numbing cream for white guilt

August 28, 2017
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Last night at the VMAs, Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, was introduced to the stage to announce the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation by Robert E. Lee descendant Robert Lee IV, a pastor who used the opportunity to condemn the Neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology on display two weeks ago and the misguided Confederate legacy encouraging viewers that “we can all find inspiration from” the Black Lives Matter movement and the women at January’s Women’s Marches across the country, “and especially Heather Heyer who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville”. Especially?

Once on stage, Bro announced the new foundation created in her daughter’s honor, a scholarship program, would be aimed at helping others “fight hatred”. Which is as noble a cause as any, but what does that even mean to white people who needed to see literal Nazis in the street before taking action?

What’s so frustrating is the vagueness with which white people view and condemn racism. “Racism is wrong.” “We stand against hate.” Yeah, no shit. Even racists know it’s shameful. We’re past that. Condemning it isn’t enough.

Not only that, I don’t trust what white people consider to be hatred. For instance, it’s been three years, and many whites are still coming to grips with the fact that Black Lives Matter is an affirmation of worth that exists in the context of ‘too’. Black lives matter, too. White people know their lives matter.

Compare this to the neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us”. A message that hinges on the marginalization of and, frankly, the elimination of Jews. White people like, but less insidious as Trump, can’t seem to tell the difference. Methinks that’s because white empowerment is historically about dominating and dehumanizing POC, so that’s all they’re used to.

So I’m not really sure vague hatred is the problem. And, frankly, “fighting hatred” is just too little, too late at this point in time. Just last summer, POC pleaded with the collective consciousness of American to recognize the vile and blatant racism baked into Donald Trump’s election campaign and the sheer terror of what his proposed policies would mean for POC, people with disabilities, and those with limited resources. We did so with two years of relentless and historic global organization and resistance to police brutality and political injustice behind us. Countless videos of unjust murders met with zero accountability for anyone but the deceased.

White America looked at that and said: “Oh, well”.

But now, with the dark realities of the Trump administration setting in, white supremacist, Klansmen, and Neo-Nazis are taking over college towns to abuse and, apparently, murder white folks, now white people have a problem with “hatred”. Now, we are all one and, similar to the ways in which they reacted to BLM, whites are finding comfort in notions of human solidarity where we all come together as one to fight disembodied hate—as if we’re all affected by it equally—instead of confronting the structures that enable and support racial and ethnic supremacy. Systems that the “good whites” benefit from whether they want to or not. And white people need to look that beast straight in the eye and confront the symptoms of white supremacy that are too scary and shameful to acknowledge and are instead brushed off as innocuous or anomaly.

White supremacy is not just about thinks. I could care less about individual white racism. That is their burden to bear, not mine. The real life actual problem is how white supremacy manifests itself in legislation, the health care system, the justice system, in business, in education, in every place.

And, yes, there are individuals powerful enough to change the hearts and minds of many. And that work should happen, too.

What that doesn’t mean is that we can afford to continue to let black and NBPOC be casualties of systematic racism by only targeting hatred when it comes down to literal Nazis in the street. Because those Nazis wake up every morning, get dressed, and go to work at jobs where they can affect people’s lives negatively without acknowledgment or accountability. And that—that is what we can control.