being ahistorical won’t save us from racism

May 28, 2019
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There isn’t a day that goes by where I haven’t seen a white person get on Beyoncé’s internet and make some colorblind comment about America. Yesterday however was the straw that broke the camels back. Alyssa Milano has become for better or worse, an “ally” in several movements surrounding race and gender, most notably #MeToo. On Twitter she quote tweeted an article stating “Ohio city braces for KKK rally” with the statement “I don’t recognize my country anymore.”

Social media was swift and immediate with the condemning of such a non-sensical statement, one that only someone white could ever say. To say that a KKK rally in 2019 is the point that you no longer recognize America as “your country” is a direct disregard for everything that this country was built on. White folks have been tied to white supremacy in America since they stole this land in 1492. It is not lost on anyone, especially people of color that America’s first sin was the genocide of indigenous people, followed by the enslavement of millions of Africans.

Suffice to say, America is now what she has always been. A white supremacist imperialist nation built on the oppression of minority populations.

It is not okay for white folks to continue to operate in a vacuum, especially those who consider themselves allies. To be a good ally or advocate requires that you read. Read up on your history and know exactly what it is that you are fighting for when you are trying to raise your voice for people with less privilege. What it isn’t is the pretending that things that have always been broken, were at one time operating just fine.

To say that “I don’t recognize this country anymore” means a few things. It means you didn’t recognize it when indigenous people were murdered, and this land was stolen. It means you didn’t recognize it during Slavery which lasted until 1865. It means you didn’t understand it when Jim Crow started the year slavery ended and lasted well until the 1960’s with the Civil Rights Act. It means you would have to ignore every system of oppression from K-12, healthcare, and mass incarceration. And interestingly enough, it would make you have to buy into the slogan of “Make America Great Again”—an America that has never been great for Black and Brown people.

Intersecting this headline was something on the polar opposite. The confirmation of the remnants of the Clotilda — the last slave ship to every bring Africans to the United States in 1860 ending one of the most heinous times in history known as the Transatlantic Slave trade. Mind you, transatlantic slave trade was abolished in 1808, yet white people for over 50 years continued to go against the law with the brutal practice that was chattel slavery. Seeing the headline gave me immediate chills. It’s one thing to know the story, but another when evidence of the history can be touched.

The atrocity that is America towards Black and brown people has always been in the headlines. There is not a time in this country when a white person should ever feel comfortable saying “this is not the country I know.” Colorblindness is disingenuous. From historical atrocities like Tuskegee Syphilis experiment to the daily interactions we have with police brutality, Black women’s mortality rate, and inequity and equality there is no way you can’t know this current America. The America that has always been.

What’s even more tiresome is the requirement of Black folks to constantly have to teach “good” white people about racism, anti-blackness, anti-immigrant history. Google is right there. Black folks are always required to not only fight for ourselves, but to teach white folks who claim they are good people how to fight for us too — as if they don’t know how to fight for themselves when they feel “oppressed.”

Furthermore, if this isn’t the America you know, then what the hell are you fighting for as an ally or advocate? To be either of those things means that you know there is a problem, one that you have the privilege to either help or fix. So, saying that something is a “new” problem while also saying you are constantly working to fix said problem is just a flat out lie.

So, to all the “good” whites out there who are shocked at the current state of America. Welcome to 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and led to the hostile takeover of your land of the free and home of the slave. The slave that arrived here in 1619 and has been under the rule of white supremacy for 400 years now. You no longer get to have a side bar or teachable moment.

While we are waiting for you all to grow and learn, our people are dying. So read a book, google it, but most importantly stay off the internet with your colorblind logic, because your race definitely sees color. That has always been America.

Writer and author, George Johnson is bringing our viral conversations to real life situations.