Watching the video above about an unofficial White Student Union stationed at a university outside DC, it’s so very easy to point out how odd and horrible the views and actions of this group is. Because they are horrible and atrocious and dangerous. But I propose the reason the views and behavior expressed here are so dangerous is because it’s awfully close to what White America teaches itself:
- that people of color are dangerous and tend to be criminals;
- that black and brown people are intellectually inferior while white people are the norm (while East Asians and Jewish people have “positive” stereotypes that are really just underhanded insidious racial tropes about their supposed sneakiness and deception);
- that white people need to be protected from the menacing “other”;
- that racism is only a problem when we confront it, and it is the fault of non-Whites that there is racism;
- that multiculturalism is a problem and it’d be better just to hang out with our own.
I’ll use my own life as a bit of a frame here.
I don’t have a home, in a sense. Being raised in part by my recently deceased grandmother, Rosa, I don’t quite fit in fully with either White Americans or the Puerto Rican diaspora. But I do get to claim both – it’s just that I don’t fully fit in or feel completely comfortable. See, white America long ago decided to make race a pretty big deal for all non-white people, but then largely hides itself from any responsibility or accountability about race. And in a sense, though I very much look White and pass as White, with having Taino blood – the blood of an indigenous group of Caribbean tribes rubbed out in numbers and in culture due to the brutality of European colonialism – I may pass but I don’t fully feel welcome. Since the One-Drop Rule was a long established legal and social precedent to treat “non-pure” White people, my little freckly five year old daughter with the blond, curly hair and green eyes is also considered not-quite-White. Where do you think that curly hair came from?
But, in another sense, no White Americans have a home either. Not just because the colonization of the Americas made sure there was no longer a straight line to any culture from the Eastern Hemisphere, but because the creation of a White America is a myth the Elite Classes created to unify diverse tribes into a singular political body in order to repress the growing enslaved and post-enslaved classes of post-African and indigenous peoples.
Acknowledging this is a start, but guilt does no good. Going around and apologizing or feeling sorry for yourself or even others doesn’t work. What does? Recognizing privilege is a beginning and educating ourselves about our histories is a further and necessary step – but we need to be connected to local, sustainable and national/global racial justice. We need to recognize the vast array of injustices done to people of color in the cities, in the suburbs, in Southeast Asia, in the Third World, in the West. But not just in geopolitical locations. In locations of socio-economic reality; in locations of gentrification and its attendant displacement; in locations of distrust; in locations where African Americans are highly concentrated along with intense poverty; in locations of the apartheid separation of the education of Black and White children; in locations of the intersections of oppression- such as how a black or brown single mother is received, or how a young Asian American is expected to behave, or how black gay teenagers are among the largest demographics of homeless people; and in the space that allows a hyper-suspicion of black young males as being threatening.
Racism, as we said before, isn’t an individual charge. It isn’t about me, it isn’t about you. It’s about us. If we continue to leave the understanding of the phrase in such an atomized, personal, and stigmatic state, no one will ever address the underlying problems and fundamental injustice of racism. We won’t because nearly every single person and group in the United States deflects the charge of racism (including the KKK and most White Nationalists). We must ask how racism exists and how it continues. What am I doing to continue and allow the process of racism? And what can I do to help bring justice to the nation, how can I be a part of healing, how can I participate in activating the rolling tide of justice?
Roll, justice. Roll.