Despite being an avid lover of ghost stories and haunted houses, I’m not much of a horror movie fan. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to this film genre – I saw the film Quarantine and barely slept for a few days and there were some episodes of the show Supernatural that freaked me out if I watched them too late at night. But when the film Get Out came out with wild praises, I was intrigued by and ultimately loved the film.
I’ve been wondering over the past few days if I could have done more in the last few months regarding the election. I’ve felt guilt and some sort of responsibility for not being more involved because the answer is that yes, I could have done a lot more. I could and should have had more conversations with people, especially about Trump’s racist, misogynist, xenophobic platform.
In the past two days, people have blamed third party voters (particularly in swing states), low turnout rates, the electoral college, the gutted Voter’s Right Act, strict and inaccessible voter ID laws, and more. Honestly, I see it as a combination as all of the above and more.
democracy is this cool system where you yell at people online for 6 months and then people in Ohio and Florida pick the president
— Albro (@bromanconsul) 14 June 2016
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about tokenism, diversity for the sake of appearance, and the making of one experience into a universal story. Watching shows that have more than the Hollywood typical cast of straight cis white people is often a breath of fresh air and it’s even better when the characters aren’t cringeworthy stereotypes of their identities or last longer than an episode or two. Code Switch’s recent podcast episode talks about some of these issues, especially in the context of something called rep sweats.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my own whiteness, complicity in oppressive systems, and desire to be seen as the perfect ally. I’m obsessed with being seen as a good white person and I hate having my faults publicly pointed out by someone else, which is a whole lot of shit that I need to work through for myself and without dumping on the people of color in my life. So right now, I’m going to start that process here as a way to really confront my own faults, dig deeper into my own white pain, and find a way in which to move forward.
When you hear, ‘black lives matter,’ don’t instinctively respond that all lives matter, as if one statement negates the other. Instead, try to understand why people of color might be compelled to remind the world that their lives have value.
When others share their reality, don’t immediately dismiss them because their reality is dissimilar to yours, or because their reality makes you uncomfortable and forces you to see things you prefer to ignore.
Avoid creating a hierarchy of human suffering as if compassion were a finite resource. Don’t assume that if one person says, ‘These are the ways I am marginalized,’ they are suggesting you know nothing of pain and want.
Roxane Gay, Of Lions and Men: Mourning Samuel DuBose and Cecil the Lion (July 2015)
I really want to address whiteness as a (socially constructed) racial group and as a privileged position within the world because it’s something that we as white people need to be addressing in the context of race relations and racism. Ignoring our whiteness and our complicit nature in white supremacy does nothing but feed our own ignorant bliss that all is well in the world (when it really isn’t). We as a group need to be acknowledging our whiteness and how that fits into the larger narrative.
— joey mogul (@JoeyMogul) June 28, 2015
— Sarah Cantaloupe (@SarahCantaloupe) June 28, 2015
— Amaris Moore (@Amaris_Moore) June 28, 2015
We are reaching the end of Pride month within the United States (and in some other countries as well), with this weekend being the last Pride weekend of 2015. Celebrations in New York City and Seattle have been going on all weekend long but it’s so important to remember in the midst of celebrating this past week’s SCOTUS marriage decision, that there is still a huge pile of stuff to fight for.
Additionally: There was a #BlackOutPride action that disrupted the Chicago Pride Parade today, calling for the end of the constant erasure within the queer community. A few weeks ago, a similar action was done at the Boston Pride Parade, in which activists stopped the parade for 11 minutes in protest.
— YK Hong (@ykhong) June 28, 2015
I’ve been writing SO much about the issue of erasure and single issue focus over the past few weeks but the fact of the matter is that this is such an important thing for the LGBTQ+ community to be addressing. And to be honest, the reason I keep writing and keep addressing all of these things over and over again is because I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important or to forget the most marginalized.
Looking at incidents like Jennicet Gutiérrez getting booed and jeered by fellow queer people or marriage seemingly being the most mainstream queer issue is incredibly upsetting because rather than fight for all, it seems to be the case that the most privileged in the queer community (white, middle/upper class, cis, etc) are just fighting for themselves and the issues that pertain to them. (Of course this doesn’t mean that every single fairly privileged person is terrible and focuses on narrow issues. But that’s another point for another day.)
— Jorge J Rodriguez V (@JJRodV) June 28, 2015
Pride was started by queer people of color and it’s roots come from a police riot that condemned the legislation and oppression of the entire queer community. Flash forward 45 years since the first march and 46 years since the Stonewall Inn Riots, it seems like Pride has moved away from it’s revolutionary roots and from focusing on intersectionality issues.
You can keep your respectability. I want freedom and justice. — Fr. Shay (@anarchistrev) June 27, 2015
Of course, this is all based on my own experiences but I do think it’s important that we as a community step up to the challenges that still face many within our chosen family. We should be spending less time on respectability politics (because that will not save us) and more time on liberation for us all. We (this time we meaning white people) should be loudly proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter because we have helped create and benefited from a society that devalues black life.
We (again, meaning white people) should be supporting black people (and especially black women) in the fight for liberation. We need to use our privilege and our position within society to fight for liberation for all – for people of color, for the working class, for immigrants, for mothers and fathers and families who bury their loved ones too soon, for those with different abilities.
Keep your eyes open… https://t.co/DANIOu9Irt
— Liberal Conformist (@prisonculture) June 27, 2015
And all of this ties back to Pride because the queer community needs to stop throwing the more marginalized people under the bus as a way to assimilate into the larger mainstream society. We need to work for all, not just some. We need to remember that some of the most influential work has been done by trans women of color and we need to not forget and erase the work done by people of color in our own queer history.
This is yet another post to not only my fellow white people but to myself as well. As white people, we need to not only acknowledge the history and context of white supremacy and racism within the US that puts us into a position of power but also start to actively destroy the current system and status quo. Acknowledging racism and tearing down the system of white supremacy as white people will be uncomfortable at times but it is completely necessary. Dr. Robin DiAngelo wrote about why it’s so hard to talk to white people about race, highlighting in the beginning that:
Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system — a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group.
I wrote recently about some starting points for myself and other white people, in which I included the PBS production Race – The Power of Illusion. The reason I’ve referenced this twice now over a short span of time is because of the impact the production had on my own understanding of race and racism. PBS has a plethora of online resources to read but everything I’ve found about the actual video seems to indicate that you’d have to order the video straight from PBS in order to see it all. If you ever do get the chance to watch the film, I definitely recommend it.
And it’s important to keep in mind that the way in which we as white people experience the world is completely different than people of color. Maisha Z. Johnson wrote up a list of examples that prove that white privilege protects white people from the police, highlighting the fact that racial profiling and implicit biases impact how police interact with people of color and many other factors.
Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote a letter from Black America about the relationship that many black Americans have with police. Jezebel Delilah X also wrote about four reasons why the US police forces is an extension of slavery and white supremacy. And The Guardian points out that black Americans are significantly more likely to be unarmed when killed by the police than white Americans and people of color are proportionally more likely to be killed by police overall.
There’s also this belief for many white people that the US is a post racial society after the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. (Like, for example, the success of some means racism is over.) But Braden Goyette and Alissa Scheller came up with 15 charts and stats that prove that we are far from a post racial society. (One in which is to the left.) Crystal Fleming wrote a piece talking about white supremacy and the killing of Walter Scott, particularly highlighting:
Black precedent reveals that a black president is not enough to halt the onslaught of anti-black violence that has always been routine in our nation. What we continue to need is sustained multiracial activism and political engagement to bring about a more just and compassionate society — the kind of grassroots work being done by organizers and activists pushing for police reform in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and across the country.
Also reverse racism (racism to white people) is not a thing. Dain Dillingham wrote an article with 5 questions for anyone who thinks they are a victim of ‘reverse racism’. Racism, simply put, is a systemic power + prejudice, something that only white people have within the US.
Lastly, there are a few more articles I wanted to include – most having to do with what we can do as white people. Jamie Utt wrote last November about how Ferguson calls on white people to regain our humanity. Utt also wrote another article about a month ago about how as white people, a big way to end racism is to invest in other white people. This, of course, sounds like the wrong way to go but Utt wrote that:
…the more that I think about it, I realize that White people who wish to work in racial justice solidarity and who strive for allyship need to realize our fundamental responsibility to do more than simply “call out” other White people.
We must take up the long, difficult, often emotionally-exhausting work of calling them in to change.
SpectraSpeaks wrote something similar long before Utt did though – calling for white allies to stop unfriending other white people over Ferguson. Spectra wrote that as an afrofeminist Nigerian advocate, she was not able to do the same things that we as white people are. She particularly calls on white people to step up more, saying:
I need you to step up in a major way, and leverage the connections you DO have to address ignorance with conversation and interrogate white privilege with compassion. Because I will not do this. I cannot do this.
My rage as a black person witnessing yet another moment in the endless cycle of racism in the US prevents me from engaging in “level headed” conversations with people who see this terribly unjust Ferguson ruling as just another news story to banter about at the water cooler.
Protests surrounding police brutality, the extrajudicial killings of black people around the US, and violent white supremacy have made dramatic waves over the past several months. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has been a calling cry since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and has been a rallying cry for some protests. #HandsUpDontShoot and #ICantBreathe have also been other rallying cries, in reference to the deaths of Micheal Brown and Eric Garner respectively.
[Image of several black women demonstrating topless in San Francisco on May 21st.]
#SayHerName became a hashtag and protest call to bring attention to the violence faced by black women around the country. The poet Aja Monet wrote and preformed a poem under the same name and called out the names of the black women and girls who have been murdered by police.
There have also been numerous demonstrations around the country in response to a call to action from the Black Youth Project. Some articles about the demonstrations are below, including the fact that several incredible women went topless in protest and shut down the Financial District in San Francisco:
- They Love Our Bodies but Not Us: Powerful Images from #SayHerName Demonstrations
- Women Go Topless to Protest Killings of Unarmed Black Women by Police
- Why These Women Protested Police Brutality Topless
[Image reading: black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to be targeted by police and incarcerated than white women.]
The African American Policy Forum has a long list of resources, statistics, and general information about the police brutality against black women if you are looking for more information.
I think that being able to support and amplify the voices and work done by the activists fighting against the white supremacy so built into the fabric of US society is incredibly important. (Especially supporting and amplifying black women. And not forgetting about the intersectionality of gender, class, race, sexuality, etc.) Supporting platforms like Black Girl Dangerous, #BlackLivesMatter, and Operation Help or Hush is always important. There is also a Black Girls Lead conference, an opportunity for black girls between the ages of 13-17 years old this upcoming summer and is an offshoot of BlackGirlsRock.
A few days ago, I went to go see Justin Simien’s movie “Dear White People”, which highlights racism, privilege, microaggressions, and diversity within higher education. The movie follows around Sam White, a college student at an Ivy league school who has a radio show (and several YouTube videos) titled “Dear White People”. The movie follows her around while along with a few other students, she uses several different mediums to highlight the racial inequality and microaggressions that people of color (particularly black folks) face on a regular basis.
The movie spends a lot of time calling out the racism that still exists within “post racial” United States, including by showing that there still plenty of white people (particularly college students) who think that not only is blackface okay but have entire parties with that theme. On her radio show, Sam uses satire and humor to highlight the things that white people should and should not do to be racist. (Such as: “Dear white people, the bare minimum of black friends to appear not racist has been raised to two.”)
Not only does this movie bring up issues of racism and microaggressions but I also saw underlying themes of the politics of interracial relationships and how resistance should be a community effort, not one driven by one person. (Mild spoiler alert ahead**) Much of the activism and resistance that occurs in the beginning of the movie is initiated and driven by Sam, only to fall through when she has some family issues. That aspect of the movie reminded me of the work that is happening in places like St. Louis/Ferguson, MO and New York City, where the protests and resistance against police brutality are not (and should not be) leader driven but should be community driven.
I saw this movie with my mom and family friend, who are both (unsurprisingly) white like myself. I honestly was a little worried because my mom doesn’t quite understand the current state of racism and often removes herself from any responsibility. But both my mom and family friend seemed to like the movie and were surprised at the fact that blackface unfortunately still happens. I was really happy to see that this movie had stirred even just a little thought for the two of them.
The New York Times has a critique on the movie that articulates my experience with the movie much better than I could ever do. But in the end, I would definitely recommend watching this movie (particularly if you are a white person like me). I know I’ll be seeing it again.