How can we "other" someone who shares our reflection?
Updated: Jul 9, 2021
Qualifier: This is only written to my fellow white people, because I am learning to stay in my lane, and I will not begin to examine, unpack, or try to translate what Black people feel about this moment in our history. That is not to say I don't care what their assessment is, which is why I am reading as many articles and books as I can, but I know I am not qualified to speak to their feelings or experiences. My thoughts are not new, and I didn't coin any of these ideas. If I know where a particular thought came from I will cite it, otherwise, they are things I have picked up in the ether's and ask for forgiveness to those who had the original thought.
I find myself reading every article that comes across my feed about the events of Jan. 6th, the confusion over who or what they are fighting, and how we move forward from here. In those articles I'm seeing suggestions that Trump is a dictator-in-training, the insurgents who stormed the Capitol are just disenfranchised, angry people who feel left behind, and that we must listen to them and their pain if we are going to move forward with this country as many of us know it.
When the article is written by white people, I'm seeing a lot of pleading for unity, forgiveness, and coexistence. When the article is written by Black people - the suggestions for how we move forward are very different. As a white woman myself, I think this difference is very telling and important to take a moment to examine. Is the call for unity and forgiveness just another manifestation of white supremacy?
"When Black Lives Matter protests were marching through the streets, I didn't hear any white people talking about unity, coexistence, or forgiveness?" I only heard and read about demands for justice AGAINST the protests (largely referred to as looting). One theory I have as to why white people feel so uncomfortable right now, is because we are VERY good at othering people in order to separate ourselves from "those people". When we look at videos of the Jan. 6th insurrection, ALL WE SEE IS FACES THAT LOOK LIKE US. How can we "other" someone who shares our reflection? So we pinch hit to "those Republicans" or "those domestic terrorists"- both of which are accurate, but not precise. This is not about Trump or treason, this is about white supremacy that we white people belong to, we all benefit from, and we all contribute to in some way or another.
I am not saying that folks do not need to be listened to. I am not saying that forgiveness is not necessary or that it isn't something we shouldn't work towards on the overall. But, as white people, I think we need to work very hard to resist the urge to "leapfrog" over the discomfort and get to forgiveness too fast.
I do not need to forgive the people who stormed the Capitol. They broke the law, and should be held accountable by our justice system just as anyone else who broke the law.
I don't need to listen to the elected officials who are still promoting falsehoods about the election or who is "supposed" to be President. They are LYING and when I know someone is lying to me, I do not need to continue giving them my time or attention.
Who do white people need to listen to; Black, Brown, Indigenous and other people of color whose life experiences are STILL being squelched to support and uplift white supremacy.
Who needs to ask for forgiveness; white people.
That is what these past 4 years... nay the past 400 years have been about. I will listen to a white person who is working through their awakening, ready to take a long look in the mirror and read all the books by all the amazing Black and Brown authors who have been talking about this stuff for centuries, and make the commitment to be anti-racist especially when it gets really hard. This is a recommitment I have to make every day. Stop thinking its only about Trump and treason... there is so much more at stake.