Pointing Out Racism Isn't Racist... Ignoring it Is
I just finished watching a documentary about The Lost Cause as it relates to the civil war, slavery, and the history of racism in this country. There were so many key takeaways that rang true in my heart. Notably:
slavery didn't survive the civil war- white supremacy did
fear is the largest driver of the civil war, Jim Crow, and systemic racism
whiteness is specifically dependent upon white people not noticing that we are surrounded by white stories
I have spent the past six years specifically working to widen my lens to my own white privilege and to use that wider lens to have difficult conversations with other white people about how we can finally atone for and dismantle the deep systemic racism that exists at every level of this country. Something that is said to me many times, and something I heard more than once in this documentary I just watched is the concept of racism only existing because we keep talking about it. If we would just stop bringing it up, it would go away.
Not to center myself but to give context to my lens, I am a white woman who was raised in the deep south of North Carolina with all the privileges and benefits of white supremacy. I lived 48 years before I began to unpack my privilege history and have a full family tree of colonizers, slave owners, KKK leaders, and confederate generals. That said, I can remember never talking about racism openly in my family of origin, but practicing it on a regular basis through language, assumptions, jokes, and general distaste of cultures I didn't understand, nor had a connection to, except through those few Black men and women who were employed by my family. Even those folks who I would openly tell you I "loved" were so far away from my understanding- I didn't know their birthdays nor did I ever make them a cake to celebrate them on their special days- and it never occurred to me that was not how I related to those in my white family I also said I "loved".
I feel compelled to write because I still wonder why white people are so afraid to talk about the racism this country was built on and continues to uphold? I don't wonder in the sense that I don't understand, because I feel I do understand why we won't look at it for what it is; I use that phrase because it continues to baffle me why we cannot open our hearts and minds to the idea that we have been indoctrinated (nay radicalized) into a system that relies on our blurred vision to continue. As was said in the documentary tonight... fear is the driver.
Across our nation, governors and legislators are passing laws to dictate what teachers can and cannot teach with regard to the history of white supremacy in this country. Whiteness is banning books from libraries, punishing teachers for teaching the truth, and insisting that taking down statues and flags is erasing our "heritage". I lived in Charleston, SC when they took the statue down of John C. Calhoun. I remember well the conversations and arguments that led up to, and continued even years later, about the erasure of history by the removal of a known slave-owner, former Vice President of the US, and strong supporter of owning humans as chattel, from 115 feet in the air lording over the citizens of Charleston for over 100 years. In my opinion, lowering Calhoun and any other confederate statue erected to further white supremacy is pointing out racism... leaving them up in the interest of celebrating "heritage" is ignoring it.
A few suggested topics I want to make to offer for discussion to white people who may be reading this:
Don't trust your whiteness... when you least expect it, it will come up and bite you, and anyone identifying as Black, Indigenous, or of color in the proverbial ass
We will never be able to say when it's time to stop pointing out racism in ourselves or others. Keep doing it until...
If any argument is being made to ignore it and it will just go away, don't allow the comfort of that suggestion to lull you into acceptance. That is when we must stand up and FIGHT!
I would welcome any conversations if you read this and want to debate anything I've said. Send me a message through my website and we'll set a time to talk. I continue to appreciate my teachers and take no credit for these ideas posed here. Thank you for listening.