We have met the enemy, and he is us. <– This essay by Ijeuma Oluo serves as background for all that follows. While I hope my post stands on its own, it is important context. You probably can learn something from that beautiful essay anyway.
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Black people need to know what white people are thinking, right?
Roughly ten, maybe fifteen, years ago I wrote to Pulitzer Prize winning Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts. I love his writing. I love his perspective. I wanted to add my voice, the “Good White Man” to his, advancing racial understanding. I do not have the original letter, but the essence of what I wrote still stains my psyche:
It seems that black and white people don’t really know each other’s experience. Would you be interested in working jointly on an answer column or website, in which we take questions and give the ‘straight-poop’ to each other’s side? Perhaps we could call it “Ask a Crackuh/Aks a Brutha.
Within a day I received a response from Mr. Pitt’s assistant,
“Dear Mr. Schneider,
Mr. Pitts respectfully declines.
Let’s soak in that a moment. Inhale deeply, linger in the stench. I actually wrote that. I hit send. I thought this was genius. Holy. Shit. Arrogant, blind, asleep.
I continued in my career of “White Goodness,” shocked to the dickens when my hand, outstretched to offer alliance, was more than once met with a “Get the fuck away from me, man!” look, or words. Wait, why don’t you want my help understanding the white perspective? I have so much to teach. Still blind… ten, or fifteen years… until…
“Privilege” entered our lexicon, and suddenly I saw it in my life. Then carnage on the street seeped into my heart, as one black person after another was mowed down, beaten, or choked by public servants, dedicated to “protect and serve,” with equal justice for all. Regardless of facts on the ground, a blue-line rose in solidarity behind the most reprehensible behavior, uninterested in disciplining their own. I have never had the stomach for injustice, only the blinders to think it was less pervasive.
Summer 2016 passed into fall, and Netflix released “13th” (amazing documentary on the 13th Amendment and the criminalization of black people, effectively extending slavery via mass incarceration) and “What Happened Miss Simone” (an emotional, and artistically powerful look at what happened to an artist who spoke out for Civil Rights). Then “Hidden Figures” revealed that the minds behind our space program were female and black, and I felt sick. Then “I Am Not Your Negro” arrived, and I learned of James Baldwin’s evisceration of William F. Buckley on these issues in 1965.
I felt like Jodie Foster in the climactic scene of “Contact”: “I had no idea…I had no idea.”
It is a lie that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. How many black children have been hurt by not having role models showing the way to be great? How many white children have been allowed to develop in the isolated cocoon of silence, plagiarism and systematic imbalance that allowed me, and others like me, to believe that America was post-racial because Barack Obama was elected in 2008?
And I was “Woke AF”, hopefully not too late. “White guilt,” some derided.
Did I have “Catholic Guilt” when I discovered all the ways the Church’s indoctrination blinded me to its privilege and abuse in the world, past, present and future? No, I left the church and started working to get right with all the people it has oppressed. And the way I feel now is not “guilty” but awake.
I knew something was wrong in our country, I just misdiagnosed. I watched it all come crumbling down since “Citizens United” made corporations people. Since Hobby Lobby granted corporations religious exercise rights. Since the SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights act in 2013; since 32 Republican controlled states introduced new “Voter ID” laws to combat the sudden rush of voter fraud that seemed only to hit Republican governed states. Since states passed Open Carry and Stand Your Ground laws, ensuring white men could shoot a minority and claim self-defense, while a black woman couldn’t fire a warning shot to scare her abusive husband away without spending time in prison. Since a Congress willfully obstructed for eight years, rather than do anything that might make Obama look good. Since they stole the Constitutional right to appoint a replacement to Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
Then a pussy grabbing , violence-inciting, race-baiting demagogue rose to the White House on the promise to “Make America Great Again,” spooning with Vladimir Putin. Wisconsin went “red” for the first time ever, coincidentally (I’m sure) in the first Federal Election in which Scott Walker’s voter ID laws were in effect, suppressing votes statewide. I understood comedian Greg Proops’ line (paraphrased) that what these people mean is they want to get back to the Founders’ original intent, which “you bet your ass was to maintain legal slavery, and to deny women and minorities the vote.” (Check out his podcast for verbal alacrity, radical feminism and righteous indignation during “The Boring and Preachy Part.)
A thunderstorm of depression has been building over the country for years, and the clouds burst November 8, 2016. What made this loss so much more devastating to the left?
The agonizing shock liberal white Americans are feeling — the “post-electum depression” — is the sudden realization that they are being seen and treated by our white-supremacist kin exactly as marginalized minorities and women have been treated since long before our nation’s inception. I am embarrassed and angry that it took so long for me to face the truth that my brothers and sisters have been expressing and suffering so long: White male Christian supremacy is playing for keeps, no holds barred.
One can be forgiven ignorance, but once one has learned, there is no looking away from fact.
They literally hate us enough to kill us before sharing power or wealth, no matter how it was accumulated.
We are the enemy, as much as blacks, latinos, muslims, foreigners, women. We are disloyal. (Loyalty: The willingness to ignore and rationalize the shittiest behavior of your people, in order to stay in their good graces.)
They, seeing demographics will never again be in their favor, retreat to proven tactics, and seek common cause with the last remaining white, male, power in the world: Putin’s Russia.
We (white, liberal, feminist America) shrieking in pain upon being shocked by the election, are starting to realize we’re being sold down the river by “our own; by the President and Republican Congress, and Corporatist Democrats. All those people sold down, and sold out before us are nodding, “Mm hmm… NOW do you see what we’ve been saying?”
There is no unseeing truth. I am “disillusioned,” but revel in knowing that’s a synonym for “I have seen the light.”
White, nominally “Christian” supremacists in government don’t love America for its promise and idealism. They love the levers of power — to protect white, male, Christian power first, by any means necessary, at any cost.
The only remaining questions once one arrives at this realization is “Which side are you on, and what are you going to do when the white-supremacist institution reaches out a hand to you and offers, one last time, “Come home, where you belong” ?