The Other Tragedy of White Supremacy
The Whiteness Letters
Dear Friends and Family,
Today I want to talk about the other tragedy of white supremacy. We already know white supremacy has caused the televised, murder of unarmed Black men. We already know white supremacy has denied Black families the opportunity to create and pass on generational wealth through home ownership. And, we now know white supremacy has caused more illnesses in and earlier deaths of Black people. This alone should be enough to motivate us to address and make reparations for racism, especially anti-Black racism.
But, today, I want to talk about the other tragedy of white supremacy—the way it dupes all of us, white and BIPOC, into believing there is one superior race, class, gender, ability, and sexual orientation.
White supremacy perpetuates the myth and lie of toxic individualism. We are not individuals struggling to survive, we are a community of social animals struggling to protect our herd. I am not just one person alone on an island. I am part of a system where, as a white person, getting my needs met and my desires fulfilled comes at the expense of BIPOC—whether she is the migrant worker in California’s Central Valley, who picks my food, or the factory worker in India who makes my iPhone. I didn’t ask for this world and I don't want it, but it is the world we have and if we are to dismantle white supremacy, white people, like me, must acknowledge our individual happiness comes at the at the expense of BIPOC.
White supremacy perpetuates the myth and lie of perfectionism. We are not perfect. We are human. We will make mistakes. Yet, we live in a system where being less than perfect is tantamount to failure. Even as I read, study, and wrestle with how to be an anti-racist, I find myself longing to complete the course with an A++ and be told,
"Congratulations! You are now an anti-racist." And then, I want to get on with my life, to not think about this anymore, to go back to normal. But, to dismantle white supremacy, we must reject white supremacy as normal and embrace the process of becoming anti-racist.
The tragedy of white supremacy is not just how it marginalizes, minimizes, and demonizes BIPOC, but also how it convinces white people and BIPOC to internalize and believe these and many other myths and lies. The tragedy of white supremacy is that it’s never really attainable. Even for the white supremacist who find himself in power, the attainment is fleeting and when it is gone, there is nothing left because the void has been filled by another white supremacist.
So, how do we end this tragedy? I think we have to answer the non-violent call to arms issued by Black women:
Not the traditional call of the conqueror who divides, degrades and dehumanizes, but rather the call of the non-violent warrior. A warrior who can engage with empathy, sit with discomfort, stand in the truth, and fight with protective, not punitive, force
This remains the purpose of our Dialogue Thursdays—to recognize and name the benefits and costs of white supremacy, to practice being anti-racist, and to role play how we intervene against racist behavior without losing our compassion and empathy.
It is a journey, not a destination.
Until next time, stay healthy, safe, and loved, most important, loved.