“Right now, me saying “white people,” as if our race had meaning, and as if I could know anything about somebody just because they’re white, will cause a lot of white people to erupt in defensiveness. And I think of it as a kind of weaponized defensiveness. Weaponized tears. Weaponized hurt feelings. And in that way, I think white fragility actually functions as a kind of white racial bullying.” ~ Robin DiAngelo
Over the past 3 weeks, since the murder of George Floyd in the U.S., and the ensuing protests, I’ve been hugely disappointed at the level of my own ignorance on issues regarding racism, white privilege and bigotry in all its forms. The hundreds of stories of violence against black, indigenous and all people of colour (BIPOC), both in America and all over the world, have mostly sat on the outer fringes of my consciousness. I admit it took global protests to really capture my undivided attention (a perfect example of white privilege, as only someone not subjected to consistent violence/threats of violence and discrimination could be allowed to ignore its continued existence). Before that, I only knew basic “white-washed” history of slavery, apartheid, and the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s, along with the odd news stories of police brutality against BIPOC, such as the Rodney King beating in 1991.
I lived in West Hollywood at the time of the 1992 riots sparked by the acquittal of the cops involved in the Rodney King case, which was likely the main reason I was so aware of the story. I was living with my fiancé and his roommate at the time and I remember aggressively attempting to dissuade them from leaving the house during the riots because I knew damn well they were at a significantly higher risk of being assaulted and/or arrested by the police just for being black as compared to their white counterparts. So obviously, not too deep in my consciousness I was aware of racial profiling by the police.
I admit, I generally avoid the news as I find most of it sensationalised “info-tainment” designed to stir up negative emotions and cause divisive reactions as this is what sells. The media cannot be trusted to present unbiased, neutral facts. And with so much information swirling around to such a dizzying degree, it’s nearly impossible to determine fact from fiction, which I’m sure is part of the grand plan. Confusion and ignorance perfectly aids in the puppet-masters’ goals of world dominance.
I’ve spent many hours trying to educate myself on racism, white privilege and bigotry so that I may be able to uncover my own racist beliefs and prejudices which lay under my denial. As uncomfortable as this process has been (and I’m only just scratching the surface), I’m determined to overcome my ignorance on these issues and my participation in perpetuating racism and bigotry by remaining silent and not fully addressing my own behaviour and views. I don’t want to be just another fair-weather ally to BIPOC and other marginalised groups by posting the occasional story on Facebook and utilising the trending hashtag de jour. That kind of empty support will not create any real change and only serves to make me feel momentarily better about myself. I can’t be a racist if I support BIPOC, right…? Wrong!
As I continue my research by reading, listening to and watching the stories of racism and bigotry produced by people of all races, identities, cultures, nationalities and religions, I’m more and more being confronted with the question, “In what ways have I behaved in a racist and/or bigoted way and how have I benefitted from white privilege?”
The more research I do, the more I see how white supremacy has completely infiltrated and shaped not only my own attitudes and beliefs but those of all people, including BIPOC. It’s genius “cradle to the grave” conditioning going on in societies all around the world. The more awake I become, the more I am seeing the overt and covert racism and bigotry, along with varying degrees of micro-aggression displayed by so many of my own Facebook “friends” and other people I encounter. It has left me feeling hugely uncomfortable with the part I’ve played in it. Whether I was simply ignorant of the issues and manipulated by mass media reports or because I chose to stay safely silent and on the sidelines, makes no difference. I am still complicit. I can’t claim to be anti-racist or anti-bigoted if I’m not willing to call out racism and bigotry whenever I see it, both in myself and everywhere else.
What I need to really focus on is finding skilful means of calling it out in ways that encourage honest communication, as opposed to shaming others, which only leads to defensiveness and anger. As Brené Brown so aptly says, “The biggest barriers to acknowledgement of privilege [or racism] is shame. You have to reach out with love and curiosity… [but] speak truth to bullshit. Also, be civil when you’re doing it.” I admit that in my reactive state, I have just unfriended those who have posted things that I judge as racist or bigoted. Instead of engaging them in an honest dialog with the desire to create some real understanding between us and to learn another perspective, I’ve chosen the cowardly (and passive-aggressive) approach so as to avoid a potentially ugly conflict. This stops today.
I apologise for the following vocabulary lesson, but since I was mostly unfamiliar with the proper definition of these terms and how I have participated, consciously or unconsciously, in their application, I thought some of you may also be unaware of their definitions.
Covert racism is defined as: “A form of racial discrimination that is disguised and subtle, rather than public or obvious. Concealed in the fabric of society, covert racism discriminates against individuals through often evasive or seemingly passive methods. Covert, racially biased decisions are often hidden or rationalised with an explanation that society is more willing to accept. These racial biases cause a variety of problems that work to empower the suppressors while diminishing the rights and powers of the oppressed. Covert racism often works subliminally, and often much of the discrimination is being done subconsciously. Sometimes, it originates instead in discrimination against poorer segments that simply happens to disproportionately affect individuals by race.”
The definition of micro-aggression is: “A term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups.”
I have never considered myself racist or a bigot. I have many friends from all walks of life. I’ve prided myself on being open-minded and non-judgemental of people who come from all different races, religions and cultures. But rather than hide behind this smug attitude, I feel compelled to peel back the layers and look for the truth, however painful this process might be. Rather than tout the ubiquitous attitude of being “colour blind,” I seek to acknowledge and celebrate the differences instead of pretending I don’t notice them. After all, isn’t it our differences that make the world more interesting? How boring it would be if we were all exactly the same…
I want to bring my awareness to where I hold subconscious racist and bigoted views and where my white privilege has benefitted me. “Sit in [my] yuck” as Nicole Cameron says. Let me be clear here, I do not seek your validation of my existence as a non-racist or bigoted person. I truly wish to uncover the nature of my views and where I may have unknowingly caused harm because of them. I don’t wish to burden anyone by asking them to school me on racism and bigotry, however, I do hope that some of you might be willing to take the time to show me what perhaps I can’t see for myself because of my “white veil.” I also hope that any constructive criticism you may wish to offer is done so with the intention to be helpful and a little compassionate. It’s certainly not my aim to offend anyone, but merely an aspiration to become more aware. Only from this place of awareness do I stand any chance of making lasting changes in my heart and mind and then maybe in the hearts and minds of others. As Brené Brown also says, “…perhaps a little hypothesis of generosity” for which I would be truly grateful.
Below are a several links to some interesting and thought-provoking articles I have found in the course of my research. Please comment below with any additional articles, videos, podcasts and books that you have found informative and helpful. My goal is to heighten my curiosity and awareness by asking the uncomfortable questions. I hope you’ll join me in this quest or allow me to join you in yours.