They say you find out who your real friends are on moving day. It’s a shake-up of everything that you’ve come to rely on – of your home and living conditions, school and work, life and re-routing. Finding your feet and acclimating to the new surroundings. For Black USians, the verdict and aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial seemed to be moving day. You find out who your friends are. Real friends of people of color recognize White Supremacy as the enemy. They recognize the effects of it upon themselves and work to eradicate it within themselves and society.
White Supremacy is the great engine of racism in the world, from the times of Western European colonization of the world (1492) until now. And the effects of it can be seen in every crevice, every indelible fingerprint that has been left by White Colonial rule – particularly those still run by the patriarchal White boss. The tragedy of the genocidal massacres in Rwanda, for instance, were rooted in German and Belgium rule and the colorist way that the Europeans divided and structured the colony, which survived well after the Europeans left. And the White Colonizers could do this because, according to White Supremacy understood through the White Man’s Burden, it’s the special place and obligation of the master class/race to run the world and think for and in place of the darker, “savage” people.
Whites in Western countries tend to think that anti-People of Color racism is something that only a small subset of the population is involved in, but it is a part of the very DNA of Western “Civilization,” as they say, and was spread and codified through colonization. So it doesn’t just go away – we White people need to be able to recognize it in our existence; in our collective and individual thought processes; in our institutions, organizations and political structures; in our interactions; and in our behavior. For sometimes it’s easy to spot, but often it resides just below the surface, staining the wood. We don’t see it until we’re moving the boxes and furniture on moving day.
There are of course the obvious injunctions of White Supremacy spewing and reveling in the wake of the Zimmerman “not guilty” verdict. The ones falsely claiming that young Mister Martin was obviously a thug based solely on the color of his skin and his approximate age. They will tell you with impunity that Trayvon deserved to be shot, that he should have obeyed a complete stranger’s orders to reveal himself, put his arms up, and not act out of fear or rage. They proudly assume by the color of his skin that he really was looking for trouble, and somehow the fact of his blackness added an extra fifty pounds of muscle to his 158 pound frame. Twitter and blog comments are full of these obvious undercover Klan members and Youtubers.
Yet what’s truly interesting about their arguments is how similar they sound to the fears of the jurors and other not-so-obviously-racist, normative White people. Pat Robertson has an obvious hater gene, but his explanation that Trayvon should have been followed because “criminals always wear hoodies” is emblematic of much of the narrative coming from much of White America. Never mind that it was raining. Never mind that hoods are worn regularly by perfectly lawful black men (like, say, Trayvon) and that nobody bats an eye at blond women wearing hoodies.
It’s the same racial fear that Juror B37 displayed in her verdict and in her interview with Anderson Cooper, who others Black people as “They”; who believes that Trayvon was responsible for his own death; who acts like race was not a factor in Zimmerman’s profiling; who also blames the profiling on Martin’s clothing; who dismissed Rachel Jeantel’s testimony because she couldn’t understand her vernacular. This type of posturing, this whiting-out of the reality of black people, this othering, this racial suspicion masquerading as just plain old suspicion, is all part of White Supremacy. White Supremacy is the idea and the practice that White people are just better at everything – they are more moral, more intelligent, more virtuous, more industrious and more trustworthy than people of color (and particularly black people).
Another exchange I had was with a White male who argued that, technically, Zimmerman should be free (on a thread that actually said we should focus on the racial injustice rather than the person of Zimmerman). When I told him that even if he bought that, the trend of people of color being hostilely targeted tells Black people that Zimmerman is, actually, guilty, and that the conversation isn’t about the particulars of the case so much, he argues that then we shouldn’t talk about the case at all. Because if talk of justice and guilt doesn’t happen on his admittedly biased terms, it can’t happen at all. Maybe I should have shared this link on twenty other young unarmed Black men shot and killed by police or security guards for simply being black, male, and in the “wrong” place at the wrong time.
White Supremacy is, again, evidenced throughout social, economic and political realities – even, as we discover through this Great Moving Day, in liberal and progressive White people. Supposed allies have shown their true colors these last few days. They’ve chosen to focus on a narrative of the case that privileges the defendant, perhaps. Or – and this is incredibly common occurrence through Facebook – they tell their black friends how to feel, tell them to stop grieving, to not be angry. In one particular exchange I was privy to, a white male liberal invoked King and Gandhi as examples of calm for my female black friend to follow. Of course, he wasn’t evoking them as real, complex humans, but his own colonized versions of them. For a Black female to grieve and be concerned in public about something which affects her and her family, friends and community is something that White (and Male) Supremacy cannot stand. Emotions of people of color are to be kept in check and limited to how comfortable White Supremacy allows them to be. This highlights the fact that White Supremacy does not see People of Color as actual people, but subjects of white fantasies and whims.
Sometimes those fantasies are entirely antagonistic, sometimes they are nicer, but still lack the ability to see people as fully human. It also highlights the controlling impulse of White (and again Male) Supremacy, as well as the idea that Whites have the answers and know how to solve conflict and problems. These concepts have been displayed time and again by White Leftists. From Democrats joking about racism or color-blinding the issue, to Green Party members arguing that Zimmerman was actually innocent in rebutting against a statement from the party. From liberals worrying that Black people will riot and mess up everything, to socialists arguing that we really should ignore the issue and go after the banks.
Donald Miller, a fairly progressive Evangelical author wrote a piece whitesplaining the verdict and the “truth gaps” that Black folk “filled in” with their imaginations. Because Black folks, to White Supremacy, are not able to come to rational conclusions based on their experiences and minds…
Even the godfather of progressivism, Jimmy Carter (who is a hero of mine), could not help but portray Peace for Trayvon protests as violent race riots. While that could just be a sign that he was misinformed about the nature of the marches (in LA, for instance, police shot rubber bullets into the crowd to disperse them, but despite a few arrests, marches were peaceful), it also speaks to a residing fear among the collective White Imagination about Black people. Additionally, the former President seemed to chide Black people for being emotional, and suggested that they should bury the past. As if the injustice of racialized predator practices and murder was a mere singular event rather than a regular occurrence among people of color in the US. But more revealing of the thread of White Supremacy is Carter’s admission that he doesn’t think race played a factor in the verdict and shouldn’t have. Race and racism was central to everything in the trial. In proclaiming the jurors and verdict to be color-blind, we are saying that the jurors resided on their de facto “race” identity to understand the trial – that race being “White,” the normative race for White Supremacy.
In sum, racial conversations must take place only on the terms of White people – that is White Supremacy at its essence. Others are not qualified to conduct or analyze their own business or their own realities. They are not even qualified to know how to act without White supervision and interference. In White Supremacy, personhood is only given to those who act in accordance with White Supremacist narratives and only as long as they do (which is why they denied it to the enslaved but give it to the unborn).
To the extent people of color fall out of this WS narrative, White people are supposed to judge and fill in the gaps or cross out the offending parts – always keeping the non-White in check. This applies to not just Black people, but indigenous, South and East Asian, as well as women, trans* people, people with disabilities, autistic people, etc. – as long as they are kept in their “proper place.” If, in fact, we find ourselves arguing against the majority of an oppressed group on their own perceptions of their own lived experiences, then maybe it’s time for us to shut up.
In agreeing with the White Supremacy narrative, we White people cannot see our own blindness and we deny the beautiful, hopeful, ugly and tragic complexity of humanity. To reject the narrative gives us a clearer vision for where we are right now, and that gives us a map in order to move forward in seeking freedom and justice for all of us from oppressive forces – including ourselves. We find the keys to our freedom on moving day.
*As many of the views and conversations I share here are on private pages and I did not have the foresight or technology to properly screen-cap, I only share links where I can.
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