A couple of weeks ago, my job was restructured. The management team had some difficulties filling a position and when they failed, they decided that I was qualified to take on these responsibilities. I work as a contractor, so they contacted the people responsible for managing my contract responsibilities, made changes, and then contacted me to tell me what the changes were and when they would go into effect — which was immediate. There’s no increase in pay and it was pointed out to me repeatedly that I had no choice in this change. The real kicker is that they keep telling me that I get to decide what my responsibilities are, as long as they are the loosely defined items on the list they verbally assigned to me. Oh, and that I’m supposed to be happy about it because it’s more aligned with the work I want to do…that they never asked me about. Ever.
I’m a fat, Black womxn. I constantly encounter situations over which I have no control. I consistently find myself having to navigate convoluted systems and assumptions about me to get my needs met. Obstacles are not an unusual happenstance; they are a constant part of my life that I’ve conditioned myself to minimize despite the stress and difficulty they cause in my life. Yet, every time I think I’ve got a handle on it, some new creative shit happens and then I have a new pile of bullshit I have to clean up in my life. I keep telling myself I’m used to it, but I’m never used to it. What I’m used to is suppressing my reaction to it because my survival demands it.
We talk about the violence of white supremacy and a huge part of that violence is the erasure of my autonomy and humanity for the convenience of white supremacist patriarchal capitalist ideology. The organization had a problem and saw me as a convenient solution to that problem. The only inconvenient part was my agreement to their “solution,” so they removed that factor from their equation. They removed my free-will from the equation. We are in a pandemic and a recession with uncertain employment situations that our healthcare is tied to, effectively limiting my options. And to be clear, four years ago, I would have fucking quit on the spot if a job pulled this shit. Instead, I find myself looking at my bank account and my healthcare and trying to decide if my mental and physical health will survive the possibility of unemployment during these times. I know they can’t. This fucking job provides me with the resources to manage the effects of the job’s violence on me. That is a fucked up way to live, but it’s the hamster wheel of american life. Many of us, especially those with marginalized identities, are forced to function this way — constantly reminded that our humanity is not a factor in this white supremacist patriarchal capitalist landscape also known as whiteness. Pushed to kissing the boot on our neck. I fucking hate it here.
This situation is a small, personal example of how whiteness operates. This mindset was used to justify any number of inhumane, egregiously violent acts throughout history. It’s been used to justify slavery, citing the cruelty as an unfortunate necessity for the economic growth of this country. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because the same arguments have been used to justify the rampant and intentional mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic. This mindset is used to justify gentrification — Atlanta’s Bedford Pines Apartments is one of the most recent examples of that but it’s something that’s happened to many Black communities throughout history including Seneca Village, now known as Central Park. This is the thought process that makes forced hysterectomies and indigenous genocide acceptable actions under the guise of “progress.”
We grow up being pawns in a game we aren’t even playing; our needs and wants the incidental sacrifice for the lie of white progress. It’s a progress that is celebrated while simultaneously erasing the brutality and murder it’s rooted in. The volume of murders shrouded in terms like “ transatlantic slave trade,” “ mainfest destiny,” “ colonialism,” and “imperialism” is staggering. The levels of cruelty enacted on people by whiteness’ need to feel dominant and superior are mind-boggling. I can’t wrap my head around it because it results in a despair for humanity that I cannot escape, especially as we watch this violence become more sophisticated every day by those who think they may benefit from it. Millions of people. Millions of lives. Millions of human beings gleefully tortured, brutalized, and murdered for whiteness to “thrive.” It’s fucking disgusting.
A few years ago, my S.O. asked me if he should be ashamed to be white. At the time, I was still trying to straddle the fence of peaceful co-existence and the illusion of change. Now, I truly believe that all descendants of whiteness should be ashamed and need to make drastic changes to account for this. The violence isn’t lessening. The atrocities committed against those lowest in the social hierarchies are accepted, marginalized, and ignored constantly. The white people in this society are disgusting as they continue to protect and advance their most vicious monsters…all because they don’t bear the brunt of their harm.
All they do is harm for their own benefit. All they do is harm for their personal advancement. All they do is harm in this illusion of control and individualism, as if they are the only living things who matter. From the imprisonment, taming, and “domestication” of animals, to the “taming” of the environment, we watch and live in a whiteness that consumes and destroys everything in its path for its own comfort…an ideal that is a lie within itself. How can people be comfortable in an environment they are destroying? How can they be comfortable in the intentional murder of entire species? How can anyone be comfortable knowing that their lineage never sought to coexist but rather to subjugate under the threat of death?
And yet, this is the reality that whiteness tells us should be and too many people make themselves comfortable in the rot and ruin they leave in their wake pursuing this.
You cannot coexist with people who think coexisting means subjugation. You cannot coexist with people who believe violence is the norm. Those aligned with this thinking will always rot society from the inside out and it starts with the belief that your humanity is the only one that matters while everyone else’s is expendable. Regardless of how this belief manifests, this is violence. This is harm. What happened on my job is just another example of how this violence permeates our lives.
I’ve stopped expecting better of people because I’m tired of how it affects me. Instead, I settle for sharing examples of how this shit is part of our every day and challenge you to examine the ways you have been violent to others for your convenience. None of us is exempt — some of us just have a lot fewer options to avoid doing that harm. But yeah, none of us is exempt from inflicting this violence in some way. Figure out how you can do better because the world needs a lot of people doing fucking better right now.
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Originally published at https://talynnkel.com on September 25, 2020.