We have a language problem in the United States. It isn’t new because the power of language has been known for centuries. To deny people the ability to communicate, to punish people for communicating is to control what is known and shared which helps consolidate and maintain power. This is one of the reasons why the internet has been so powerful and why there are ongoing efforts to limit who and what is seen and shared there.
We’ve seen it. We’ve seen social movements happen online. Feminista Jones wrote about this in her book Reclaiming Our Space. Moya Bailey discussed it in her book Misogynoir Transformed. From #BlackLivesMatter to #MeToo to #OscarsSoWhite to #SayHerName, the ability for people from marginalized communities to be seen and heard has reshaped conversations that have been intentionally silenced and dismissed by popular aka white media, academics, politicians, and any institution or organization that benefits from maintaining the status quo. We watch oppressive social regimes co-opt language used to define and describe the experiences of marginalized and oppressed people only to distort and redefine them through intentional misuse, an act that undermines the ability for the oppressed to discuss their oppression. #AllLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, political correctness, trigger warnings, social justice, critical race theory are all phrases that we witnessed being distorted in real time, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
We are, right now, watching white people use systems of power in the united states to reshape history. We are watching them dirty delete the parts of history that exhibit the nature of whiteness and white people — their savagery, worship of violence, and complete avoidance of accountability, actions they proudly engage in but later deny because it makes them look bad. The current attacks on critical race theory reflect exactly that. The same people who want to keep their confederate monuments don’t want to talk about why they exist. Just recently, the Texas Senate passed a bill and representatives in Kentucky filed a bill to specifically limit talk about systemic racism aka american history. Part of these bills specifically state that there can be no discussion on topics that truthfully address the white supremacist patriarchal capitalist violence that define amerikkkan society. Some of the “rationale” given is that they are lies and might hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel uncomfortable — please note that the “white” is silent in these rationales. They claim that any version of american history that honestly addressed the ways Black people and other global majorities have been dehumanized, exploited, murdered, abused, and tormented all for the convenience of white people is “divisive” and they are actively purging it from classrooms and anywhere else they can. This isn’t the first time white people have done this. This has been an ongoing part of white american culture as they seek to dismiss the long history of horrific violence that defines our present.
These actions are why there are textbooks in the south that make chattel slavery look benevolent. They described enslaved Black people as “workers” and implied that the human traffickers who controlled their lives under the threat of torture and death were kind and caring people. We have been taught to idolize violent white people who commercialized terrorism and dehumanization so they could proclaim themselves to be a civilizing force across the globe. They have erased, downplayed, and justified their atrocities, so much so that many people cannot imagine a world without exploitation and violence. Many people only see the world in terms of the exploited and the exploiters and cannot imagine a society that is different. The propaganda is interwoven with every aspect of colonized cultures — so much so that people murder dissenters at will and victims become willing tools of their own oppression as they imagine some immediate reward for their subservience. They help whiteness destroy every nascent challenger before those challengers can rise to prominence and then cull the history to keep everyone dependent on the “goodwill” of their oppressors.
Everything about white culture is curated. There is a reason that the definition of racism didn’t include power dynamics until 2020 and even that is only in the Merriam Webster dictionary — the Oxford dictionary still doesn’t include it. There’s a reason why misogynoir doesn’t have an entry. There’s a reason why the definition of sexism doesn’t specify that it is the societal power of men that allows the perpetual discrimination and punishment of women — because naming the power dynamic at play identifies the perpetrator and white people thrive when they can keep themselves unnamed in the violence they inflict. They flatten the narrative so that it looks like a two-way street when it’s one-way. Then they equate the protective actions that people take against their oppressors to the violence the oppressors enact and claim that the oppressed are in the wrong. And because oppressors aka white people control the mass communication tools, all they need to do is continue saying this shit loudly then only acknowledge and print the flattened definitions that create these false equivalences. Then they use these false equivalences to claim that they are the victims in the violent scenarios they created. The allies are all lies all the time and the more they lie, the more comfortable they become with lying. Then they reframe lying as harmless and feign ignorance of the harm they inflict. The white privilege revolution of January 6, 2021 has been described as a tourist visit and the insurrectionists as victims as white people continue their tradition of lying through reframing, redefining, and loudly repeating the lies until everyone refuting them is exhausted — and white media does much to aid and abet these falsehoods. Just like when they started redefining lying and calling it “alternative facts” because calling the obvious lying of that last president lying was too honest. Well, that and that they openly punished and revoked access to any media that challenge his bullshit or contradicted him.
That revocation of access is just one of the tools whiteness uses to silence people. Just like Facebook mutes any account that speaks honestly about white people and men because according to Facebook, these are protected classes despite them being the oppressors. Black people are punished for saying anything about them. Our posts are removed, our accounts suspended, anything to protect white supremacist patriarchal capitalism. That saying “white people” can result in a ban but not “n*gg*r” is on brand for this white supremacist culture. All you need to see is who’s being protected and who isn’t to understand who controls how this society functions but you’d never realize it is all you listen to are the loudest voices — because who gets access to the mic? Not the people who have been and continue to be erased from both history and contemporary society. Not the people who were denied spoken and written language under the threat of death. Not the people whose lived experiences continue to be denied until white people “study” and validate them. Not the people whose language is continually mocked and dismissed until it can be appropriated and monetized by white people.
These systems that inform our lives were created with white supremacist patriarchal capitalism at their core and they work in tandem to maintain, harm, and kill Black people and the global majority using oppression. They also work to protect the white people and their co-conspirators from any consequences of oppression. The systems are continually tweaked to tighten the noose around us, cull the most bothersome, and maintain business as usual — and none of this is by accident so don’t tell yourself it is. Instead, watch how people move. Pay attention to what they do because they say a lot but have proven themselves time and again to be liars. Don’t support them. Call them out on their lies. And pay attention to the things you say and consume because the language we use is both manipulative and manipulated to shield those in power, white people, from accountability and consequences from their actions. Do not be an agent for their cause because it’s killing you. It’s killing me. It’s killing more people than people realize and only truly benefits those who can pay for those consequences to disappear. Do the work to decolonize your mind and strive to make the world a better place rather than this current breeding ground for predators.
We have to want better for ourselves.
Items and Articles Linked:
Reclaiming Our Space by Feminista Jones https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CWDVB1T
Misogynoir Transformed by Moya Bailey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L9J6WTW
Tracking Global Online Censorship: What EFF Is Doing Next https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/06/tracking-global-online-censorship-what-eff-doing-next
Whiteness Is Violence https://talynnkel.com/blog/2020/4/28/whiteness-is-violence
A Culture of Violent White Guys https://newrepublic.com/article/147683/culture-violent-white-guys
White People Refuse to Fix Their Shit https://talynnkel.com/blog/2019/8/4/white-people-refuse-to-fix-their-shit
Readers’ best comments: Making the case for Confederate statues https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/08/30/readers-best-comments-making-case-confederate-statues/618250001/
Texas Senate Votes to Remove Required Lessons on Civil Rights https://news.bloomberglaw.com/social-justice/texas-senate-votes-to-remove-required-lessons-on-civil-rights
Lawmaker wants to limit discussion of systemic racism in Kentucky classrooms https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/education/2021/06/01/kentucky-bill-would-limit-school-discussions-critical-race-theory/7493277002/
The Lies Our Textbooks Told My Generation About Slavery https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/slavery-history-virginia-textbook/2020/07/31/d8571eda-d1f0-11ea-8c55-61e7fa5e82ab_story.html
How history textbooks reflect America’s refusal to reckon with slavery https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/8/26/20829771/slavery-textbooks-history
Merriam-Webster Revises ‘Racism’ Entry After Missouri Woman Asks for Changes https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/us/merriam-webster-racism-definition.html
Mark Zuckerberg Hates Black People https://thedididelgado.medium.com/mark-zuckerberg-hates-black-people-ae65426e3d2a
This Week In Trump’s ‘Alternative Facts’ https://www.npr.org/2017/01/29/512068148/this-week-in-trumps-alternative-facts
The Truth Is, Lying Might Not Be So Bad https://www.npr.org/2017/03/28/521751296/the-truth-is-lying-might-not-be-so-bad
Violence by Every Other Name https://talynnkel.com/blog/2021/4/14/violence-by-every-other-name
A GOP Congressman Compared Capitol Rioters To Tourists. Photos Show Him Barricading A Door. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/05/18/clyde-tourist-capitol-riot-photos/
Why It Matters That Some Republicans See Jan. 6 Rioters As Victims https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-it-matters-some-republicans-see-jan-6-rioters-victims-n1267203
Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-hate-speech-censorship-internal-documents-algorithms
Police Charged Her With A Hate Crime Because She “Intimidated” Them https://www.pushblack.us/news/police-charged-her-hate-crime-because-she-intimidated-them
No Black Parents, Teachers or Scholars Invited to Missouri Hearing on Teaching Race
Becoming an Agent of Whiteness https://talynnkel.com/blog/2016/12/31/becoming-an-agent-of-whiteness
Who Did This? How the Passive Voice Hides a Sentence’s Subject https://www.communiquepr.com/who-did-this-how-the-passive-voice-hides-a-sentences-subject/16967/
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Originally published at https://talynnkel.com on July 22, 2021.