Since the 2016 election, I’ve had to let go of many assumptions about white people. I’ve had to truly accept that white people mean me harm.
Not explicitly. Not directly. Not in a way that soils their hands and makes them realize the depth of their hatred. They want to harm me in the same way that meat ends up in the grocery store: far away where someone else does the dirty work for them. En masse so that it seems impersonal. On such a large scale that it feels as though it was out of their control. Fueled by lies so they can claim its justified.
They want me under their foot or out of the way so that they can feel dominant and in control. But they don’t want the guilt and shame that comes with direct engagement from those they seek to oppress.
AmeriKKKa will die on its inability to be honest with itself. And since I’m going down anyway, I want to watch.
I’ve grown up knowing that white people don’t think shit about Black people. I’ve been taught, encouraged, conditioned, trained, forced into centering whiteness in many of my conversations if white people are present. It’s a difficult conditioning to break, especially as my significant other (S.O.) is white. I didn’t understand these dynamics before our relationship. I didn’t understand these dynamics before this year. I sort of understood that I had a kind of freedom with Black people that I didn’t have in racially diverse groups and definitely didn’t have in predominantly white groups. I knew there were “safe” topics I could discuss around white people, and they usually did not include politics or social justice. I knew that many times I didn’t feel safe around white people, and this was something I experienced in my relationship with my S.O. And because I didn’t want to deal with the conflicting emotions it caused, I sometimes pushed it to the side to deal with later. Later became years of unpleasant social interactions with people I felt I needed to hide myself from. I still feel that way, which is why I do not interact with them much.
Their coded language. Their not so hidden racism and misogynoir. It was there. It is always there. I just needed to re-tune myself to its melody and cadence, both a self-protective and self-harming act. My continued proximity to whiteness, both through my marriage and my employment, demands I hear the violence of their soft words. Exposing me to their thinly veiled hostility, their muted hatred. I bleed from cuts made by verbal knives, designed to pierce Black bodies. I field multiple attacks through shifting context, morphing intent, modified and commodified rage and dismissal. Gentrification. Redlining. Political discourse. Health concerns. Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression. Their hate, constantly protected from scrutiny, protest, rebuttal, dismissal and woven into every inch of the fabric of America…while those who resist, push-back, criticize, protest, and reveal the incessant inconsistencies, lies, hidden truths, and fabrications are attacked more for daring to speak truth.
Oh, the many ways I’ve experienced racism from my peers. The many ways oppression has manifested itself in language. It is varied and ever-changing, while its damage it consistent. See the list. Learn the code.
- Annoyed: I mean I get that they have been disenfranchised, attacked, and murdered but do they have to be so loud about it?
- Benevolent: “we’re all the same and I’m good to everyone regardless of color.”
- Condescending: We will go save all the brown skinned people from their ignorance. White people can help EVERYONE!
- Conditional: See, if you had been nicer and maybe less angry, I would have been on your side but since you weren’t, I can’t support you.
- Denial: I am not racist. It’s not my fault that Black people didn’t understand what I meant!
- Dismissive: You definitely misunderstood. You need to stop being so sensitive. Everything isn’t about race.
- Doubting: Are you sure that what they said was racist? Maybe you misunderstood.
- Economic: The Civil War was about the economy, not slavery.
- Educational: They just can’t learn the way white people learn. Their brains don’t work the same way.
- Insistent: Racism isn’t real. It’s just something Black people say to get special treatment.
- Judgmental: Prove that you deserve a chance. That you’re better than the others.
- Murderous: Kill the n*ggers!
- Passive Aggressive: I understand your concerns about all the new hires being white. Let’s schedule a conversation to talk about this.
- Patronizing: Nobody’s going to listen to you if you keep whining like spoiled brats.
- Ridiculous: Even if human life did originate in Africa, all it means is that Black people are less evolved than white people.
- Sanctimonious: We must forgive the Black people for they know not what they do.
- Scientific: You know the brains of children raised with food insecurity develop differently. A lot of Black people are raised in poverty, so…
- Sexualized: Black women are wild in bed. They just bring this primitive freakiness you just can’t get in a white woman.
- Sexualized & Racially Violent: You know you want it. All you Black bitches stay in heat for this shit.
- Undermining: The job can’t be that hard if she can do it.
Racism is the one area where white people are consistently creative, marketing geniuses. How now, instead of racist or nazi, they are the “alt-right.” How lies are now “post-truths,” protesters are rioters, anti-racists are bullies, Black people are racists, Black Lives Matter is a hate group and the KKK is not a terrorist organization. White people are the spin doctors of oppression and now we watch many of them continue to unify under a mountain of lies and a promise of racial violence. Why is this the norm?
Why is racism normal?
The depressing part is that it’s always been normal in America. It is an intrinsic part of colonialism. Psychological and emotional violence are the ground we walk on, the church we pray in, the job we work for, and the bed we sleep in. This IS America. And, when I pay attention, it is always painful.
I’ve mentioned repeatedly that my father told me to never trust white people. That they would always fight for white supremacy and that I would always be to whom they felt superior. For most of my life, I told myself it wasn’t true. I bet my marriage, and potentially my life on that. This election has shown me that my judgement is flawed and I’m not quite sure what to do with that.
My S.O. is pressured to constantly prove he’s different. How long will my marriage last under that strain? The white people I call my friends, too, must prove they are different. How many friendships will collapse under that burden? And yet, this is what I need to feel comfortable keeping them in my life. This proof. This constant proof. Kinda like the proof I have to provide to show I deserve my degrees, my job, my home, my freedom. And when I think about it that way, I feel less bothered.
Welcome to the world of not being good enough because of your skin color. It’s still not balanced. It’s still not fair. And it’s a pretty shitty place to live.
But this is AmeriKKKa, the country built on hundreds of years of POC corpses by beneficiaries who deny their racially violent history because it makes them feel bad.
Originally published at talynnkel.com on November 23, 2016.