I know, I know. You’re not a Nazi. I get it. You would never salute a Nazi flag, you think slavery was (is) bad, and you love all people. Heck, for you, love wins. Right?
Here’s the thing. This isn’t about what you have seen on television. It’s not about white extremists- and they are extremists. This is about the truly normalized social construction and condition of race in America today.
To understand this, you have to accept some baseline facts. And you’re going to have to set aside anything resembling a claim of color blindness. And if your instinct is to defend your experience as a White person, I have two words for you: tiki torch.
Ready? Here we go.
For every non-white race in this country, there is a history of oppression, exploitation, atrocities. American racism is probably older than apple pie, and it is rooted in anti-Blackness. So what does that mean?
Whoever you are, reading this right now: if you live or grew up in the United States, the life you have is not just constantly influenced by your race, it is explicitly influenced by someone else’s, and in this country that baseline for someone else is Black people.
White people did not build this country. Black people did. That isn’t an opinion, or some self-involved rhetoric. It’s a fact. And it matters today, because the relationship between how this nation came to be and how we co-exist today, are directly linked.
America was built by enslaved African people. Every crop and building. White people enforced and benefited from the intelligence and forced labor of enslaved African people and their descendants. The system of slavery, which still exists in many forms, relied on the concept of race, and therefore racism. One race was better, stronger, prettier, and more worthy in a Christian God’s eyes. The other was savage, ignorant, incapable, dangerous, and unworthy in a Christian God’s eyes. One prospers. The other suffers. That is the basics of racism and bigotry, of anti-Blackness in America today.
The extreme, is tiki torch-lit marches around statues, assault rifle carrying hate groups marching through towns beating people, or cars being driven into crowds. But the normal every day, is often quiet, and unseen. It’s in the minds of every person in this country. White people don’t have to be violent or malicious to be racist or a bigot, to hold certain opinions or stereotypes, or to participate in society in such a way that oppresses black people, or aids in their comfort and privilege. That machine is well oiled and can function without your awareness or permission. White people don’t have to earn your privilege as a White person, it’s given at birth, passed down generation to generation. White people don’t have to experience every reward of white privilege for it to continuously benefit them.
Actual progress on race in this country isn’t centered on the privileged. It is centered on the people forced to develop expertise in all-things-race through every single experience of their lives. Yet it’s because of race we don’t see that happening, because White people, systemically, have the power. Sure they want things to be better for Black and other people of color, but they don’t want things to change for them. They don’t harbor that fear because it’s valid, necessarily, but because they are afraid it is. Instead of meaningful change in government, criminal justice, community, industry, or education, racial oppression is maintained, perpetuated, reinforced.
Yes, the statues matter. The Civil War is just as relevant to America as we experience it today, as it was to ending the right for White people to own Black people as personal property. One side in the war wanted to end slavery. The other side wanted to keep slavery. It wasn’t a shouting match, it was a war to the death. And when it was over, the winners and the losers did not join arm in arm in solidarity. The Civil War ended bitterly. Loyalists to the Confederacy didn’t change their opinions about race, or their behavior because they lost the war. Statues were put in place as terrifying reminders of what just was, and what could be again.
But it wasn’t just statues that were put in place. There isn’t a regulation, policy, or law in this country that can’t be traced back to the reconstruction era. All create to oppress Black and other people of color in order to create advantages for White people. Full stop.
Race is not a myth. Myths are about things that never existed. Racial stereotypes are myths. But race itself is very real. It was invented by people. It has quantitative impact. At the same time, race is a social concept which is entirely made up. It has a global history with universal implications, and for the United States, it is a cornerstone of American culture, society, government, and community. It is the foundation of the American classes; poor, middle class, or upper class.
But let’s get back to this Nazi thing. Nazis are bad. Skinheads, the KKK, White Nationalists, and all their kin are bad, and for America, the ideology hearkens to slavery and Jim Crow, the absolute worst of the nation’s history, steeped in a brutality we cannot comprehend today. The natural inclination is to run the other way and disassociate in every way possible.
The label of “racist” is associated with evil, bad people like Hitler, or those who lynched black people. Today, “I am not racist” means “I am not like those bad people.”
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to salute a Nazi flag to uphold White supremacy. You don’t have to be a mean, evil person to be racist or bigoted towards Black and other people of color. You don’t have to believe in a master race to benefit.
Don’t conflate the true meaning and impact of White supremacy, and Nazi-ism. The true impact and meaning of White supremacy is White privilege. You can’t shut off privilege, and your privilege cannot exist without the constant oppression, victimization and exploitation of everyone else.
Opposition to a hate rally does not eradicate White supremacy, just like tearing down a statue doesn’t dismantle your White power.
Written by: @thechiefkara -twitter
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