This is something that I originally wrote on Tumblr, in light of recent events in Charlottesville, but also not forgetting that the U.S. , and white people specifically, have been breeding the ideologies that have grown and produced the alt-right long before now:
There is no point white people can reach to be “not racist” in this society as it is. To think you have reached it is to allow yourself to be controlled unconsciously by your racist shadows. As white people, we need to face those shadows. And that starts with learning the history of the violence our ancestors have spread and how that violence has led to structures that we benefit from today and that continue to hurt people of color- Asian, Latinex, Indigenous people, Black people– and often conflates and contributes to religious oppression of Muslims and Jewish people…
And if you feel ashamed of the history– if you feel agitated and uncomfortable and guilty– SIT WITH IT. It does not mean you have to adopt some new belief that you are inherently bad. (In fact, that’s not useful and immobilizes you from moving forward to fight against racism.) It means you need to work on coping with shame and moving forward from it productively. And, believe me, I know that is hard fucking work, but it is necessary. And it is NOTHING compared to the internal work required of people of color daily for merely EXISTING in this racist society. So don’t get stuck in self-pity or shame and just DO THE FUCKING WORK, FEEL YOUR FEELINGS, DON’T MAKE THEM ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE, AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD UNTIL YOU ARE CAPABLE OF PRODUCTIVE ACTION.
Just because there are blatant and obvious Nazis parading around in Charlottesville does not absolve white people from working on ourselves. Black Lives Matter has been trying to wake people up for years– following a long and brave as fuck tradition of black-led activism that has spanned centuries. Indigenous community leaders have been trying to alert people to the struggles faced by indigenous people living in reservations… and more recently to the protection of sacred sites and access to CLEAN WATER itself.
This is the work we have to do to bring ourselves up to speed– out of privileged ignorance and into basic human decency. This is the cultural adulthood and loss of innocence that we have forced people of color to be strong enough to cope with, and it is long since time for us to grow the fuck up and help shoulder the burden that our ancestors and we, ourselves, have placed on people of color.
Dealing with our own internal work and sorting out all the bullshit is the first step to becoming able to LISTEN to people of color and respond in cooperation and empathy– to right the wrongs of the past, or at least ensure they stop happening today.
And though I am writing this, and these are my words, I take no credit for the ideas presented within– because like every other white person, I owe everything I know about racism to people of color– especially black and indigenous women, who have long since been asking us all to take our heads out of our asses.
of The Heart Road