Content warning for discussions of racism, Sinophobia, links showing racist white people, and for anti-Semitic imagery
It’s time for white people to talk about racism.
If there’s one thing I do well, it’s observe people. I observe behaviors in person and online. I observe communication styles; intent, emotion, empathy or lack thereof. My work as a counselor shows the variables that impact how people understand themselves as individuals. I’m driven by helping people make sense of their realities by understanding their role in the lives of others.
Another of my strengths is making fellow white Midwesterners uncomfortable by saying, “white supremacy” out loud. Quite literally, other white people inside of in activism and advocacy space have gradually excluded or outright ignored me. And I can only conclude it’s punishment for calling white supremacy by it’s ugly name. White women were notorious for being the very people who got that former president into office. I cannot stress enough that white women in liberal spaces are keeping those same kinds of white supremacists in power.
I hate to be the one to tell you, but being a Democrat doesn’t automatically make you anti-racist. It doesn’t matter what your profile bio says, what committee you’re on, or how many communities you “support.” None of your outward “woke” virtues equate to being anti-racist.
This is not at all news. Malcolm X,’s observations about white liberals still tracks today. I’ve had friends, family, and fellow “white allies” in advocacy spaces stop discussing, or refusing to acknowledge white supremacy. That choice is a problem. Especially if your public persona, career, and income is one built upon being “inclusive” or as an “ally” or “antiracist.”
How to lose friends and feel uncomfortable, as a white person
Joe Biden’s run in the 2020 election horrified me for two reasons. First, the cavalier reactions to sexual assault allegations against him, from people I’m friends with. Many of them defended, ignored, and shrugged off my concerns about what I think were credible allegations. Additionally, some of the most racist shit I’ve ever heard said in Congress came out of his mouth.
It’s true, I don’t watch CSPAN often on purpose. So it’s probably not the top most racist shit ever said in Congress. But I still thought the nation deserved a Presidential candidate who didn’t have a record of saying racist things, or sexual assault allegations. I was pretty disappointed at my white friend’s response: “yeah, I know he’s racist, but this is the thing. We just need to get him in office, and then we will hold them accountable.”
You know the mantra, right? “We will hold them accountable.”
White People Need to Take Accountability for Racism and White Supremacy In Politics
One word I didn’t hear in the rant from 1993 was “race.” In fact, Joe Biden also didn’t say, “white supremacy.” Even though his racist tirade explained how white supremacy has structured our entire society. Despite using the clinical terminology “anti-social” as a dog whistle, Biden never actually used the important words. And in just this clip we can hear how much:
- White supremacists weaponize mental health against Black or otherwise racially and economically minoritized populations*
- American society structured and upheld these racist policies in the name of white supremacy – whether or not anyone wanted to acknowledge as much.
- Congressman Biden didn’t have to say “white” or “Black” or “race” because American knew exactly what the fuck he meant.
- He made it clear that he didn’t care what happened to cause “antisocial” behavior, and had no interest in stopping it. All messaging regarding “rehabilitation” was discussing incarceration; not prevention, education, reparations, social services, parental support, child support, or any other number of workable and doable infrastructure.
Joe Biden in 1993, describing white supremacy while championing for it in Congress.
Words hold power: We must speak truthfully about racism.
It’s very interesting what gets said and done directly by omitting the verbiage of it. Luckily, we have more data than ever about how to prevent these experiences causing “antisocial” behavior Biden spoke of so long ago. We also arguably have no excuse to continue to uphold a society which traumatizes specific demographics across generations in the name of white supremacy or Democracy, or anything else.
I’ve repeatedly shared my concerns about Sinophobia in Ohio Democratic Senator candidate Tim Ryan’s ad. And I’m concerned that people aren’t thinking critically about political language. Instead of questioning public figures, people are more inclined to press their peers for proof Tim Ryan is racist.
As a white person, who am I to say what racism is or isn’t?
Maybe it’s just me, but my default setting is to believe people who tell me that something being said or projected onto them – because of their race – is racism. I don’t have the same experiences as
I’ve been repeatedly ignored/blocked on social media for bringing up what I thought was obvious. Of course, if white people refuse to address a problem or acknowledge it, then it doesn’t exist — if you are one of the people who doesn’t experience racism.
At a time when Ohio is working actively to pass legislation directly targeting racially marginzed children in public schools while overreaching into how educators teach, I am past the point of trying to explain to people how it’s a problem that Tim Ryan sounds like Donald Trump to me. The problem is, I shouldn’t have to explain this to anyone. I thought it was pretty damn obvious. The problem also is, the blatant refusal of the majorly white Ohio Dems to acknowledge this even exists. It’s not even about Tim Ryan anymore: I’m incredibly concerned for us as a collective when I see this happening.
The question increasingly for me is, how many of my fellow white Americans are willing to ignore white supremacy and hope for the best because it’s more comfortable for you? Practically speaking, individually and collectively, race and white supremacy have to be addressed or voting is useless.
If ONLY voting away white supremacy was possible. But alas, it’s not. If ONLY voting out 45 was the answer. But there was no immediate fix for equitable COVID relief and protection from racist Christian terrorists threatening the general population. If ONLY this last great white hope was the one to liberate us all. Maybe, if we’d actually held them accountable. If ONLY voting for Democrats didn’t also coincide with the rise of anti-Semitic demonstrations from neo-Nazis and other white supremacy hate groups. If ONLY we had equitable amounts of representation in all branches of government.
If, as a white person, you still can’t see that the refusal to acknowledge racism is a growing problem, consider the racial disparities in how COVID alone is a multi-faceted crisis impacting racially minoritized and disabled communities. Intersectionally speaking, COVID alone is a fucking nightmare as one dives into the various ways to parse out one’s place in the pecking order of social engineering, and it’s impact on individuals in a global pandemic.
Obviously, this isn’t a party issue. Plenty of accounts on Twitter are silent on trans rights and champion anti-Blackness, then think that they are Socialists or Communists. White people gaining social media capital (likes and followers) by avoiding the topic of racism actually perpetuates it. This often goes unchecked, without consequences because of white supremacy on an individual level time and again in every collective and white-led and white-dominated space I have been a part of.
Performative activism in leftist spaces create confusion and normalizes white supremacy just as easily as many other white-dominated spaces. One doesn’t have to be in a white church or sitting with a chairman of the board of a non-profit to witness it. Or posting selfies at a BLM protest. It is, and it will continue so long as individual white people continue to let it happen.
Of course, when there are people out here like this, it’s hard to have hope that the majority of us white folks aren’t actually all racist assholes.
The thing is, if racial equity is not prioritized by more of us, than I am hard pressed to see changes or to have hope. I am here to see the changes; I am here for that.
What if you were a single-issue voter? If you voted only for who put Black liberation and trans liberation and actual religious freedom up front? What if you only voted for who put abortion, immigration rights, reparations, and land back into their platform? Or if you only chose to vote for people who publicly ran on a platform of defunding the police?
If none of these resonate with you, what does — and how come none of the above seems important to you? Are you able to describe this yourself? Who is your ideal President, city councilperson, school board candidate? Would you even have anybody to vote for if you were a single-issue voter for any one of the above? Does this feel right to you?
*I wrote here about how mental health has changed politically and how this has impacted me personally.