The Work White People Must Do Now

I am numb. Stunned. But not really surprised. We knew how deep white supremacy runs in this country. It is in the very air we 2016_09_09_CA_Pleasanton_Protest_Stop_Urban_Shield_1024x_photographed_by_Sam_Breach-0673.jpgbreathe and the water that we drink (especially if you live in Flint, Michigan, or on the Diné (Navajo) reservation).

White supremacy was there the moment Europeans stepped on these shores, slaughtering millions of Indigenous peoples, forcibly removing them from their homes and putting them in the precursors of concentration camps on the most undesirable lands (until they discovered gold and uranium on those lands or wanted to lay a pipeline through them). And yet Native America has survived.

White supremacy was there when millions of Africans were put in chains, forcibly removed from their homes and shipped to the Americas where their labor gave birth to economies and societies whose riches were unmatched in the history of the world, the results of lash scars on broken backs and broken families and broken hearts. And ever since these peoples were declared emancipated and their labor could no longer be free, America has been trying to dispose of them. In ways both brutal and insidious. And yet Black America has survived.

White supremacy was there as each wave of immigrants heeded the myth of the magical land, where if you just worked hard enough, you could make it, not knowing that the story was a lie if you were not white. America just needed cheap labor until they didn’t need it any more. And yet immigrant communities have survived.

Meanwhile, most white people lived in a parallel universe. Their politicians, historians, economists, clergy, generals, news announcers, teachers, entertainers, police, bankers, doctors - all told them lies about their lives and how they got here, their history, their society, and their future.

So when the nation had the audacity to elect as President someone who was not white, some whites were terrified while others used the occasion to declare, “See, there is no racism anymore because a Black man was elected leader.” And though that Black President was never a real threat to their precious capitalism, the backlash was swift and deep.

And when African Americans rose up and declared, Black Lives Matter, white people responded, “Why is everything always about race?” and “All lives matter” as if acknowledging that Black lives do means other lives do not. White supremacy allowed white people to portray themselves as victims.

So when a narcissistic entertainer rose up and declared, “Let’s make America great again,” white people clamored to his message of bigotry and racism, brutality and fear, misogyny and xenophobia. We watched as the circus unfolded before us. Like one of the dozens of reality shows on TV, the corporate media gave him free coverage 24/7 because well, he was so entertaining and this couldn’t be really real, right? Overt racists were emboldened, the Klan endorsed him, evangelicals flocked to his fictitious description of an abortion, rust belt whites believed he would bring their jobs back, white women believed he would bring their men back, white men believed he would bring their country back. Working class whites cast their lot with a millionaire who was part of a class that had always kept them down. Meanwhile, teenagers in Macedonia created fake news sites and flooded social media with lies that were shared millions of time over. Meanwhile, Russians hacked from abroad and the FBI insinuated from within. Meanwhile, the charlatan selling a cure-all to masses of white people was energized by the fact that his opponent was a woman in a nation also informed by sexism and misogyny. It was a three ring circus, a feeding frenzy, and white people ate it up.

Despite the fact that Latinos and Asians came out to vote in record numbers, and despite the fact that Black people stood in lines for hours due to the decimation of the Voting Rights Act, it came to pass, on November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, now a nation of deeply disunited states.

Today we are in mourning. We recoil as we watch as fascism makes its way into the mainstream, and into the White House. We sit with our loved ones, regroup, listen, cry, recharge, scream, gather together, vent, and map out next steps.

We know the future is going to be brutal. For those of us who are white, we must stand with those who will bear the brunt of the new administration - people of color, Muslims, immigrants and undocumented people, women, LGBTQ folks, the disabled, the vulnerable -  and say “If you’re coming for them, you must come for me first.”

It is our duty to organize among our white families and in white communities, engaging them in those conversations we’ve avoided around the holiday table, in our work places, and classrooms. Some of us don’t know what this means yet. We are learning as we build. We may be scared and confused, but we can learn from those in this nation and in other countries who have resisted.

The work white people must now do has never been clearer. Let’s do this!