White people, we are not free.
We are not free.
This may sound strange, to those of us who are no longer in denial about the ways that systemic racism benefits us at the expense of People of Color in every single American institution — education, housing, healthcare, law enforcement, employment, and on and on.
These institutions give a few of us unearned material wealth, access to power, and physical comfort. Millions more White people are given a leg up when it comes to accessing the institutions that shape our lives. And millions more are given not much more than the reassurance that while they may be poor, at least they are not Black, and thus are spared the very bottom of the barrel of the American dream.
Despite these benefits, White people, we are not free.
There is an invisible exchange that happens when, from early childhood, we are trained to accept the gifts that come with Whiteness. As we are rewarded for buying into Whiteness, we agree to tie off parts of ourselves at the stump.
The curse of systemic racism makes a mockery of White people’s lives and our dreams. We’re given the freedom to see ourselves as a great, moral people, all while being forced to live out of integrity with our own deeply-held values.
Being White means living a life that is permanently in violation of the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Even as systemic racism makes it impossible for us to live by the Golden Rule, we are taught that our people created it, that America was founded on it, that we exemplify it in the world, and that we can even export it to other places around the globe.
By accepting the lies of Whiteness, we turn ourselves into the comedic buffoons of the world, puffing ourselves up with our delusions while the audience looks on, completely aware of our hypocrisy.
This story could be a wonderful dark comedy if not for the fact that our theatrics are defended with tear gas, AR-15s, Bearcats, and drone bombers, waiting in the shadows behind the curtain.
Our own inability to face our truth kills other peoples’ children, while deforming our White children’s souls into grotesque shadows of the beautiful beings that they have the potential to be.
This is our legacy. This is what we are born harnessed to, without our consent.
But we could be free. There is a freedom beyond what we have now, beyond this trick freedom that has us in invisible chains of complicity to brutality, rape, and the sustained denial of the dreams of humanity.
We could refuse to silently indoctrinate our White children into the death culture of White supremacy. We could stop the violence that we commit against our own White children when we teach them to not see or hear the words and screams of the people being murdered and brutalized in their names.
It will require a courage that, collectively, White people have never known. Our courage here can build, when first, we speak up in trembling voices, to say “Black Lives Matter.”
Because when Black lives matter, all lives will matter.
When all lives matter, White people will be whole.
When all lives matter, White people will be humans once again.
When all lives matter, we will know a freedom beyond Whiteness.
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