White Power & How To Confront It As A White Person

June 11, 2020

White Power & How To Confront It As A White Person

I remember dreaming last night in a fitful sleep. I went to bed thinking this: things in our world are both building and deteriorating. Systemic, institutionalized, implicit, and internalized racism are coming into our White collective consciousness and there are those who are resisting that truth, tooth and nail.

On my mind are the non-violent steps being taken to combat these ills (protests, vigils, marches, social media amplification of melanated voices, removal of racist statues and the banning of racist flags, White people doing their own consciousness work, ETC) and the backlash I deeply feel is coming to meet them. There are many more people on this continent now than after the 2nd Reconstruction (after which due to White power “ultimately led to the overthrow of that democracy and decades of whites-only rule”) or during our last Civil Rights movement, only about 50 years ago. What is being highlighted right now is the incessant use and prevalence of police brutality, especially against Black and Brown people.

Dumbfounding to me is the seemingly complete and utter lack of respect and dignity for human life. Vehicles being driven through groups of peaceful people. “Shoot them in the leg.” as if that is a conscionable solution? There has been a manufactured crippling of critical thinking skills and intentional building of hatred via indoctrination and propaganda. There is a distinct and variable lack of morality — lack of care for the common good — lack of devotion to the common principle of opponents having equal worth. There is a serious and rampant deficit of concern for people or the planet or for life in general from those who would wish for things to stay as they are (or even worse, hearkening back for when they were “great”).

The depths of the aforementioned violence is not solely exclusive to the police — the hearts and minds of all who have grown up in this country are also painted with that same racist, bigoted brush. In no way is it possible to have grown up in this country without being racist, no matter how much you would like to think to the contrary. Racist history makes one either racist outright, silently, unknowingly or for Black and Brown people, racist against one’s own self (internalized). (See WEB DuBois for more on this: here.) Our history of OCCUPANCY in this country began with genocide of Native American people. Very soon and subsequently after, the economy of White, rich men (landowners/thieves/dominators — call them what you will) and their descendants, began to thrive on the backs of African bodies, owned and sold, existing in forced and disgusting slavery. What is not often discussed here is poor White people who were also marginalized — by that I mean never included in the dominant ruling class. They were however, and most importantly, pitted against their Black and Brown counterparts.

Our history has given birth to us as direct descendants who perpetuate mass violence, poverty, inequality and also silencing of dissent. Those inherited perpetuations directly injure Black, Brown and Indigenous people of color. Poor White people have been historically and purposefully convinced of our superiority and by swallowing that pill to save our own asses against exploitation and brutality, we pass that exploitation and brutality to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters. We have participated in one of the greatest fallacies in human history. Being deceived by “those in power” (rich, white, male, power-hungry executors of violence) has created harmful White violent culture and a poverty of conscience. Those of us to whom the powerful give some riches and some privileges pacifies us into submission and makes us tolerant of some racism (appeasement). We see that gatekeepers most certainly will not simply hand over stolen, unearned wealth and unsound privilege. Some who profit from this fallacy and their leaders will cling, like the great Smaug, to the mounds of hoarded gold and silver, aka toilet paper, hand sanitizer, land and powerful positions of authority. Having a divided racist class system protects the powerful. They will use the media to confuse and divide us further. What these allied classes look like however, are you and me, people in police or army uniforms, many of us never stopping to think about what it is we are actually protecting, that is, White power.

Another outfit worn by the protectors of the powerful elite are white collars and corporate suit-wearing humans, confused into thinking that a savvy tongue and piece of that pie will save them when the shit hits the fan. Unfortunately, it will not. You too will be pushed out of the lifeboat when this ship is sinking of its own burning weight in riches.

All of us manipulated gatekeepers have access to power with our White skin, but lack the insight and ability to truly question or, dare I say, threaten White power with Love and radical, sacred inclusion. We will continue to unknowingly — very well knowingly — perpetuate this cycle of violence set upon our Black and Brown Spirit siblings and, insidiously, our very own selves, unless this collective consciousness is tapped SO HARD as to turn on the light and take on the risks and tasks of anti-racism with our every action and breath. We have to give away, willingly and with grace, the privileges of our White skin in order to uplift our more oppressed neighbors of color. Then, we can start rectifying our collective cycle of divided existence in this country. This has never been done on a mass scale. There are current examples, minuscule efforts of some humble White people. Give up seats in the Senate and General Assembly. Give up board of directors appointments. Give up our seats on the bus. Give up our privileged, protected and powerful positions everywhere where that privilege keeps Black and Brown people down. That means at every level. That means in every stage.

That means in OUR hearts we must trust that we are not, in any way or shred of consideration, better than, more qualified or entitled to the opportunities in which simply our White skin has afforded us. It has never been about qualification (for those of you who are pissed about affirmative action), it’s about equity. We White people literally have to go backwards in order for our Brothers and Sisters to move forward. We have to get out of the way so that we can ALL be a part of the way, the new flowing of this rushing river. We may not be able to pay out of pocket (but we should try anyway) reparations. (Yes, I believe in reparations. The same way I believe the men who sexually abused me as a child should still be in jail and owe me some money, at least to cover my mental health costs). By giving of our own privileges, taking ourselves out of seats of power (the little power we have compared to the mega-rich and powerful), we can come together to fight the beast that is patriarchal capitalism run by rich, White men.

They certainly didn’t invent racism, violence or slavery, but they damn sure profited off the perpetuation and weaponization of it throughout our history in North America and worldwide. Exponential riches and power have been gained by global colonization and dominance, profiting from and exploiting the Earth and people of color, and so have we, regular White people, profited in our acceptance of trickle-down privilege.

White people in our own ways, in our own lifetimes, we, too, have profited and existed in a trickle-down privilege and that has to stop, NOW. Check your privilege in every moment you exist from this moment forward and ask yourself “Why?”. “How did I get this?” “Did I inherit this?” (See this and this for more on how to do this and this. Or hell, come talk to me, we can do this together.)

Next we can ask ourselves, “Who can I give this to or share this with?”. How can I, if I truly believe, as stated above, that I am in NO WAY superior to Black, Indigenous, and Brown people of color, give this up and work consciously for equality and equity?

PS: These questions above refer additionally to privileges of gender, ability… all the privileges and layers of marginalized identities which exist in this separate and totally unequal society. This means the environment, too. Mother Earth has also been marginalized.

It shouldn’t stop there — we should not stop just with White people stepping back and marginalized people coming forward in power. No, the transference of power will not appease me. Ayn Rand’s Anthem ends with the oppressed becoming the oppressor and this will not do for our future at this point. The transformation we need can lead toward a more nurturing economy led by people who understand oppression. We must begin thinking of the virtue of life itself, the virtue of a human being with inalienable rights of dignity and somehow instill an undeniable sense that there is value of life, value of difference, value of harmony in our economic structures, our political decisions and systems. Some say it may be possible that similar systems have happened before. This is our time to be an example, give a true gift to our children. What is it to both live in and transform the world we live so it can be a real, more just and equitable society? What is it that we truly need to thrive? What would better serve the planet and greater good of all living things?

What would better serve us right now is to realize that we White people inherit our privilege — our male-dominated culture dictates that one (__fill in the blank, color, gender, ability, etc__) is better than the other and that concept is, in every single way, wrong.

I say, have lofty fucking goals. Aim high. We may miss the mark and we most definitely will mess up. Forgive yourself and continue on. Don’t let fear of the unknown, making mistakes or losing friends keep you from working to exist in a world where we are all equal and Love wins, ’cause that time, is not right now, not yet. We all must make steps to get there, even if it happens after we die, we have at least worked for something greater than ourselves, for the Higher Power that is Serenity, Peace and Justice for All.

In text resources:

Beyond text resources:

Photo taken by author 2015, Selma, AL

Anita Lorraine Moore of Saxapahaw, NC is a teacher, mentor, musician, poet, minister and neighbor.

Previous published work: Times News of Burlington, NC https://www.thetimesnews.com/20120928/the-ongoing-fight-against-racism/309289731

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