Response to Talynn Kel — If I Were White

Talynn Kel — “If I were White” (https://theestablishment.co/if-i-were-white-4c5ce7f0b3f3)

If you haven’t read the piece above, you should do it. It is a really searing and intimate look at race from her viewpoint in a biracial relationship. Because I am white, this piece was a fascinating (and difficult) lesson in how other people look at me. I don’t recall other works that really dissemble and explain how whiteness looks from the outside. (This is not to say that more people of color should or shouldn’t be writing about white people — write about whatever you want)

The line that stuck with me the most is when she is talking about her partner starting to realize that the people he loves voted for Trump. She says “ What he’s become is more aware of the callousness of the white people in his life, and it’s fucking him up.” I had not yet heard someone so perfectly encapsulate how I’d been feeling about those around me who voted for this man who is now our president.

I’ve spent my time since the election some mix of sad and shocked. I know, being shocked about the election means that I was never truly aware of the racial system in America and that those who live it everyday knew Trump was possible. It is not that I didn’t know racism existed or was a possible motivating factor, but, in Kel’s words, I never realized how calloused white people were going to be about it. I thought they would be able to separate the fact he was trying to feed them a populist economic message from the fact that he was also spewing hateful rhetoric. I was obviously wrong.

What I don’t understand is where we go from here. I’m sure I am not the first person to ask this question, but when I look around my life, I wonder where to begin. Thankfully most of my family voted Democrat, so I don’t face this tension with them. But I know plenty of other people who did. And I know that I don’t believe it is an acceptable action. This is not a simple Republican vote and Democrats are pulling our hair out trying to show the consequences of what some of their proposed legislation may do. This was all out racism from the beginning. It was admitted racism.

I never wanted to believe that people could lack this much empathy. I wanted to believe that they didn’t know or understand. They just weren’t thinking. But making excuses isn’t going to get us anywhere. We have to protect those he is threatening. I’m just not sure how to process these calloused people who know want a place in this country and this conversation.

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