So You Want To Fight White Supremacy
Ijeoma Oluo
6.8K

“Abolish”

“Dismantle”

“Fight”

I have read and heard these terms in connection with White Supremacy and racism forever, it seems. These are failed strategies. In order to prove this to yourself, say other group names or uncomfortable ideas after each of the above verb command forms, like this:

Abolish Jews. Dismantle the Jewish threat. Fight Jews.

Abolish war. Dismantle the military. Fight war.

Abolish abortion. Dismantle abortion clinics. Fight abortion.

Abolish sexism. Dismantle sexist constructs. Fight sexism.

Abolish tobacco. Dismantle tobacco production. Fight tobacco.

Abolish slavery. Dismantle the slave trade. Fight slavery.

Abolish journalism. Dismantle the journalistic threat. Fight journalism.

As you have recognized by reading my examples and substituting your own groups or issues or products — for example: male arrogance, cute kitty videos, Cheetohs, immigration, ignorance, billionaires, FOX News, etc. — none of these actions work to solve the problem. So if your goal is to keep busy and to encourage others to keep busy, then your exhortations to fight white supremacy, coupled with “how to” advice, is fine.

However, if you want to solve the problems (and use your considerable influence as a writer/journalist to help guide the rest of us toward real solutions) caused by this scourge, this plague, this social disease, I strongly recommend you consider this: White Supremacy is here to stay, just like mosquitoes, addictive drugs and the Moon. It cannot be abolished (look at slavery, which is still going strong in Baton Rouge and other municipalities that use prisoners for free menial labor). It cannot be dismantled (look at the Jewish faith, which has been under constant attack for millenia). It cannot be fought (look at Charlottesville, which has just created another young hero for radical domestic terrorists to admire).

By trying to fight, dismantle or abolish White Supremacy, you may gain further personal satisfaction and you will certainly keep yourself busy for the rest of your life. But none of these efforts will matter in the long run. White Supremacy will continue to rise (like the Moon). It will continue to irritate (like mosquitoes). It will continue to injure (like addictive drugs).

Now: I wouldn’t be able to sleep if my intent was to waste even more of your time. I like reading your words and I like thinking about your ideas. I also happen to agree with most of them. Given your position as a young, diversely-cultured, activist feminist with an audience, I’m sure your contributions to more inclusion, more acceptance and a more peaceful society now and in the future will eclipse even my own, and I’ve been at it for 50 years now. One of the people I have admired for a long time and through her many phases is Angela Davis. Despite the fact that she has educated and helped enlighten many of us with her tireless and brilliant words and actions, has she succeeded in bringing America to a better place? Nikki Giovanni also comes to mind in this context (she strongly influenced my perspectives and convictions during my teenage years as I sought and found my own path in life). The one, shining beacon for me has remained Miss Rosa Parks, however. In the face of entrenched White Supremacy in a time and place which can only be described as horrific from her perspective, she chose to do the one thing that was effective in that moment: she chose not to participate in the idiotic bigotry that dictated seating on a public bus in Montgomery in 1955. Her decision sparked the Civil Rights movement, which has certainly transformed all aspects of life in the USA, with far-reaching and ongoing implications worldwide. That’s a pretty good result for refusing to participate in a lawful yet deplorable system. While non-participation is often thought of as a coward’s reaction, it can also be an act of tremendous, thundering, absolute courage. It can be, as Hemingway put it, “grace under pressure”. President Obama is a modern embodiment of this and someone we can all look up to in this regard. You might also remember Ghandi and Mandela…

So whatever it is you decide to do, — and you are under a lot more pressure than I am — continue to do it with grace. Sometimes it will be non-participation. Sometimes it will be activism. Sometimes it will be asking questions and documenting answers. But please stop wasting your time fighting, dismantling, trying to abolish something or someone connected with White Supremacy. And please consider not encouraging others to do busy-work, either. Instead, participate by building even stronger foundations, bridges and values that will withstand anything those boys in white polo shirts and khaki pants can throw our way. Because they will keep coming. Just like ebola. If it helps (it helps me), look at them for what they really are: abused, misguided and dangerous children looking for friends who will take them in and give them a purpose in life. Find one of them (I’ve found many). Walk in his shoes. See what he sees. Then act specifically, as the moment presents itself, just like Rosa Parks did, just like Barack Obama did. Just like Captain Sage Fox and her fellow 9,000 active-duty transgender troops are doing right now. If, together, we find these endangered young men and women while they are still uncommitted to hatred, lies and violence, we can offer them alternative communities and help them find their place in the world. And if that place still turns out to be within the ranks of the army of hate, then we need to build a justice system that keeps them contained while we build a political system that blocks them from attaining positions of power. The Obamas have been working this way for decades, but they will need more backup moving forward (https://www.obama.org/), because even their considerable influence could not stop the rise of the bigotted, raping, greedy Trump and his horde which have now infected our culture. Donald Trump himself steered that kid’s car into that crowd in Charlottesville the other day. And he’ll try to do it again and again and again, creating even more right-wing heroes in the process. Many of us will continue to waste our precious time fighting this madman, but even if we win, he’ll just be replaced by another. Evil can be contained sometimes, but never eliminated.

As someone said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Most of all, I wish you peace in your bursting soul and continued success in your professional and personal lives. And thank you for your words and for your tireless service to our shared, global community!

Yours, Nikolay (currently in the Czech Republic reducing poverty)