What Whiteness in Ferguson Fought for Last Night
What follows will not be nice. It will not be comfortable. It is not to be dismissed from a place of grief or rage, but rather a truth and understanding borne of those things.
I do not hate White people. I hate the systems that you benefit from. I hate White supremacy, for it is a terrible heirloom that we continue to give to each generation. I understand that most of you did not ask for this; however, it stands. I hate how some of you do not understand that your “old money” is actually “blood money,” garnered from centuries or decades of slave and sharecropper labor. Yes, in the North too. What cotton do you think fueled your Industrial Revolution, of railroads and factories? What commodity trades do you think your investment banks were built upon? I hate that White supremacy is such that I have benefited from no government largess — no GI Bill, no FHA loan, not my promised 40 acres and a mule and most surely not justice — but I am a mythical Welfare Queen. You, however, would not exist in Newport, on the Upper East Side, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, in Boston or wherever privilege maroons itself into enclaves without government handouts, redlining and interventions to make sure that oppression remained and people were excluded.
I do not hate White people. I do not even hate the opportunities that you receive for no other reason that you are White, that you were born into the right family that exploited the system that rewarded exploitation and now you Are. And because of this, your existence does not warrant much reflection other than You. You flood the market with your mediocrity, mostly at the moment with useless apps and startups, many of which perpetuate oppression and exclusion. It is the stock and trade of what you know best, even when you do not realize it. This is because this is the highest privilege of privilege; to have success and access without reflection or wonder as to how you got there, despite being average. And all of your needs and most of your wants will be met along the way.
I have no such privilege. If I, and others who look like me, fail to show you, Whiteness borne of mediocrity, that I am safe, exceptional, able to mimic your social mores and intellectual tastes, my life is even more devalued than in its mediocre and average state.
I hate that most of you do not understand how this is connected. How this works. That White is not actually defined by what it is, but rather what it is not. And what it is not — before it is not Asian, Native, Latino, Arab, gay, poor — it is not Black. In fact, Whiteness wasn’t defined until 1680 or so in America, to distinguish the “sufficiently British-like” from slaves and their children. Whiteness needs Blackness to be what it is. And Blackness, for definition purposes of Whiteness, is oppressed. It is paid a diminished coinage on your dollar earned because it would be difficult to earn the astronomical wealth that Whiteness has been allowed to accumulate if proper wages were earned. Affirmative Action has been in place since 1636, the founding of Harvard, where sons of clergy were educated. It still mostly exists and serves to perpetuate White privilege, largely in the form of legacy admits and rather mediocre Division III athletes. Should a portion of it be used to “trickle down,” to quote Reagan, it is under attack and siege. To fast-forward a bit, last night was not the fight for Michael Brown’s justice. It was for the right to continue to subjugate Black lives so that Whiteness, as it stands, can continue. The right to life was at stake for Black people last night; a way of life was a stake for Whiteness, to continue, to be defined by and to benefit from oppressed Blackness.
And this all circles back to Ferguson, because why? Well, this is what they are fighting for. This is the system that they are fighting to protect. To pass onto their children and yours.
I do not hate White people. I hate White supremacy and how it is so engrained in the fabric of most White people’s lives that what it has produced, White privilege, is so essential like air that they do not notice it but have no idea how to exist without it.
I understand if this is hard to read, stomach, and understand. But this is where we are. This is the America that Whiteness in Ferguson fought for last night.
Chaédria LaBouvier is a MFA candidate at UCLA’s School of Film, Theatre and Television, a content creator and human. She tweets at @chaedria.