Let’s take a moment and radically imagine a world without cages. A world without borders. A world without walls…
White supremacy culture takes away our imagination, it pits us against each other, steals the humanity of white people, and upholds oppression for everyone else. Racism is a tool of this system that is used to undermine the unity needed to push back against the powerful wealthy white elite. This class created and currently thrives on the white supremacy system. This system confers psychic and material benefits to those of us that have white skin. It is what inhibits white people from seeing our stake in solidarity. It’s a system that calls for the dulling of our senses, the imprisonment and toxicity of our spirits, and a learned helplessness that we have to accept things as they are. It tells us we have to work within the system that has been given to us, instead of radically visioning alternative ways of being that are in relationship to one another and the earth, a way of being where no one — no one — is disposable. White supremacy has stripped us of our imagination that another world is possible.
Adrienne Maree Brown says we are in an “imagination battle”: that the conditions as they are now are the result of someone’s imagination, and we need to imagine a way forward beyond these oppressive constructs. She asks, “How do we grow dreams that are so big that they can’t stay in dreamland?” I say, in our dreaming, it’s up to us to develop a different set of principles for how we engage with people who we perceive have caused harm. What would it look like to incorporate restorative justice into our daily lives? Instead of shunning and extracting humans from our spaces, what would it look like to keep people in? To bring together those who have harmed with those who have been harmed? Instead of locking people in cages, let’s radically imagine something different. Something whole. Something new. Something that acts out of love. Let’s chart a path forward, one that leaves behind the death and dehumanizing culture of white supremacy.
Let’s continue to dare to boldly imagine another world and make strides to dismantle the system that is, so we create the systems that should be. Imagine if we lived in a world where activists need not fight for clean drinking water and smog-free air, where we have full access to healthy food, healthcare and free educational opportunities into adulthood. Where job training programs are available to all, and all different kinds of work are considered worthy and valuable. What if housing was a human right?
What if a social hierarchy no longer prevailed? Where violence is not used as a way to maintain distance from and prove superiority over people considered the “other.” Imagine living in a world where no one lived in the margins. Imagine an interdependent network of community members available to resolve conflicts or support mental health crises…so that police intervention was obsolete? What if schools were funded at the level of law enforcement?
What if all workers, irrespective of occupation, had dignity, respect, fair wages, with time off for illness, parenthood and vacation? Better yet, imagine a world where we had choice to manage our time, where it is not left to the dictates of an imputed scarcity economy to determine our freedom — where we are free to pursue our passions, regardless of the monetary income. Imagine a world where we no longer needed to work to live and live to work.
Imagine a world without war and permanent war economies. Imagine exchanges based on needs and not rapid accumulation of wealth, or fighting over commodified natural resources. How would it feel to not be governed by an all-powerful oligarchy, dictator, or powerful political elites? Instead, what if we envision a sacred community with shared power over decisions for our communal resources? If instead of continuing to extract — resources from the earth, wealth and labor from workers, humans from communities — we replenished all that was stolen. Imagine living in harmony with the planet and with the people who inhabit it.
Imagine if the masses of white people rose up and said, not in our name. Not in our name will humans languish in jail simply because they are too poor to pay to get out. Not in our name will we allow police brutality to permanently separate families. Not in our name will we allow investment in cages over schools. Not in our name will we allow the commodification of humans, so bodies are used to fill beds in jails, prisons and detention centers, so that corporations profit. Not in our name.
Strides toward a just and equitable world have come only from visionaries whose imaginations never succumbed to their oppression. As white people, who walk in the path of such bold leadership, we are responsible for radically imagining a world beyond the divisions and conditions that the white supremacist system has set out for us. We must see that we have a stake in ending a system that thrives on dehumanization, division, and death. That if we are to win the “imagination battle” we need to join in radically imagining the world we want and need — it is for our survival. Anne Braden told us “The fight against racism is not something we’re called on to help people of color with. We need to become involved as if our lives depended on it because, in truth, they do.”
This text is a tribute to the memory of Nicole Willett, thank you for the ways you walked in the world. The ripple effect of your gifts will be felt for years to come. Rest in peace, friend.
Dahlia Ferlito is a white, queer, anti-racist organizer and co-founder of White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL). Special thanks to Karen Hilfman and Rosie Friedland for editing. WP4BL is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice. WP4BL is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles. Visit www.awarela.org and follow us @wp4bl