All white people uphold white supremacy and we do this in a myriad of ways. Remember the advice, treat others how you want to be treated? It seems we white people often forget that when it comes to hearing about race issues.
Imagine you’re a woman talking about predatory behavior men display and a man pipes up with ‘oh not me.’ Do you care? Is it helpful or appreciated? Is his contribution advancing the discussion? No.
It would’ve been better if he had simply listened and reflected. Then looked for ways in which he could apply what he learned. Ideally, to both his own behaviors and the behaviors of the men around him.
Now imagine you’re a man talking about toxic masculinity. And all the ways in which it prevents you from expressing yourself as a full and complete person. Now imagine a woman chimes in with ‘oh, I don’t do that, I think men should be able to cry if they want to’? How useful or interesting is that to hear? Doesn’t it make you wonder if she even listened to you in the first place?
Pretty useless right? You’re still left facing the same issues you had ten seconds ago. But now you also understand that the woman you’re speaking to doesn’t actually care about those issues. She’s preoccupied with you appreciating how everything you’re saying doesn’t apply to her.
How to begin
The take away is simple. When a BIPOC (Black Indigenous and person/people of color) is sharing their experiences, just listen. That’s all you have to do, it’s that easy. Especially if their experience involves a privileged group you belong to.
Feminism is an endless journey. For me, being a white woman, race issues are an important part of my own feminist journey. It’s not just protesting our own individual dehumanization and rights violations that are critical in the fight for equality. Fighting for the rights of others, and leveraging our privilege to do so is equally important.
If you refuse to listen to the part you play in the issue, you’re unable to take accountability. Consequently, you remain uneducated on ways in which you can solve the problem.
White women did a remarkable job of upholding white supremacy during midterm elections. In fact, 54% of them still voted for racist Republicans. Down only a few percents from the number of white women who voted for Trump.
It’s really easy for us to point fingers at white men. To say that they hold all the power and that they’re the only racists in the equation. But in doing so we white women are completely denying our own involvement. And our willing participation in upholding systems that harm, abuse, destroy and kill people of color.
To be clear this doesn’t mean we should feel negative about being white. Just as BIPOC cannot change their skin, neither can we and that’s not the issue anyway. Nor should we get caught up in the fact that we’re racist by participating in this specific kind of racism.
Being part of this type of racism -systemic racism- in a way that benefits us most is unavoidable. Unless we remove ourselves from society entirely. Being able to frankly admit that we do uphold white supremacy (in any number of ways) allows us to see how we can dismantle these racist systems by creating equality for all.
Actively opposing racism and working towards racial inclusion is called anti-racism. It is precisely how it’s possible for white people to be both racist and anti-racist simultaneously. And it’s the only way we can dismantle institutional and systemic racism.
I think we can agree that it’s not possible for white people not to participate in systemic racism. Especially when it comes to medical care, education, jobs, housing, etc. We all need those things no matter what race we are.
There are many different types of racism, institutional, structural, personal, internalized, etc. There’s also overt and covert. Not all forms of racism are intentional either. I might say something and have no idea that it’s racist, I think many of us have.
It’s important to point out that privilege allows white people to benefit from systemic racism. Is it possible to simultaneously benefit from systemic racism and not be racist by doing so? Is it possible to participate in the oppression of a group of people and not be considered an oppressor?
For white men, their efforts in upholding white supremacy are much more obvious because they are typically front and center. But it would be a mistake to neglect the participation and impact white women contribute to structural and institutional racism.
What upholding white supremacy looks like
When you think about systemic racism, does anything come to mind as ways in which white women uphold white supremacy? Think about all the things white women do to maintain their position of white privilege. What about all the instances when white women don’t speak up for BIPOC?
What about all the times WW (white women) are verbally abusive to retail workers? Inarguably, most WOC (women of color) cannot behave the same way. If they did, the police would be called? What about all the times WW cry to get out of taking responsibility for their actions?
What about all the times WW flirt to get out of a ticket? Or CRY to get out of a ticket, knowing WOC couldn’t do the same? The behavior is so pervasive that we’ve become desensitized to the depths of our complicity in upholding white supremacy.
There are many forms of racism, institutional racism is another one of them. Let’s look at the justice system specifically. The evidence to support the claim that it is a racist institution is overwhelming and conclusive.
For this reason, I won’t be covering specific examples, statistical evidence, or credible studies. However, if you’d like to learn more, check out Indigenous Peoples: women, Institutional Racism: law, Institutional Racism: policing.
So why does a system we all understand to be broken still have yet to be fixed? To put it plainly, it’s because white people aren’t doing anything significant to fix this issue. This is about to get incredibly uncomfortable for all of us white people. While your instinct is to tell me you’re not racist, please take a breath and read on.
We all understand Black people are more likely to end up in jail for no reason other than racism. Compare the same crimes by race and the evidence is indisputable. So why aren’t we all doing something to fix this issue?
None of us believe Black people deserve to go to jail for the same crimes white people aren’t being punished for committing. None of us like the idea of racism. Well, some of us do, but the majority of us don’t.
None of us like the idea of being racist ourselves. Yet here we all are; committing crimes and walking away unscathed while Black people can only imagine what that would be like.
This is another example of white privilege. Maybe you’re a white person who’s committed a crime and you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve never committed a crime in your life and you feel this post doesn’t apply to you. In that case I’d ask; what are you doing to fight for equality for Black people then?
Uncomfortable question isn’t it? That question forces us to evaluate whether we actually do care about Black people or not. We say we care, but we all know actions speak louder than words.
What are we doing about it?
Racism can easily seem like something we as individual white people are removed from. But this thinking allows us to remain passive and by default upholding of white supremacy. We need to consider how racism impacts BIPOC. And also what we can do as individuals to make changes in our own lives. Racism, particularly institutional racism, can seem overwhelming and that’s exactly the point; oppressors don’t want you to bother to try to tackle it.
Just like you do anything in life, from writing a paper, to baking a cake to renovating a house. You do it little by little and start with what you can control. You can absolutely take time to educate people in your life. Talk with them about things like microaggressions and how those words and behavior impacts others.
You can also talk to your local political representative. This could be the mayor or governor. Impress upon them the importance of creating equity at the city and state/provincial level.
You can keep an eye out for racism in your every day. Take those moments to do your part to rectify the situation. A great example would be to bear witness to police pulling over BIPOC and ensure they’re not subjected to police brutality or murder.
The Next Step
Look for the opportunities to change the world for the better and have the courage to take them. With privilege comes responsibility. We might not be the generation who built institutional racism, but we are the generation that’s upholding it. We are obligated to be the generation of white people who dismantle it.
I’d love to know…
What was a learning moment for you around race and listening to the voices of BIPOC?
What do you do to be actively anti-racist?
How do you leverage your privilege?
What do you think needs to be done to reform the prison system? To reform policing?
Question of the Week
Should the internet be selectively censored?
Studies have proven that exposure to certain forms of online content leads to an increased likelihood to dehumanize a specific group of people or even commit violent acts against them. Two significant examples to point to are violent porn and hate crimes. What are your thoughts on online censorship for some types of content? Should censorship exist? If so, who controls it, and to what extent? Can we trust them to remain ethical with this control? If not, how do we justify the harm that comes to people as a result of a lack of censorship? Who would be most negatively impacted and why?
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