“If you don’t understand white supremacy/racism, everything else you understand will only serve to confuse you.”

If June is a typical travel month for me, July is a typical month of reflections. I’m thinking, now, about that standard white person & their standard comeback when they feel accosted by a person of color’s real life experiences with racism. It goes something like this: “That’s a very generalized, broad view & not all white people are like that.” or “This isn’t a fair representation of white people” or “A few bad apples don’t actually spoil the bunch!” The former is pretty much what a white woman typed to me, recently, a stranger, someone who I may or may not have chatted with in this thread or that in a regional FB group. She’d read my post about a common experience I’d had at artist retreats, an experience fueled by race, an experience that I’d heard other POCs talk about, and an experience that other POCs validated in response to the post. The woman said I had “displayed hatred” and was “the racist in these circumstances”*.

“Every white is not a racist,” she said.

To unpack that statement, one would need to lay out the history of race, the formation of white supremacy, the history of capitalism, the history of imperialism, the history of globalism, the history of patriarchy and so much more. And for that information, one need go no further than the library/bookstore/college. You see, a fairly common form of deflection is reversal: “I’m not the racist, you’re the racist!” And it’s often here, that the Old Stall is its most effective. Pushed into a corner, POC start pulling out articles, books, podcasts, beseeching white people to read, to listen, to learn, to please please please just get informed. But what happens to the initial conversation, the one in which the POC laid bare the racist attacks they’d endured?

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It’s amusing, isn’t it, how whitefolks will defend racist stereotypes (“stereotypes are based in some kind of reality!”) and simultaneously deny being racially biased? Think, for example, of the hashtag Blue Lives Matter nonsense, a simultaneous act of denying racial profiling while also suggesting that the cop in question feared for their life (of, often, unarmed citizens).

I’m always amused that I don’t see white people rushing to be the first to proclaim “Not All Black People” or “Not all Muslim People” or “Not all Mexican People” etc. What better way to exemplify that one actually believes “Not All {insert racial/religious/ethnic adjective} People”?

Part of the problem in the U.S., I imagine, has to do with the notion of “universal” experiences. This is not simply a problem of the high school essay (to find the theme), but one of everyday, lived experiences. What do our individual experiences mean to those who are not us? What is the universal lesson that we have to offer? For whitefolks, racism is not something that happens to them, it is something that they create; so, to hear stories of individuals being accosted by racists is to excise the white person from the picture. Or rather, to excise them as the quintessential good guy.

POC are often told that a racist attack is “unusual” or “not the norm” or “I can’t believe that happened!” or “I don’t know what to say”. These comments are a way to not only dismiss and diminish the incidents, but to acknowledge that they themselves are not subjected to racist attacks. And while many white people may encounter POC who have prejudices or biases against white people, prejudice and bias is not the same as racism.

Last year, Michael Norton and Samuel Sommers co-wrote an article on the increase in the number of white people who think they are subjected to racism, or what Sommers & Norton are careful to refer to as anti-white bias. As this crash course in implicit bias makes clear, understanding the differences between prejudice, bias, stereotypes and discrimination is crucial in actually getting to the roots of racism.

Shaking off white people’s ignorance and stupidity is not easy to do, although I wish it were. But it’s a sticky, stinky invisible substance, like spit in the wind or worse, like those parasites that bore into the skin and uses your body to throw parties and leave the beer cans in your organs. We have all kinds of language, now, to help us explain why it’s hard to shake off racism and racist attitudes, terms like microaggression and gaslighting. We have studies about racism as post-traumatic stress. POC carry these encounters with us. We are, in a way, the epitome of The Bag Lady (Erykah Badu‘s version). And while I, personally, often forget the names or faces of those who have harmed me, I never forget the situations, the words, the energy, the tone and mood. I never forget that people whose ancestors corrupted this country through the annihilation of its original peoples and the enslavement of peoples brought over from other places are the very people who are now pointing their very crooked fingers into the faces of POC and calling us “racists”.

Ever wonder if they call white people racists? Because I surely do.

As always, I encourage you to share your experiences, in the comments box and/or in your own blog posts/essays.

 

*The thread of that exchange is here:

(White woman who doesn’t know me): I was reading your fb page (trying to figure out if you were close by). I do hope that you have some really positive experiences here in NC. Every person in the south is not the same. Every white is not a racist. Your statements are very bold and broad. I would suggest you consider to never lump every race, nationality, religion or color into one “adjective”. Our foster children deserve our very best. God bless.

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Metta Sáma
Metta Sáma Huh? This post is about respite. If you want to chat in a different thread about the hundreds of essays I and others have written on the workings of racism in the U. S. & across the globe, feel free to start a new post.

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Kathryn Stinson Harris
(White woman who doesn’t know me): Writing about racism and bold statements about whites and hating the south do not sound like any Foster parent I know.

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Metta Sáma
Metta Sáma As I said, Kathryn, start a new post, to talk about your hashtag Not All White People angst. This post is for respite.

Edit

Kathryn Stinson Harris
(White woman who doesn’t know me): No thanks Metta. You have already displayed your hatred, which has no place in fostering. If you hate the south – move. Everyone is not the same. You are the racist in these circumstances. No foster child should be raised by someone with such a level of hatred. It’s wrong.
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