Day 6,7,8: Me and White Supremacy

I am taking part in Wild Mystic Woman’s (Layla Saad) 28 day Instagram challenge You & White Supremacy. I am sharing my reflections on racism here and on Instagram for accountability to myself and my community. If you are interested in learning more about the challenge check Layla’s YouTube channel for the two orientation videos. This will be my last post for the next week as part of this work is not meant to be shared here. Trigger warning: I am owning some deep rooted racist bullshit that I haven’t been aware of, but that if you are a person of colour you are probably all to familiar with and may find triggering.

Day 6: Me and White Exceptionalism

I wrote this one at the end of the day after a few beer with the intention of revisiting. That hasn’t happened. White exceptionalism at work?

I believe that because I’m not racist like the townspeople on Who Is America? That means I am not “really” racist. I have never attempted to run over my elderly Muslim neighbor with my truck so I’m not part of the problem. I have done my time arguing at family Christmas so now I can just avoid talking politics with my family until they die. Because if enough older people die then racism will be cured right? I feel exceptional because I am young, and raised in a socially liberal house, so I must be so much more socially concious than previous generations without taking any concrete steps towards social change. My white exceptionalism says that I am a good person, and that I am doing my best and that will just have to be good enough. My white exceptionalism says that I am working hard at other things so I can’t be expected to make extra time for this anti-racism work. My white exceptionalism says I’m nice to BIPOC what more do I need to do. My white exceptionalism slips in through labels of “self care” and “learning” and “trying”. My white exceptionalism denies the real harm and active role I have in systems of oppression and white supremacy. My understanding of the surface of the problem has only allowed me to feed my white exceptionalism more promises of doing better next time, and learning to be a better ally, and helping in my own way as I’m able. It allows me to acknowledge what a bigoted place Saskatchewan is without looking at how that bigotry lives in me.

Day 7: Me & White Supremacy

I woke up hung over and did a half as attempt at this writing prompt at first. It didn’t feel good and I went back and wrote it again once I took care of my physical wellness. In the spirit of transparency and growth I’m sharing both.

Second attempt:
Since beginning this challenge a week ago I have learnt that I am more deeply entangled in white supremacy than I thought. My white exceptionalism came out to play yesterday as I skipped a day in the challenge which Layla had specifically asked folks not to do. Taking a break from doing the work to celebrate with people close to me is a white privilege that allows me to narrow my viewpoint to exclude racial injustice. Nia Wilson did not have the choice to take a day off and just focus on getting home. I see that I choose to surround myself with friends that will validate my white fragility and assure me it’s ok to miss a day. As if it is not my responsibility to tackle these problems daily. I see that there is a pattern of only committing to the work when it is comfortable for me to do so, and expecting to be able to do it on my own terms as suites my priorities. My priorities are usually protecting my mental/emotional wellbeing and making more money which are directly related to how I uphold white supremacy by prioritizing my individual benefit over the greater good. I feel superior when I’m doing well with these priorities even though it is generally through no action of my own but a result of my willingness to exploit white silence and white privilege. When I see how easy it is to fall back into these patterns of behavior and excuse the harm I know that they cause even while actively working to bring awareness to them I begin to see how deep the roots of white supremacy go. I carry the weight of these beliefs not just in my community but in me personally in my daily actions. Today it feels a lot more dangerous to ignore those silenced warning bells that something I am doing is “not that bad” because I can see how that feeds that toxic pattern of behavior. These “random acts of violence” that occur in my community and across the border begin to feel less random when I look at them in light of how easy it is to negate humane responsibility in favour of personal privilege.

First attempt:
Since beginning this challenge a week ago what I have learnt about me and white supremacy is that it is closer than it may feel most days. I have baggage that is weighing heavy on me, and the harm I cause may feel minimal to me in the moment but have wider implications beyond my scope of awareness. These “random acts of violence” in my community and across the border feel less random looking at how deeply ingrained these white supremacist ideas and beliefs are. “White privilege is hard to see when you’re white” is the bathroom graffiti that introduced the term to me when I was 19 and it’s still true today. Everytime I think that I have gotten a handle on what white privilege means I run into another blind spot. Thank you @wildmysticwoman for the crash course through my blind spots.

Day 8: Me & Seeing Colour

Growing up I learnt that you were not suppose to see colour. That if my generation could learn to see everyone the same as me, as each a part of the human race, that would end racism. I truly believed that, and because of that I didn’t notice things like all of my friends at university were white or that there was only one student of a visible minority in my entire department. Because I wasn’t paying attention to these things I couldn’t ask why. I don’t remember specifically when I became aware that just “not seeing colour” was not a good approach to ending racism. I am sure that that awareness came from the internet and being exposed to intersectional feminist writers, and writers of colour. As I began to do my own research into the subject and sharing what I found on social media I began to be seen as an intersectional feminist and activist although I was not active in my community like these writers were. I don’t think I consciously thought of using them to cultivate a brand, but that is definitely how it played out. Many of my white peers started to commend me on speaking up, so I started to believe that was the next best thing. If I could just speak on behalf of the voiceless then people in power would listen denying how I was speaking over them to retain my own power. I started following more and more feminist writers of colour “to learn from” but it ended up being to steal from as I was gaining social capital for sharing their ideas without doing the work. Now when I reflect on what I have learnt about seeing colour I don’t feel like I have really done the work to unlearn my habit of hemoginization. I still mainly relate to my friends and aquaitances on ways that they are like me rather than ways they experience oppression that I won’t. In the midst of the Stanley trial I was regularly speaking to people that couldn’t see that the crime was racially motivated, and although I felt in my bones that this was wrong I still consistently lacked the words to explain it to them. I now can see that lacking the words is from failing to do my own work to be an informed advocate and unlearn my own racial bias. Bias towards white innocence. Bias towards trouble making Indians. Bias towards not seeing colour.

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Day 5: Me and White Superiority

I am completing a 28 day writing challenge by Wild Mystic Women’s Layla Saad called You & White Supremacy. Follow the hashtag #meandwhitesupremacy on Instagram, and check out Layla’s videos on YouTube outlining how to participate in the challenge.

Day 5: Me & White Superiority

I feel superior when I apply for jobs because I know that I interview very well with white interviewers. I present as a Pollyanna white girl, and they see me as articulate and non-threatening. It’s not that I think others who apply for the job aren’t capable, but I know that they will have to work harder to make a good impression. When I was younger I tried to actively maintain this image of white feminine purity for fear of not finding work. Now that I am beginning to reject some trappings of that identity instead of feeling more secure in myself I am feeling that I am unprepared to not be rewarded for my mediocre whiteness. So instead I lower my standards and continue to work in places where only being seen as agreeable and white is still valued like serving at hipster coffee shops.

I feel superior when I’m serving on a board of directors because I am pushing for better representation, and community outreach with marginalized groups while actively tokenizing their work and contributions. I feel superior because I am a “woke” white person pushing for community consultation, and hiring diversity, and other nice white buzzwords, but I still not so deep down want to be in charge of how these conversations happen and who is at the table. I feel like I need to be part of those conversations because I will be able to translate the needs of these groups into the mandates of the funders, as if the experts we are consulting are not already more aware of how these relationships work because they live with them everyday.

I feel superior when I apply for artist grants or otherwise playing the business game of a creative entrepreneur. It’s not that I think money and resources shouldn’t go to artists of colour, but I know how to work the system to my advantage and believe that will give me a superior edge. Even if I politically believe this edge is undeserved, I personally feel like it is my right to get all that I can. Because of this when I see artists of colour being more successful than me I feel like I am worthless as an artist. Because I have had more opportunities than them and have still been unable to create anything half as successful or meaningful.

When I was a teenager I sat on a panel of unschooled students at an home schooling conference, one of the people in the audience asked us if we thought that we were better than other students and I unequivocally answered yes, of course. I had read the studies on how unschooled students out performed their public school peers in almost every way. Within the literature on public school students there was further evidence that white students out performed other students except asian students. There was substantial evidence that the barriers marginalized students faced were usually institutionalized and not a reflection of their actual aptitude, but the bottom line for me was still yes, or course I am superior. The silence in the room afterwards told me I had said something wrong, but my views were not challenged, and so I learnt to be more modest in my answers.

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Day Three & Four: Me & White Supremacy

I am working through Wild Mystic Woman’s (Layla Saad) White Supremacy and Me 28 day writing challenge. She has shared writing prompts and guidelines for how to use them on her Instagram and YouTube channel. I am late to join, the challenge has already been going on for 22 days. Go back and read some of the other comments under the hashtag #meandwhitesupremacy if you are interested in seeing the scope of this work. I am sharing my reflections here for personal accountability, and on Instagram for accountability from friends and family. Today I am sharing my reflections from days 3 & 4. I am late posting because I was out and about for 15 hours yesterday which didn’t leave a lot of time for self reflection at home. Let me be the first to say that it did not feel good beginning to write for the challenge before bed. I could feel my mind resisting that sort of deep reflection called for, and I felt defeated before I began. That kind of tired defeatism is the space where white fragility and white privilege creep in. It wasn’t a good look, and I think the writing I shared on Instagram reflected that. I want to start by sharing a video that Layla made for Day 3 that is a call for action, to go deeper into the work. She addresses some common shortcomings that I faced and gave some tools to get past them.

https://youtu.be/z71L9gpob4M

Day 3: Me & Tone Policing

What I have learnt about me & tone policing… when I was young I learnt that there was a magic code of nice words that could make people listen that I just didn’t yet have mastery of. These words mainly seemed to be possessed by white men, but perhaps if I studied hard to be like them I too could posses that power for people to hear me. The worst thing I could be labeled as was an angry feminist or an irrationally emotional woman. I would enforce this idea against myself and others who I deemed “too angry” or “too emotional”. Today I might think that I have a more nuanced understanding of tone policing, but I will still catch myself sliding into tone policing thoughts. Thoughts like “she just has an aggressive way of communicating” or “this is too heavy I just don’t have the emotional space to deal with this right now” or “I just got a bad vibe from her” or “I know she means well I just wish she could be more nice”. I recognize that when these thoughts come it is almost alway when a WOC is talking about the oppression she faces, but seldom when other white women make similar complaints. When I catch onto myself that doesn’t necessarily dissolve the knot in my stomach. The knot of uncomfortableness looking at a truth I want to stay hidden. I have noticed that I sometimes deflect that uncomfortableness into avoiding that person or reframing what they said into “better” words. I see that I am more likely to share the article, post, or tweet that uses my white approved buzzwords than expresses their genuine outrage or concern. I see that the social media algorithm supports this by showing me more of the same. It is easy to tone police when I don’t feel like I am the one enforcing the tone. Some other more fragile white person is already doing that for me, so I can retreat from where those thoughts are coming from. Why do I have these thoughts? I feel afraid of losing something I think is mine. That if I identify with the pain this person is experiencing, who has lost so much through no fault of their own, that I will lose what little peace of mind, prosperity, and happiness I have found for myself. I think that I deserve this, regardless of if I know that it has been taken through ill gotten gains. The pain is treated like a contagious disease rather than a direct result of my actions. Therefore I can treat it like it is something that can be isolated and prescribed a “positive” fix without having to give up any of my comfort to allow in that “negative” truth. In this case comfort is power. Power to tune out, intellectualize, and check out. I am working on actively listening to and sitting with things that make me feel this discomfort. But I am afraid that “sitting with” becomes an escapism from real tangible action. Change is hard, and resisting change is so much more palatable when it is guised as “being nice”.

Day 4: Me & White Silence

I utilize white silence at holidays and family gatherings because “I don’t want to fight” but instead of adopting a non-violent communication strategy to de-escalate the situation I act complicity to my families history of violence against BIPOC. By acting complicity I expand my own circle of comfort to include this violence, and further dehumanize those that experience direct and indirect violence because of me and my family. I regularly stay silent when asked to write my elected officials “because I don’t know what to say”. I am claiming ignorance as if that excuses my actions, but in my heart I know that is not the reason for my silence. I keep silent because I am afraid of doing the work to find the words that express my own relationship to this system of oppression and violence. I am afraid that by speaking up I will be giving up my safety even though the stakes for me are much, much lower. The kind of safety and care that comes from staying quiet is not real safety. When I am at work I use that as the catch all excuse to stay silent because my time is not my time. I am on company time, and I am “just following orders”. I ignore that it is also in my interest to stay quiet as long as I am making money in the system. I have been silent when asked to follow people of colour through the store, I have been silent when asked not to serve someone because they are native and wearing a hoodie so therefore “couldn’t afford” a cup of coffee here, I have been silent when I witness police harassing native people in the park during Stampede, I have been silent when a city bus driver refused to let on a native father and his son every Thursday every week for an entire semester of school, I have been silent when a friend threatened to call the cops because she locked herself out of her own house and wanted to break her own window to get in and blame it on “some native guy”, I have been silent when a man wearing a turban directly asked me to buy him baby formula and something to eat. I stay silent because I think it is safer, because I think it is a risk to speak up or reach out. I call my silence self care or minding my business, but it is violent. I remember learning about the holocaust as a child, and how many German’s said “they were just following orders” and I felt scared. Scared because I too like following orders, being on good terms with authority, and protecting my own skin first. I did not think I would have the strength to be a rebel in Nazi Germany, to stand up for and protect my neighbors at great personal cost. I thought I would likely be “one of the bad ones” just following orders. I didn’t talk about these fears, and as an adult I have seen them mostly play out exactly in that way.

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Day Two: Me & White Fragility

I am participating in the Me & White Supremacy 28 day writing challenge. Wild Mystic Woman has shared these writing prompts and guidelines for participation on her Instagram and YouTube. I am sharing my reflections here to hold myself accountable to completing the work as honestly and deeply as I can.

Day 2: Me & White Fragility

Online I regularly delete my posts & comments that get called out as racist, and those by other white people on my social feeds. Before Layla identified this as a form of white fragility I believed that I was helping by taking down the offending remark and giving everyone time to go away and think about what they said. I see now how erasing the comments is a form of white fragility by hiding my racist comments/friends and being afraid to process and learn out in the open. I use white fragility to call out and block white people that I believe are more racist than me. By getting angry and shutting them out I also shut out any opportunity for growth. I don’t have to have the hard conversations with them, or look at how they are like me, and can allow them to continue to hurt POC out of my sight and out of my mind while feeling like I did something good. I also enact white fragility when I claim “self care” in order to avoid going to the protest or showing up to the workshop on anti-racism work because I don’t want to face the ugly emotions it may dredge up. I tend to centre my own emotions as the truth in all situations regardless of whether they are relevant. I use white fragility to justify prefering to listen to POC speak about racism in videos and podcasts and lectures where I won’t be called upon to speak up. I avoid conversations on race that I do not feel well informed about because I am afraid of being embarrassed or acting embarrassingly. I want to have control in most situations which is why my white fragility tends to check me out of conversations. I would rather believe that the conversation doesn’t concern me, or that watching and supporting other people doing the work is enough, rather than challenge the defensive ugly feelings white fragility brings up in me. My white fragility screams “but it’s not my fault” internally while externally I smile and nod.

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Me & White Supremacy Day One

Wild Mystic Woman has posted a series of writing prompts on her Instagram for white people looking to unpack their relationship to white supremacy. I am beginning the 28 day journey today, although the work began 17 days ago. I will be sharing my daily reflections here to keep myself accountable to this important work.

Day One: Me & White Privilege

I am a white settler Canadian in the bible belt of Western Canada. My mother unschooled me K through 12 in a community of mainly white peers. White privilege allowed me to study at home when the Canadian Government still regularly takes indigenous children from their families to be put into foster care. My white privilege allowed me to walk around unsupervised as a young person without being seen as a thug or a criminal. I learnt to expect that authority would be just, and that if I kept my nose clean (or appeared to) that law enforcement would protect me. Because of my white privilege I never felt like I didn’t belong. I learnt that my ideas were valuable, that people would listen to me, and that if I kept within the limits of modest femininity I would be compensated for my contributions adequately. I used my white privilege to appear more educated, competent, and trustworthy than I may have actually been. As a young person entering university I remember reading an article about professional conduct condemning black women’s natural hair and felt relieved that this would never concern me. My white privilege allowed me to secure work that I was unqualified for on paper. I used my white privilege to secure work at trendy establishments as a young unskilled labourer rather than in a field or a factory or a fast food chain. As a white artist I never felt like my work had to be a voice “for my people” or that it would be seen as political or controversial because of the colour of my skin. I acted with all white students at university, and then dropped out because I did not think I would need an education to find work in my field as a conventional white woman. I used my white privilege to avoid questioning why this was even after I self identified as a feminist in my 20s. I use my white privilege to access mentors, funding, and other resources that are held by other white gate keepers. When I became aware of the problematic nature of this instead of changing the way I worked I started hiring more WOC collaborators to keep my work from being criticized under the moniker of “inclusion” and “diversity”. My grandparents farmed and extracted oil from stolen lands, and vote for openly racist politicians. Despite talking back to their racist vitriol as a teenager, I now maintain relationships with them because it privileges me to do so rather than be cut off from my family. I use my white privilege to receive money from them in spite of the harm they cause. I grew up in a liberal household that didnt “see colour” which is a privileged position I held because I was white and most of my friends were white. My parents were fascinated with Eastern Phillosophy, and so I came to appropriate a lot of Buddhist, Taoist, and other yogic and indigenous ideas and practices as my own as suited me. I am still unpacking this history to understand how my continued practice effects harm. My mother encouraged me to identify as a Metis artist because my great grandmother on my father’s father side (whom I never met) was Metis so that I can access money and opportunities intended for Metis & Indigenous artists. My father encouraged me to see myself as a self made artist independent of the many people that helped me get here, and the many doors that were open to me as a white woman. I may not have used my white privilege to explicitly do as they ask, but I have not used it to dispute the underlying beliefs either of them hold. Surrounded by crunchy hippies to creative entrepreneurs to conservative farmers I learnt that with white privilege I could take what I liked and defend my right to do as I please “because it wasn’t harming anyone.” Recently I am trying to unlearn this mode of being to be a better local and global community member, but I also use my white privilege to drag my feet finding alternative ways to support myself because the systems of power benefit me.

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