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.
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.
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.