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.