Posts Filed Under politics

We built this house. We can tear it down.

by Janelle Hanchett

When Trump first announced he was running for president, I found it weird and awful in a “fuck this shit” kind of way but also vaguely amusing in a sad, bad reality-TV show kind of way. Another idiot on the screen. I didn’t take it seriously though.

How could I?

You see, I thought outright racism, xenophobia, and misogyny disqualified someone from presidency. I thought over-simplified, ignorant (if not downright moronic) proposals such as “let’s send all the illegals home” disqualified somebody from a position, say, as PRESIDENT OF OUR FUCKING NATION.

I thought emptiness behind the eyes and acting like an overall buffoon would repel people on a superficial level alone. Simply, I don’t want that asshat representing my nation.

But I was wrong.

I watched the media put him in the spotlight over and over again, and I wondered how they could care about clicks more than the future, about circus over substance. I know. I know. This is how they’ve always been.

But damn.
And with each one of his bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, idiotic statements, publicized relentlessly, I watched his following INCREASE instead of decrease. It was like an out-of-body experience. I kept thinking, this. This will be thing that wakes up his supporters.

But it made them love him more.

And now, I’m fucking terrified.

Last week, Trump refused to openly and immediately disavow the support of a known KKK member.

THE KKK, PEOPLE. The lynch-ers. The murderers. The children-murderers. The church bombers. Arguably the most violent and hated and ugly group of wannabe humans to ever walk our soil.

Not a deal-breaker, I guess.

 

Trump thinks Mexico is going to “build a wall.” He stated that Mexicans are drug addicts, criminals, and rapists. He wants to register and track Muslims. He wants to survey and close mosques. He wants to lock down our borders based on ethnicity and religion and lock down the internet. He wants to repeal marriage equality. He makes fun of his supporters. He thinks climate change is a “hoax,” invented by the Chinese (?). He mocked a disabled journalist. He mocks “fat” and “ugly” women and said rape in the military is expected if you put men and women together (NICE ONE!). He said he would have sex with his daughter if she weren’t his daughter. He said he “could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose voters. This is a small selection of what he has to offer.

And yet, his support grows.

Are we really this fucked up?

Yes. The answer is yes. We know this because his followers love him BECAUSE of his bigotry, not in spite of it.

 

It’s hard to believe this is really my country, right now, in 2016. It’s hard to believe a huge number of Americans think they will “make America great again” by returning to a time the rest of us look back on as the darkest moments in our history.

Make America great for whom?

At this point, supporting Trump unequivocably means support for racism. But this doesn’t bother Trump fans. In fact, I believe his openly white supremacist stance IS THE MAIN ATTRACTION of this circus.

 

Yesterday I read this tweet by Hend Amry: “If you’re an American confusedly watching the darkest forces of ur nation rally behind a demagogue-maybe u can understand the Mid East now.”

When I read her words I felt a moment of relief, you know, the way writing speaks something you’ve been unable to put into words? That’s what I feel. Confusion at watching dark forces I didn’t fully know existed bring to power a man that represents everything I thought my country was moving AWAY from.

Look, I knew they existed, but I thought they were a small, distant number. I thought they were radicals hiding in the corners, not enough people to elect this “rabid coyote,” as Stephen King calls him. (Undoubtedly I thought that because I am white, and have lived my whole life in California.)

 

I’ve listened with anxious curiosity to Trump supporters. They say things like “He’s going to keep us safe from terrorists;” “He isn’t reliant on lobbyists because he’s independently wealthy,” “He tells the truth,” “He isn’t a regular politician,” “Our country is being overrun by immigrants.”

The truth thing is wrong. He lies all the damn time and they’re just ignoring that. But the rest? We made that. We made the whole thing. We built this house one motherfucking brick at a time.

They are afraid. They are fed-up. They are fucking tired. They’re mostly poor and uneducated and overworked. And they live in a country telling them brown people are the reason why. They live in a country breathing racism. It’s in their bones. And now, they’ve found somebody willing to say it. He is voice to their family talks while watching Nascar over dinner. He is their conversation after “church.” He is bar talk with buddies. He’s the motherfucking knitting circle.

He is them.

And we made it all.

WHY DO THEY THINK IT’S OKAY TO SUPPORT AN OVERT RACIST? No, why are they straight empowered by him? Why do they see his devotion to white supremacy as the solution?

Because this is America. This is how we do.

 

We do it every time we call brown religious extremists “terrorists” and white ones “mentally disturbed.” White rioters “upset about the hockey game” and brown ones “thugs.” We do it every time we shoot unarmed people of color without recourse while claiming racism was “fixed” during the Civil Rights movement, a story that allows us to return to bootstraps mentalities while ignoring systemic inequalities in healthcare, education, class, and the justice system.

In other words, we blame “them.”

We set this up, one day at a time. Through our media and national rhetoric, we’ve planted images of the “other,” and the fear and power and entitlement wrapped up in those narratives have materialized in a man speaking that which the nation has been whispering under its breath since inception, carrying out with its hands, pitting poor working whites against people of color to justify the exploitation and powerlessness of their own lives.

Hey, I may be fucked, but at least I’m not brown. We’ve been doing this for years, and it’s worked beautifully.

We’ve bolstered our national (freedom-loving, land of equality) identity in spite of reality through the white-washing of history: by teaching the Japanese Internment in 15 minutes at 2pm on a Friday; by glossing over our Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1790 defining citizens as “free white people of good moral character,” and the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Geary Act; antisemitic efforts and the one-drop rule and nationwide, state-enforced anti-miscegenation laws and the 1907 Gentleman’s Act with Japan; denial of citizenship to Asians, blacks, Filipinos; the Johnson-Reed, National Origins and Asian Exclusion acts that tilted immigration in favor of Western European whites; America’s colonization of the Philippines and the resulting slaughter of 2 million Filipinos; the special gun we made to kill them; denying citizenship, voting rights and representation to America’s colonies, which we call “territories” because “colonizing” is what mean British do; we did it by forgetting the Tydings-Mcduffie Act of 1934 and Mexican Repatriation and the Bracero Act and Yellow Peril…

Make America great again.

Like that?

 

Our nation was formed through exclusionary racist laws, social and cultural forces, but we don’t teach that, not loudly at least, because it hurts our feelings. Is that why? Because it undermines our understanding of precious America?

Nah, I think it’s about power. Maintenance of power.

And I’ll be damned if we’re not getting what we asked for.

This is it people. This is what you fucking get when you let fantasy override reality and rather than face and learn from mistakes, reframe them into vague rhetoric about “the greatest country of earth.” City on a hill. Better than the rest.

THIS IS WHAT YOU GET THROUGH AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM AND WHITE SUPREMACY.

You get a bunch of white Americans believing they are exceptional and entitled to supremacy.

Or, Trump supporters.

The people shoving this black teen yesterday in Kentucky are the same angry mob yelling at Elizabeth Eckford as she attempted to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas, September 4, 1957.

If you don’t teach history, you get history back again.

And now, everybody’s freaking out. It takes a batshit blowhard explaining that he needs to “check his sources” before speaking out against the KKmotherfuckingK to make us scratch our heads and say “Geeeee I guess we should do something.”

Yeah. We better.

Fuck party lines. This isn’t about the GOP or Democrats. This is about not allowing a bigoted almost-fascist (all we need is direct violence!) wannabe dictator to return our country to oblivion. This is about tearing down the mind-boggling danger of him and his followers and the rhetoric they embrace. (Incidentally, let’s not vote somebody in who just says this shit more quietly, mmmkay?)

Use your writing. Use your voice. Use your canvas use your spray paint use your music. Use your car your home your mouth. Use your art your work your hobby your legs and your hands. Use anything. Use everything.

Use your motherfucking vote.

Move your feet. Do not be quiet.

We built this house. We can tear it down.

The revolution will not be televised. It will be live.

God damnit, America, MAKE IT LIVE.

heron

 

196 Comments | Posted in politics | March 2, 2016

Welcome to college. Try not to get raped.

by Janelle Hanchett

You are the person who thinks it’s “no big deal” that some young men hang banners from the balconies of their frat house with the words: “Freshman daughter drop off,” “Rowdy and Fun. Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” and “Go ahead and drop off mom too.”

It’s hard to believe you still exist, in 2015.

I want to rant and rave at you. I want to call you names and insult your intelligence and tell you to fuck right off a thousand ways. You support a culture that views women as objects to be consumed and taken at will.

You support a culture of rape.

And you do it openly. And you say it’s just your “opinion” as if it is that innocuous.

I fucking hate you.

But my hatred does nothing. So instead, I’ll just talk to you.

Let’s break down the messages of these banners. Translate them. Make explicit the implicit.

“Freshman daughter drop off:” The person you have raised and protected and adored as a child needs to be deposited into our hands so we can take over your role as parent and do with her what we will, which is have sex with her. We want to take advantage of her insecurity as a new student and attempt to play on her vulnerability.

You think I’m going too far? I’m not. They call her “daughter.” Ownership. Not even an autonomous human being. Somebody’s daughter. Somebody’s child. “Freshman:” New, young, nervous, unsure.

“Rowdy and fun. Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time.” More direct, same message. Baby girl. Reduced to infantile. Reduced to pure vulnerability. Purity. Perceived virginity. Don’t fucking tell me I’m reading too much into this: WHAT IS A BABY GIRL IF NOT AN INNOCENT VIRGIN?

About to be violated. STILL NOT ADDRESSING THE ACTUAL HUMAN BEING.

Still not addressing THE YOUNG WOMAN IN QUESTION who may or may not want to have sex with a dude or 2 or 6 but that is not the point is it?

They’re writing to the parents. They’re not writing to her. They don’t give a shit about her. Her sexuality is a non-issue. Her desires are irrelevant. Her body is not her own.

SHE IS A NON-ISSUE.

SHE IS IRRELEVANT.

The only people who matter are the parents, the ones who blocked them from getting to her vagina.

“Go ahead and drop off mom too:” Hell, we don’t care. We’ll fuck any warm body. Even if she’s old and gross, because we all know that’s what older women are.

We’ll fuck your baby girl and your wife. Two objects you own that we want.

These messages reduce women to bodies to be passed off between men: dads and husbands to frat boys.

These messages reduce women to THINGS to be TRADED between men.

Do I think these boys are posting these messages with full awareness of the what they’re saying? Maybe. Put probably not. They’re probably too fucking dumb for that. THEY ARE ABSORBING THE CULTURE AROUND THEM. THEY ARE ABSORBING THE CULTURE YOU ARE SUPPORTING EVERY TIME YOU SAY

You’re overly sensitive.

These are just boys being boys.

Young college boys are horny.

They’re just having fun.

 

Meanwhile, girls are raped.

Meanwhile, boys are growing up thinking this is what being a man means.

Meanwhile, our sons are reduced to douchebag morons with penises that blur humanity.

Meanwhile, our daughters are reduced to available or unavailable vaginas.

Meanwhile, our daughters are on the ground with a boot on their neck, choking under the power of a patriarchy that protects or consumes them, but never lets them breathe.

 

We buy a onesie that says “Daddy’s little princess.”

We buy a onesie that says “Lock your daughters up.”

We buy heels for our 3-year-old. She can’t run at the park anymore.

We put her in skirts and tell her to close her legs. They’ll see your panties!

Somebody’s older brother touched her. “Boys will be boys. He’s just exploring.”

She says nothing the 2nd time. The third the fourth the fifth.

We tell her to adhere to dress codes. Don’t show too much leg. That belly. Shame!

We tell her to buy some pepper spray.

We tell her not to get drunk.

Boys will be boys you know they are just having fun they can’t help themselves the power of their dicks is just too much LOOK AT THOSE PROMISING FOOTBALL CAREERS.

You want sex? No don’t have sex you’ll be a slut and nobody likes a slut be clean be good be respectable you can do anything YOU ARE DADDY’S LITTLE PRINCESS.

“Drop your baby girl off here.”

We’ve got it. We’ll take care of you now, little princess.

 

She shouldn’t have done that keg stand.

She shouldn’t have worn that skirt.

She shouldn’t have gone upstairs.

She shouldn’t have walked alone.

She shouldn’t have driven.

She shouldn’t have been born.

 

It’s no big deal.

You’re being too sensitive.

He was just horny.

He was just having fun.

Welcome to college, princess. Welcome to the world.

 

Ah shit, drop her mom off too.

 

111 Comments | Posted in politics | August 27, 2015

Hey teenage girls: You are not the worst

by Janelle Hanchett

Recently I read (yet another) thread on Facebook that went like this:

Main post: “Teenage boys are so hard.”

Comments in thread: “You should be glad you don’t have GIRLS.”

At least you don’t have GIRLS. OMG TEENAGE GIRLS.

They are THE WORST.

Insane, emotional, slutty little things. Mean. Irrational.

I’m paraphrasing, but you know the story.

Get your shotgun out. Lock em up. But goddamnit why are they so ANNOYING?

I have a daughter. She’s 13. I don’t see it. I don’t see the horrible. I don’t think I ever will. Tell me I will. Tell me she’ll be “the worst” in a few years.

Dear humans:

What would happen if we dropped the storyline that teenaged girls are “the worst” and just let them fucking BE?

Love,

Janelle

 

Well, since we’re on the topic, American teenage girls, I would like to provide a few guidelines for keeping yourself safe and navigating these awkward teenage years:

Do not wear revealing clothing like short shorts or leggings because boys just can’t control their hormones at this age and your skin makes them want to rape you. Yes, this is your problem. This could get complicated because you may have sexual feelings too and maybe WANT to show a little skin and explore the sensual side of your existence – OR MAYBE IT’S JUST A HOT DAY AND YOU ARE ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY HOT –  but this makes you a slut.

so don’t do that. nobody likes a slut.

Yes, that’s right: What’s unavoidable in boys is equally unavoidable in girls but in boys it’s expected (and possibly celebrated as a sign of virile heterosexuality) but in you it’s just dirty and shameful and your virile dad will need to protect you with a shotgun from virile boys whose parents dressed them in onesies at 6-months-of age that read: “Lock your daughters up.”

Now’s the time, daddy.

Lock.Your.Daughters.Up with those wild breasts and vaginas JUST OUT THERE FOR THE TAKING.

On to the topic of friends: Don’t be a “mean girl.” When boys have problems with their friends they are humans having problems with friends, or “assholes” or bullies, but when you do it there’s a special classification called “mean girl” because we need to make sure we establish early on that you are catty, simple-minded, and trite.

Newsflash “mean girl” is not actually a thing.

Assholes come in all genders.

Speaking of assholes, hormones rage in male and female teenagers, resulting in mood swings, tears, uncontrollable emotions and rage, but when you do it it’s a result of your vagina and uterus and menstruation and ohbytheway you’ll carry that with you your whole life. The irrationality. The emotionally unstable. When men cry we either deem them “pussies” or laud their gorgeous sensitivity. (Oh yes we’re screwing them too but that’s a different blog post.)

Have you dropped out of math yet?

Good. Stick with literature. Our emotional brains function better in those tender humanities.

Anyway, in short, teenage girls, this is why people hate you and why you read Facebook threads of grown-ass adults lamenting your existence and claiming you are WORSE than “boys:” Because you’re crazy and mean and irrational and emotional and slutty and your potential to get pregnant and evoke the (obviously unavoidable) rape drive in boys makes you a liability to yourself and your family.

Welcome to femaleness. Welcome to womanhood.

Welcome to the motherfucking jungle.

Oh shit wait! I forgot. How to not get your throat cut by strangers (this is from an actual list of helpful citizens on Facebook who commented on the occasion of a woman getting her throat cut by a stranger on the street):

  • do not get out of the car at nightFBbFBa
  • learn self defense
  • always carry pepper spray
  • do not know bad people
  • don’t be a prostitute
  • do not go into bad areas of town
  • don’t walk alone ever on a street ever.

(Why are they virtually unconcerned about the human who MURDERED another HUMAN? Well shoot your guess is as good as mine.)

WELCOME TO WOMANHOOD NOW DON’T GET OUT OF YOUR CAR LEST SOMEBODY SLICES YOUR THROAT AND YOU GET BLAMED.

(good times.)

 

Lemmetellyousomething my girl:

I don’t see this and I never will. Oh okaaaaay I see difficulty and I see pain and I see emotions and I see the hormones and the silliness woven with grown-up-ness and I see myself.

I see your father.

I see a child. I see a woman-child. I see a woman-child becoming woman. I see emotional turmoil. I see upset. I see rage. I see building moats in the sand and looking for seashells and painted nails and pedicures and long lean muscular legs and new curves and unruly curls on rainy days.

I see perfection.brokenness.gaping faults.attitude.

I see the difficulty of any kid that ever lived. I see all the boys and girls.

I see helpful. lazy. I see easier than my 4-year-old. independence. separation. wit and sarcasm and naiveté.

I see myself.

I was a teenage girl. I didn’t know the world hated me. Maybe because there wasn’t social media.

I see exploration. I see changing. I see life. I see a couple text messages to boys and a few discussions about this one and that one and I see you learning navigating working to understand other humans, life, sex, bodies, school, futures, loveheartangerragepainhystericalLaughingFriendsSiblingsFamilyandTomorrow.

(and you drive me nuts BECAUSE ALL KIDS ARE FUCKING ANNOYING.)

 

Heyyyy daughter, I don’t hate you. I don’t think you’re slutty or evil or mean. I expect you to be irrational and emotional just like I am sometimes, and your dad is sometimes, and your brother and every other person ever.

I want to lock you up, but not because of your gender.

I want to hide you away from the idiots. I want to hide you away so you never think you are the worst. So you aren’t ashamed. So you aren’t embarrassed. So you don’t gaslight YOURSELF when you’re emotional and unstable and irrational in your room away from the family for a few moments telling yourself “Well here I am just another faulty female fulfilling those prophesies all over the internet.”

And I don’t want you to not see that you are growing up in a clusterfuck of rape culture victim blaming female-body shaming (all hail the thigh gap) – WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN – and it isn’t you at all at all at all. It’s us. Them. Them. Them.

We plunk you down in an insane world then belittle diminish fault and blame you as you struggle to find your place in an insane world.

You are me. You are him. You are her.

You are not the worst.

You are the motherfucking best.

Ours, at least.

If you read it, all that nonsense, don’t believe it.

Believe this. Believe it to the end, and I’ll see you on the other side, kid.

 

******

HEY LOCALS:

My dear friend Sarah Maren and I are teaching a writing & photography intensive workshop in Sacramento next month and it’s going to change lives. Well, maybe not. But it will be fun, and you will become a better writer and photographer.

8 spots left.

GET ON IT LET’S HANG OUT DAMNIT.

(also, how cute and innocent do I look in this drawing?!)

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I don’t know shit about Baltimore

by Janelle Hanchett

I know a few things. I’ve studied them, or better yet, felt them. I’ve watched, heard about them. Better still, lived them. I know a few things.

But I don’t know shit about Baltimore.

I know CNN and Fox are liars, and they don’t know shit about Baltimore either.

I watch people talk.

Here’s a thread of women analyzing whether the mother who “beat” her kid for attempting to join the riots was right or wrong. As if that’s the fucking point. Perhaps turn that white gaze inward.

I’m pretty sure they don’t know shit about Baltimore.

Here’s the “violence is never the answer people.” That sounds nice. It would be even nicer if it were true. Violence, it seems to me, is America’s go-to move, abroad, and at home, among the subaltern, the black and brown poor.

Now you speak up. Now that CVS was injured. Now all of a sudden you care about their “neighborhood” and “property.”

Their lives though? Nah. Still not on the radar.

Where were you on violence when these children and men were killed, unarmed?

You don’t know shit about Baltimore either.

That’s for darn sure.

I read people saying the “rioters” are disgracing blacks, and I wonder why I never read the same about whites, when they burn and loot and break shit because their sports team didn’t win.

Do we call them “animals?” “Thugs?”(just use the “n-word.” it’s way more honest.)

I watch whites cling to the people of color in agreement with them, the ones yelling “looting is not the answer.”

“Look! A real black person agrees with me!” (definitive proof that they are correct, obvs.)

But I wonder if those people, whatever color, know shit about Baltimore, or West Baltimore, to be exact.

As in: Disenfranchised people of color living in poverty, geographically and systematically removed from that which “we” (those of us not in their shoes) see, that which we know, that which we understand to be “life.”

And “America.”

Centuries of removal.

 

I move in, I move out. Maybe today I think about race. Maybe I don’t.

My newsfeed was eerily silent on Walter Scott, except from my black and brown friends. It occurs to me how choosy white liberals are. So enlightened, when it’s convenient.

I do it too. It sickens me.

A student told me during a class discussion about racism: “You get to not think about this if you don’t want to. I have to live it. Every day. No matter what.”

Her eyes were tired.

I leaned against the whiteboard (ironically) and couldn’t talk.

She said it all.

 

This ain’t no ivory tower material. These are lives. These are lives that are not mine.

I have no capacity to understand any of it unless I shut the hell up and listen to people who know something about Baltimore.

 

I read these words the past couple days, between driving my kids around and not worrying about getting shot:

The Baltimore Protests are About Freddie Gray and So Much More and Freddie Gray’s Death & Baltimore’s Ongoing State of Emergency by Arnebya Herndon.

Black America’s Baltimore schism: Why the Freddie Gray tragedy demands more serious soul-searching by Brittney Cooper, PhD.

This FB post by Erika Nicole Kendall. (Note: This now links to her blog since FB apparently deleted her post, which is a whole different problem, I think.)

And this one by Feminista Jones.

In support of Baltimore: Or; Smashing Police Cars is Logical Political Strategy by Radical Faggot

This Twitter essay by Jesse Williams

Nonviolence as Compliance, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Brutality of Police Culture in Baltimore by Conor Friedersdorf

Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Riots Didn’t Start the Way You Think  by Sam Brodey & Jenna McLaughlin

 

It’s not lost on me that I’m SPEAKING (writing) the words “I need to shut up and listen.” In other words, not shutting up.

But silence seemed wrong. Silence feels like compliance. Silence could be listening and learning or it could be quiet derision, or ignoring, because I can. Because it’s comfortable and easy from a place of race and class privilege.

I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t say a word. Who cares? It does not matter. My voice is not the one to be heard, here.

I don’t know shit about Baltimore.

 

Do you?

 

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45 Comments | Posted in politics | April 29, 2015

How I discovered I am white

by Janelle Hanchett

When I was 14 or so, I asked my grandmother why we didn’t have a “white club” at school. I don’t recall her response, but I do remember feeling particularly smug and vaguely angry that there was a “Latino” club and a “Chinese” club but not a “white” club.

Oh the unfairness! Oh the disparity! Why do we celebrate their heritage but not ours?

And I didn’t think about race again, at least not much, until I dated an African American man in college and a stranger whispered “nigger lover” in my ear one night as he walked by us in a grocery store. I was shocked. My boyfriend was less shocked.

I concluded the stranger was some strange exception of horrible racist creature. He was, after all, approximately 97 years old. (Well, 70, but he appeared 97 to my fresh young eyes.)

And then, a few months later, when my boyfriend’s roommate took me aside and asked why I have to “take a good black man who was in college,” when so many black men were incarcerated. I concluded she was crazy. And mean.

She hurt my feelings. Poor Janelle.

Beyond these few moments, and a couple others, I didn’t really think about race. Well, I thought about how people made arguments “about race” when clearly they were not. I mean why do they make race an issue? It’s not an issue. I never see it.

 

Oh yeah, I had America all figured out: If ya work hard, you get ahead. And if you don’t get ahead, it’s because you made bad decisions. And if you get arrested it’s because you’re breaking the law, and people who break the law are more likely to be black. Obviously. That’s why they’re always getting arrested. (How’s that for some cyclic logic?)

I knew this to be true because:

  1. America was awful to black people but that was fixed during the Civil Rights movement;
  2. Therefore, we are all on equal footing now and if you don’t succeed it’s because you aren’t trying.

I learned it in school. It was fact. School teaches the truth.

And then, graduate school, and Professor Lee.

Oh, shit.

“Not all white people are white supremacists, but all white people benefit from white supremacy.”

WHAT THE WHAT?

She made us repeat it like a mantra. At least 3 times. I read Tim Wise’s White Like Me and bell hooks and David Roediger’s Wages of Whiteness and learned how our economic systems benefit from racism and we read about the history of American immigration laws (have you ever read them?) and colonialism in the Philippines and elsewhere (yes, America has colonies but we call them “territories”), and we read about redlining and white flight (ever wonder how black people ended up in urban centers?), and we read some DuBois and Omi & Winant and literature by people of color and all of the sudden I realized I had been fucking lied to.

 

I understood America through white eyes. I understood the world through the mainstream, polished glasses of a nice clean history of “we used to be bad now we’re not the end.”

Go team.

I discovered I was white.

“Not all white people are white supremacists, but all white people benefit from white supremacy.”

She wanted us to see that as individuals, not all white people are bigoted. But she also wanted us to see that every white person – whether they are bigoted or not – benefits from the racially structured hierarchies in America. They benefit from racism.

Yes. Even me. Even though I am not “racist.”

How? And she explained whiteness. She explained that “white” is the standard. White is the background against which difference is measured.

In other words, it’s “white” until further notice. It’s “white” until proven otherwise. It’s “white” or it’s the “other,” and it has nothing to do with actual numbers, percentages of “minority” population. It has to do with power. It has to do with the culture of power. What do I mean? If a comedy film features a white family, it’s a comedy. If it features a black family, it’s a comedy for people of color. Think about it.

White is the standard. And I’m white. Therefore, I am standard, and that benefits me.

When I walk into a room, I don’t fear that I’m representing my whole race. I have never acted badly then thought to myself “Oh shit, I sure hope they don’t hate all white people now.”

Or, in other words, even though pretty much every Columbine-type-school-kid-murderer is white, I’ve never developed a distrust for white, socially awkward high school kids.

A few do not represent the whole.

 

“Privilege is passed on through history.”

Whatever. I grew up POOR!

But then I thought about how, in the late 1940s, my grandmother was the first woman editor of the University of Washington’s newspaper. After she graduated, she and my grandpa bought and ran small newspapers in northern California. The family business they built employed my family members for 40+ years.

In the late 1940s, black people were not allowed to sit in the front of the bus.

How can I deny that my grandparents’ access to education and economic success did not materially affect me in a positive way, directly, through my father? I thought about the loans my parents were able to take with financial backing from my grandparents, and how that benefitted me. My life. My quality of life. The neighborhoods we lived in. The schools we attended. My cultural knowledge.

 

“Why don’t we have ‘White History Month?’”

Because White History Month is every month other than February, asshole.

Oh, shit indeed.

 

“The culture of power determines which version of history is told and retold.”  

Prior to the Women’s Rights Movement, women were stuck in the home while men went to work and supported them. But then women were liberated and able to get jobs working outside the home.

Right?

WRONG.

White, middle to upper class women were “stuck in the home.” Women of color have ALWAYS “worked out of the home.” In fact, women of color were probably working in the homes of the white women about which our history is written.

So one of the most oft-repeated, trusted narratives about American history erases the history of women of color. It is dead fucking wrong. It isn’t even kind of right. They are erased. Non-existent. Unseen.

They are Chapter 10. They are a chapter that ends with “but then Martin Luther King, Jr., and all is well.”

They are Chapter 10. I am chapters 1 through forever, and every day I cash in on that fact, whether or not I support the systems making that happen for me.

 

I realized the reason I had never thought about race was because I was of the privileged one, because I didn’t have to, NOT BECAUSE RACIAL DISPARITY DIDN’T EXIST. I didn’t have to think about race because I was having a fundamentally different life experience than people of color. But I could ignore them, because of my privilege.

I was able to hang out in meltin-pot, “post-racial” land because the structures of this society allow (and encourage) me to “not see race” while continually feeding me narratives about “equality,” “multiculturalism,” “color-blindness” and “ghetto urban lifestyles.”

I spent a lot of time in graduate school in the library, writing at a computer. Like, hours. Whole days. When I had to pee, I would ask the person sitting next to me to watch my stuff so I didn’t have to pack it all up and carry it down the hall to the bathroom. I did it a 100 times.

Once I looked over at the person next to me and my first thought was “Oh you can’t ask him. He’ll steal your stuff.

He was a young black man wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt.

I was sickened at myself. I was horrified at my response. There was absolutely nothing different about him from the 100 other people I didn’t hesitate to ask, except he was black.

I realized that not only do I benefit historically and presently, every day, from the color of my skin, I have also internalized cultural narratives regarding blacks and whites that manifest whether or not I support them.

“Hey, would you mind watching my stuff for a minute?”

 

But what now?

Does it mean my grandmother’s accomplishments are less badass? Nope. Does it mean I do not “deserve” success? Nope. Does it mean that I am a bad person? Nope.

It means that we live in a highly racialized society rooted in a history of discrimination and that we have a long way to go. It means that watching “The Help” and feeling bad is not enough. Sentimentality is not action. It means that I have had an advantage over people of color. Yes, always. Yes, no matter what. Because even if you’re poor and white you can join the culture of power by learning the walk and talk. But you can’t change your skin color.

From the day I was first introduced to this “other story,” I couldn’t get enough. Not because I’m some sort of saint or conspiracy theorist, but because I was curious. I was interested out of a sense of shared humanity. And I was fucking angry that I had been swindled. I wanted the truth. Or, I wanted a fuller picture. I wanted more sides.

That, my friends, is pathetic in its privilege.

I learned in graduate school what every person of color knows through life experience. I learned in graduate school that we weren’t “fixed” during the Civil Rights movement.

But when this information was presented to me I felt a sense of relief, because I think deep down I always knew something was terribly wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

 

I don’t understand the white rage I keep reading on the internet.

Just another dead thug.

He got what he deserved.

Run over the protestors. They’re making me late for work.

STOP PLAYING THE “RACE CARD.”  

I don’t understand it. What’s at stake, people? What’s at stake in accepting that racism exists? Or even entertaining the thought? Are people really so stupid they can’t fathom that other people might be having a different experience than they are? Is it really that hard to comprehend that something can exist EVEN THOUGH YOU DON’T PERSONALLY SEE IT?

(Although you’ll see your privilege if you’re willing to examine your life honestly.)

Why the hell are people so unwilling to listen?

 

Let’s think about this for a moment. A whole community of people are saying this exists. Data shows racial disparities in economic, education, justice, and healthcare systems. Basically, ALL OVER THE PLACE. Unarmed black boys and men are killed without recourse. Repeatedly. The comment sections of these crimes are riddled with assholes shouting “Good. One less loser.”

Still people claim “Racism doesn’t exist.” But here’s the thing: The only way you can discount the words, lives, efforts and voices of hundreds of thousands of people is THROUGH THE RACISM YOU CLAIM DOESN’T EXIST.

You can only ignore them if they’re aren’t worth hearing.

You can only ignore them if they’re liars. If they’re just looking for a handout.

If they’re not human like you.

You can only ignore them by using the very narratives you claim aren’t happening.

And let’s be honest, we can only ignore them because it’s easy, because we’ll never have to walk a day in their shoes, and it’s just so much more pleasant to turn away, look away, focus back on our lives.

But the sand is getting skimpy and our heads are showing. At this point, if we’re not part of the solution we’re part of the problem.

I’m using my voice to talk to you. I’m using my voice to talk to my kids. But it isn’t enough. We’re looking for places to volunteer. I’m looking for actions I can take.

We’re at a crossroads. This cannot go on. We’re crushed under the weight of hatred, history, silence, violence, bullshit media and the insidious defense of systematic unequal distribution of resources, and at some point, none of us will be able to breathe.

 

It feels small and pathetic to be one person in this mess. I feel stupid and vulnerable and slightly insane to be writing this here, now. But fuck my feelings. Fuck feeling uncomfortable. Fuck the nonsense that keeps us quiet and content and cozy in our little post-racial dreamland.

They can’t breathe, and I’m breathing just fine.

And that is precisely the problem.