Today I find my body wrestling with illness while my spirit fights against the crushing weight of seeing the toll white supremacy is taking on the world around me. While I feel we all have some degree of complicity we can afford to address, I need to name a particular manifestation of this explicitly.
I am utterly exhausted by all the ways that progressive, liberal, and radical white folks run away from and contort themselves to avoid dealing with the truth that they too are complicit in upholding white supremacy. It’s often not overt supremacy that troubles me so much as the ways in which this particular group of folks refuses to identify, interrogate, hold, then deconstruct their own complicity in upholding this oppressive system.
The ubiquitous nature of this mode of oppression means that none of us escapes it’s reach. That’s why I’m so tired of people feeling that their good intentions or desire for equity means that they are somehow beyond even unintentionally yielding to something so deeply imbedded in our sociocultural DNA.
Experience teaches me that there are some folks who are genuinely confounded by trying to root out their complicity, so here are some helpful examples.
When you touch people of color (POC), our children, or our things without our consent because you’re amazed or curious, you’re complicit.
When you’re talking to POC and use language, mannerisms, or that stupid-ass “blaccent” that you wouldn’t employ at ANY other time, you’re complicit.
When you cultivate “diverse” or “inclusive” space and it doesn’t address the needs of POC or the realities we deal with through the content, cultural expressions, frameworks, speakers, dialogues, etc employed in constructing said space, you are complicit.
When you don’t notice our lack of presence in the media you consume, the books you read, or the spaces you occupy, you are complicit.
When you do notice that we are missing from conversations and spaces and don’t speak or resolve to do something to shift that reality, you are complicit.
When you are silent when your intuition tells you to speak up over the injustices you know we face at your job, at home, with your friends, with your family, in your religious community, in your justice community, wherever it is that you tread, you are complicit.
When we tell you the ways that you’ve harmed us or the ways that we’re suffering because of how whiteness bears down on us and you yield to a sense of helplessness or guilt instead of pushing past and finding ways to address the harm or stand with us, you are complicit.
When you can point to institutional oppression but fail to see the ways that you perpetuate harm on an individual level, you are complicit.
When you ignore our wisdom and our warnings in lieu of feeling that you know better and can do better without us, you are complicit.
Here’s the thing that no one really says-realizing that you’re complicit in upholding white supremacy is not the end of the world. You are and that’s real and you’ll be OK.
Realizing and admitting that you play a part in upholding oppression of others is critical because they can be the first steps in you working to use the tools, resources, degrees of access, and privileges you possess to push for a liberation that would see us all be truly free.
White supremacy will only loosen its grip on us all as you work adopt a posture of humility and own the ways that you – through your action or inaction – have allowed it to stand. All liberation comes at a price and getting free will cost you your pride. The question is, are you willing to pay?