Hi, hello. I’m Magan, and I haven’t contributed to Read Me before. What I have done is think every month that I’m going to contribute, and then I go into some kind of black out state and wake up a month later having missed my chance. But here I am. I’m currently in the past (November 18th to be exact… three days past my extended deadline wow), and in the past we are still reeling from what happened 10 days ago. I’m sure you remember. I’m sure it’s still on the forefront of your mind, regardless of if there are pieces in this magazine that are addressing the social, political, and emotional fallout of the election.
"Before we start, I have a disclaimer. I’m white, and I write from that perspective."
While planning this piece, I rocketed between so many different topics- first I was going to write a point-by-point connection between now and the fall of the Weimar Republic/the rise of Nazism because, boy howdy, they are similar. Then I wanted to explain how to protect your online data from tracking because that is definitely going to be a huge factor in the coming days. But then I wanted it to be a travel narrative about going to this Bernie Sanders rally I attended so I could talk about progressivism and unity. Finally, I landed on this. It’s going to be long (but worth it?). It’s going to have jokes (not all will land). But hopefully, what it’s going to have the most of is some clarity about what to do next.
Before we start, I have a disclaimer. I’m white, and I write from that perspective. When I’m speaking about social inequality in our country, I’m speaking as a white person to white people. Why? Because I don’t (though sadly I can’t say I’ve never tried to) presume to know what existence is like for Black, Hispanic/Latinx, or Muslim people in this country. I don’t know how Asians and Asian Americans feel about so many invoking Japanese internment camps as a justification for a Muslim registry, while simultaneously leaving them largely out of the conversation. I don’t know the incredible pain that comes from struggling for hundreds of years to be equal to the people who put you in mental and literal bondage. I don’t know what it feels like to be born, live, and grow here, and then be told that you may be forcibly removed because your parents aren’t citizens. I don’t know what it’s like to be shot with rubber bullets because people in charge (who stole the land to begin with) believe their oil is more important than your water. My whiteness keeps me from truly understanding these things because my whiteness is what caused them. So, I don’t speak to that. How could I? There are a lot of people who can and do though- are you on Twitter? You should get on Twitter. People are constantly teaching me on Twitter. If you’re a white reader, you may be getting huffy about the perceived assertion you can’t have an opinion on these things. If you’re feeling that, I ask you to bear with me.
"You can be in Standing Rock last week (as I learned the bus girl was), and still be steamrolling a person of color about a fight that doesn’t actually, meaningfully affect you today."
A funny thing happened to me yesterday. Our Revolution, the organization that grew from Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign, offered people like me a free bus down to Washington, DC to see Bernie speak about “social and economic justice and equality.” I’m currently unemployed (hire me) so I decided to go- I’ve made the trip between DC and NYC a lot so the 5-hour bus rides weren’t very daunting, and I do adore grandad Sanders more than most people I’ve encountered. It was pretty great- the National Nurses United hosted the event, and they provided us with breakfast and lunch (the two fastest ways to my heart), and everyone there was the type of dedicated person who would spend 10 hours on a bus to hear Bernie speak. We left Brooklyn around 7:30am, and I settled in to take my compulsory Not A Morning Person nap. Then the funny thing happened. A white girl from the back of the bus appeared at the empty seat next to me, asking if she could sit there. Turns out, she had gotten into a heated conversation with a white man who insisted that Donald Trump’s rhetoric was not inciting racial violence and hate crimes. On a bus going to see Bernie. Bernie Sanders. Bernie “I will be damned if we’re going to go backwards and try to divide up this country again” Sanders. Then I watched this woman proceed to talk at (not to) a Hispanic man about all the reasons that dude was wrong and how she discovered her privilege and on and on. Is any of this shocking to you? Does it bother you? It should.
No matter who you are, what your tax bracket is, where you were born or how diverse your neighborhood was, no matter how many hours you’re willing to sit on a bus to see a man who is arguably more vocal about how racist and xenophobic Trump is than anyone else, you can still totally disregard the inherent truths that people of color in all demographics are telling you. You can be in Standing Rock last week (as I learned the bus girl was), and still be steamrolling a person of color about a fight that doesn’t actually, meaningfully affect you today. Obviously, her behavior is much more benign than the dude in the back, but nevertheless, their behaviors are born of the same thing.
"I’m not going to argue the validity of this aspect of white supremacy or white supremacy in general because it’s a well-documented, deeply studied fact, and I refuse to argue facts as if they’re opinions."
An aspect of white supremacy we don’t talk about much is that we’ve been conditioned to disregard the feelings and opinions of people of color. This is done in very subtle ways- from teaching white children to always have an opinion and to always stand for that opinion to railing about crybaby culture and how weak millennials are. The alt-right (aka Nazis, can’t we just call them Nazis now?) absolutely loves to direct their vitriol in this way- beta, special snowflake, whiny are all terms they use to describe their enemies. Whether it’s seeing your parents disregard a person of color’s discomfort by dismissing them as “sensitive” or seeing a pundit on TV flat out tell a person of color they have no right to be uncomfortable because they’re “playing the race card,” we are constantly being assaulted with lines of thinking that lead to one conclusion: white people’s opinions always matter and everyone else’s are up for debate. Of course, there are many intersections within this- you see a similar dynamic play out between men and women ranging from women being casually dismissed as fragile to being sexually violated because if you’re married “it can’t be rape.” These deceptive lines of thinking permeate every demographic and all serve to silence anyone who challenges the power of the white straight cis American male. Does this mean if you’re a white straight cis American male, you’re automatically a monster? Probably not. But your own personal goodness or capacity for goodness has nothing to do with this system. It’s there if you want to look at it or not, and honestly, you should just look at it. Everyone really, really needs you to. At this point, I should state I’m not going to argue the validity of this aspect of white supremacy or white supremacy in general because it’s a well-documented, deeply studied fact, and I refuse to argue facts as if they’re opinions.
Another thing I’ve noticed about this system is that it’s so strong that people who would otherwise understand this dynamic based on a social vulnerability they possess, often do not understand if it is outside of their own experience. Like I’m sure there’s a white woman reading this right now who totally gets the stuff I’m saying about women but still thinks I’m being inflammatory about race. That woman is wrong. No exceptions.
"All of these systems interconnect and are used both in tandem and against each other to preserve their existence. We are really, truly all in this together."
So what does this all mean? Simply put, it means white people need to listen to people of color more. (And straight people need to listen to LGBTQ+ people more, cis gay people need to listen to trans people more, it goes on.) If you’re a white person who was shocked by the outcome of this election and it electrified you into action, if you’re a white person who’s sure you’re good and down for the cause, if you’re a white person who has an opinion at all about race in 2016 America, then you need to understand that just because you want to help doesn’t mean your opinion is warranted. In the past week, I’ve seen so many self-proclaimed good white people gaslighting and dismissing people of color that it makes me physically ill. If you’re a white person and someone talks about hate crimes or police brutality or anything that has to do with white supremacy, you owe it to them and to yourself to keep your mouth shut. You owe it to them and to yourself to learn how they feel before you start trying to figure out why they feel that way. More than anything, if you’re going to champion equality, you have to actually listen to the people who are fiercely working to liberate themselves. If a person of color checks your behavior, tells you they don’t want to hear about your feelings, or even rudely tells you to get the fuck out of their lane, just do it. Swallow the emotion, remind yourself that your gut reaction is happening because a system worked on your mind without your knowledge to make you this way, breathe, and listen. You can totally have an opinion, and you can totally keep it to yourself. The only reason you’re mad at that idea is because you weren’t taught to keep it to yourself. Yes, white women, us too- we may have been socialized to defer to men, but we were also taught to talk over POC, and if you don’t acknowledge that, you’re never going to gain ground against the patriarchy. There is no racial liberation without gender liberation, there is no gender liberation without trans liberation. All of these systems interconnect and are used both in tandem and against each other to preserve their existence. We are really, truly all in this together.
"I promise you, we will make it through. But we will only get there if you listen."
And please, stop cornering people of color in your life and demanding they explain things to you or demanding they tell you what to do to help or just pouring out your emotions about how it makes you ~*feel*~. If you have a concern or a question, ask the knowledgeable white people in your life. We exist. Never forget how painful and exhausting this is for targeted people, never forget that they’re not here to serve you. Also, Google is a thing. Just saying.
I promise you, we will make it through. But we will only get there if you listen. There is no other side to this. Like white supremacy, this is a fact. Be honest with yourself, listen to the vulnerable, and smash the shit out of those oppressive systems.
Okay? Okay. Good talk.
Here are some links to resources I send to white people who are ready to learn, check them out. If you have questions, contact me- I’m on Twitter (@magancarrigan). Oh also watch the Netflix documentary 13th- my hand to god, you’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle if you haven’t watched it.
- “Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston” by writer and educator Jon Greenberg
- “Why It's So Hard To Talk To White People About Racism” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo
- “Dear White People: Things you can do instead of cry or try to hug us. Sincerely, People of Color” by Dr. Christine Malsbary
- “What Is Racial Domination?” by Matthew Desmond and Mustafa Emirbayer for the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research
- “This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter” by Sally Kohn for the Washington Post
- “What To Do Instead Of Calling The Police: A Guide, A Syllabus, A Conversation, A Process” created by educator, curriculum developer, and activist Aaron Rose with community contributions
Read more in the December 2016 issue of Read Me.