I am worried about white people.
It sounds condescending and patronizing. And maybe it is. But I am worried about white people. Even though my sociopolitical concerns on any given day are deeply embedded in the struggles African people face – on the continent, in the Diaspora, and their descendents who are hyphenated into the nations of others, I am deeply concerned about white pathology. White pathology, which makes its home where whiteness has conquered and is privileged, which is everywhere. But especially as it manifests in the everyday white person – persons who make up our loved ones and workplaces and the society we live in and participate.
Even when I experience a certain kind of secondary trauma of hearing and seeing the bloodshed from east to west Africa – the works of Al-Shabab and Boko Haram. Even when my heart breaks for the global poverty faced by millions that is no accident, but a consequence of history, colonization, and neocolonialism. Even when I feel anger for the treatment of the African immigrant from Tel Aviv to Madrid to Toronto. Even when I painfully scrutinize how the West gazes at the black bodies it claims within its nations, a dehumanizing gaze. Even when it has become common practice to expect that the black person will face an institutionalized racism in every facet of life, for which he or she will work against till the day they breathe their last breath – sometimes their death a direct result of that system. Still, I worry about white people.
Now I do not worry about white people because I think they ought to fear retaliation from the communities they have enslaved, conquered, and dehumanized in recent history – which is again, just about everyone. They don’t; even when those communities may seek reparations, they do not seek retribution. Chomsky however, rationalizes that this fear exists in American society because of America’s particular racial history. That it is a real, palpable fear in the white American imagination; a fear of revenge from those they terrorized for centuries. That it is this rationale that keeps institutionalized racism in practice, and works its way into white denial of racism’s reality for people of color. And devastatingly, even teaches people of color to believe and live this denial when they fail to be conscious people. That it is this rationale that results in colorblindness, which resolves itself as a way forward from America’s dark racial past. Yet still functions to work for white supremacy because it ignores the realities of color-based experiences as a consequence of history.
I am not worried about white people because I think that any or all people of color and their communities are better humans, ipso facto. Neither our present nor our histories are without bloodshed, terror, and violence. Although they do escape the entirety of affliction that has been the case of European contact with the communities of the world, as a matter of fact. I am not worried about white people because somehow I think it makes me look like the greater person, a humble person. I have many good qualities I believe, but regular practice of humility is one of my many challenges. I am not a better or worse person for admitting this either. It is simply fact.
Indeed, I am not worried about white people because I think most are really big, bad, racist bigots, who wish evil upon people who do not “look” like them, who consciously think of themselves as superior to the rest of the world. No. I know that most white people, like most people, want to live in a world where they have enough to eat, where an authentic peace reigns, and where their children can have hope for a better life than they have. I am not worried about white people because I feel an arrogant pity for their having to take responsibility for the actions of their ancestors. All of us have to live with the sins of the past and the transgressions of our forefathers. So for that reason alone, I cannot worry solely about white people.
But I am worried about white people. Or rather I am worried about the average, the good, the rational, the logical white person who fails every day to see how their world is so different from everyone else’s. The person who finds justification for bloodshed, explanation for othering, and motive for the maintenance of a global cultural illness because it would be too difficult to their reality, to their presence, to their personhood, to admit that history was a catastrophe for so many; to admit that it forever altered the course of the humanity of others. I am worried because this pathology in all its devastation, is still seen as acceptable. I am worried about the consciousness of whiteness.
I am worried that this consciousness can only be transformed through an everyday struggle of individuals who seek to dismantle not only the system but the self, that we were all born into. For those who were born into the bodies of racial others, dismantling is survival; it is necessary work. For those born into racial privilege, dismantling, I fear, is not seen as necessary work. Even though it is the work of humanity and freedom from these racial histories that have imprisoned us all for so long.
I have to believe that humanity can change – individually and together. Even when it is difficult, I have to believe it. That I have to change and you have to change. But I worry that white people don’t want change; that white consciousness doesn’t see the need. Even in the face of systematic death and bloodshed, the occurrence of the everyday aggression and microaggression, the unceasing double consciousness of others. And I worry that because of this, the humanity of these others will continue to be at stake.
I am worried about white people.