Zora Neale Hurston once described the challenge of examining her own culture in this way,
“It was fitting me like a tight chemise. I couldn’t see it for wearing it.”
It’s like a full-fledged cultural scuba suit (or mental body armor) that has shielded and granted unearned privilege to white people, especially cis, and binary identifying people, from having to know the truth of people of color, LGBTQ folks, and immigrants.
Many white people claim that this is not the case.
They hold up singular or several examples of how/why they believe that systemic privilege does not exist, or why, because they are poor, they do not believe they have benefited from privilege.
And that is the thing. THIS is exactly how the systems of power are perpetuated, through invisibilized networks. And while the networks of power may obscure the nature and mechanisms of privilege, the material consequence on bodies, well-beings, psyches and communities of color are very real and very visible and they always have been.
White folks by and large have chosen not to see.
From the country’s inception, the decimation of native populations, the trans-Atlantic enslavement of African peoples, the chronicles of lynching, Jim Crow, to today’s mass incarceration and police brutality.
But since most white people never have to step outside of their cultural reality- they claim, they shout, they affirm that white supremacist patriarchy is not real and that any talk of this “privilege” is just not focusing on the positive changes.
They claim that they are good people with good intentions and thus, surely no one is talking about them. They dig in, refuse to look, to see, to talk, to listen. And then throw down the line, “Well, I am just really not political.”
The choice to “opt out” of “being political” IS a political act. It is an assertion of power and privilege.
After the election, so many (mostly white) women co-signed systemic and racialized injustice, and reaffirmed the whole fucking system by saying, “I am not political.” The choice to claim an apolitical stance, however, is POLITICAL.
It is because of systemic and institutionalized privilege baked into whiteness that makes claiming an apolitical stance a possibility and a disavowal of reality.
Circles of entrepreneurs, wellness workers, and liberal-leaning women, many of whom I talk to/work with in various healing modalities, have been the exceedingly complicit in exercising the opt-out narrative.
Now with the undeniable overt acts of racialized violence in Charlottesville and the Trump administrations’ failure to condemn the racist hate groups, I see women stepping up and standing up.
The awareness of white supremacist patriarchal foundations is surfacing in the consciousness and conversation of many female entrepreneurs. Women such as Emmy Wu, Natalie MacNeil and Rachel Cook all leveraged their platforms of visibility to stand for justice, equity and love.
Layla Saad sent a powerful call that went viral in her letter titled, I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy (Part One). Note: It is a must read. Kelly Diels continues her sustained work for justice and love, always.
And while the racialized violence in Charlottesville is catalyzing our consciousness now, the thing is we must not delude ourselves, for even a moment, that the problem is “new.”
Check out 100 years of Lynching to read accounts of racialized violence cataloged from 1886-1960, or go see the contemporary Hip Hop Theatre play Dreamscape by Rickerby Hinds, that reimagines the 1998 fatal police shooting of Tyisha Miller who was shot by police while sleeping in her car.
The point is, you don’t have to look far to see evidence of historical and contemporary accounts of racialized violence enacted on people of color, women, immigrants and LGBTQ communities over hundreds of years.
You see, white people, particularly white men fashioned these intricate systems of power to glorify themselves and oppress others. They created pseudo science to affirm it. And while we may not be responsible for the system’s creation, we are responsible for its end.
If, as Zora Neale Hurston proposed, “research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose,” we must do the research, look at, under, around and through the hegemonic narrative that cloaks and disavows truth and see it for what it is.
This starts by seeing the problem, the privilege, and investigating where these networks of power show up in, around and through you with/without your consent.
There are very material consequences of white supremacist patriarchy for people of color, LGTBQ, trans folks, Muslims and immigrant families and beautiful hijab wearing sisters.
I know that my white skin, my cis identifying self all offer me a measure of safety (read privilege) in this system that many of my loved ones do not have. But this system is poisoning us all.
I hope the atrocities of Charlottesville seed a calling that together we can dismantle white supremacist patriarchy. We can be the solution and take up the call.
In the words Angela Y Davis, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept…”
As women and entrepreneurs, let us heed this call, raise our voices, change the things we cannot accept and stand with and for justice, equity and love.