I hate thinking about race. When I look in the mirror I don’t see myself as a white man. I see Jeremy Cummings.
Our society conditions us to see each other through a racial lens, though. Someone is always black, asian, indian, arab, latino etc. before they are a human individual.
When I walk down the street people see a white man. A white man with tattoos and blue hair, but still a white man. In this country that was built on dehumanizing black people for white people’s economic benefit, my white skin lets me walk more streets and climb more staircases than my black and brown neighbors. Even if I don’t see myself as a white man, I have to accept that that’s what I am in this society.
I know that race is a highly-developed social construct, and I wish it didn’t have such a vice grip on our past and future. The fact is, though, that we’ve internalized concepts about race to the point that people are willing to go to exceptional lengths to maintain what they believe is the proper status quo among races.
I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay about “The First White President” last week.
It was painful to read. Any piece of writing that explains white supremacy’s place in our culture this eloquently is difficult for me to face.
Barack Obama, despite exemplifying the same flaws that come with any high-ranking democratic politician, was a model citizen and an inspiring leader.
He was also black.
His blackness was reason enough for an irrational resistance campaign that politicized even the smallest actions, even when they were actions that had previously been supported or proposed by republicans. It was no longer about serving the country.
Between 2008 and 2016, the republican party’s only success was defining itself as the party against Obama. Their explicit primary goal was to hamstring any legitimate effort by Obama to help people — even their constituents.
Leigons of white people couldn’t believe a black man would do anything to help them. Maybe because they would never do anything to help a back person and compassion for anyone outside of their perceived race is an entirely foreign concept to them. Maybe because of the intense propaganda campaigns undertaken by the GOP to paint even Obama’s tamest policies as socialist. Maybe because Cheeto Puff used his public platform back in ’08 to start the most destructive racist conspiracy of our time.
Race was a defining factor, if not the defining factor in this most recent election. Racism is irrational, so it makes sense that it would lead people to make an irrational decision like electing a provably unqualified and generally repulsive man to one of the most important positions in the world.
I’m hesitant to make such a claim, half because I want to be a responsible amateur sociologist and making avoid claims for which I haven’t done proper research and half because I’m still afraid to acknowledge the cultural destruction that white supremacy, blatant or subtle, continues to wreak on our country.
In this age a PR and propaganda, everything vile is hidden under layers of polish, glittery talking points, and complex multimedia smokescreens. White supremacy just has to put on a suit and get a more trendy haircut for it to be respected as a legitimate view by the entire mainstream media, and as a result, most of mainstream culture.
If we begin to tolerate this watered-down version of white supremacy, then we’ll soon find ourselves tolerating the real thing. Or I’ll find myself in the camps alongside all the minorities because I used my first amendment rights to criticize the fascists poisoning our country.
True, not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, but not everyone who voted for Hitler was a nazi.
But racism is here because it’s always been here. Toxins like that take centuries to filter out of our culture.
Even if you don’t realize it, your racist grandpa’s words and actions are a part of you. We cannot separate ourselves from history.
My family went on a trip to Houston last december to visit some relatives on my mom’s side who I’d never met before. Mom warned me before we went in that some of her cousins would probably say some racist stuff.
It’s in my family. Its part of my history. I have to wonder if any of my ancestors owned slaves or voted for Jim Crow.
I don’t have an answer to this terrifying trend of white supremacy and fascism rearing its head again. I think acknowledging the problem is a good place to start, though.