I finally had the chance to see the Vice news documentary on Charlottesville, prominently featuring Christopher Cantwell.
At first, it felt like the beginning of my worst nightmare. Shattering.
As a POC, it is terrifying to see how real white suprematism is. Of course, I have a visceral experience of white supremacy all the time – from every time my hearts sinks when I hear of another innocent BIPOC murdered by a police officer, to when my throat chokes up when friends and lovers casually culturally (mis) appropriate right in front of me.
But organized white nationalism has something that has been more abstract to me. That said, I realize that it has always been there. When I reflect back to my high school days, I remember how neo-nazi posters or symbols occasionally popped up on our lockers. I also remember that my response to these acts was to numb myself from the discomfort and try to believe my peers were mostly not racist.
So watching the video, of white people, mostly men, marching with torches and arming themselves in the name of white supremacy, completely pierced a layer of reality.
But I also watched Cantwell’s viral video of him falling apart over his arrest warrant and lack of safe space. And I want to share with you what I saw as I feel like it may offer hope, in fact lots of it, in this time that we are in.
The eruption of white nationalism that we are seeing isn’t a surge of white power. It’s one of the first sure signs of the death of it. And it’s terrifying to white people because it brings them to the edge of the unknown.
In Chinese/Asian energy medicine it is understood that the worst symptoms often come to the surface before toxicity is flushed out of the system. I believe this is what we are witnessing.
The two videos of Cantwell has completely laid bare the fragile nature of white supremacy.
White people don’t understand what a world would be like where their whiteness isn’t the default, most powerful position. I hear this even in the voice of allies of I work with through my Authentic Allyship Coaching Group. As much as they work towards dismantling white supremacy and decolonization, they don’t know what the end result of this would be. In a very tangible sense, if we decolonized Turtle Island, where would white people go? What would happen to their positions of power? All gone.
Recently a member of my Authentic Allyship Coaching Group shared this incredibly vulnerable piece of writing:
“I’m not sure where I would ‘go back’ to. Would it be England, where some of my ancestors came from? Germany, where some others came from? The Russian steppe, where some others came from? But even putting that issue aside, in each of these situations I am no less a colonizer than I am here in the United States. Indigenous hunter-gatherer populations in Europe were displaced by the Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic farming peoples that I descend from. If going to Germany, England, or Russia is less colonization than living in the United States, then aren’t we saying that it’s OK because the genocide was more thorough? Is that really the argument we want to make?
To trace back to a time when my ancestors weren’t violent conquerors it seems I would have to go all the way back to Ethiopia. And it hardly seems like the just answer is for white people from around the globe to pile into the Eastern Rift Valley to become Ethiopia’s burden.
So I come to this conclusion: there is literally no space, in the Cartesian sense, where I can exist that is not unjust. And since I’m a corporeal being that occupies space and time, that means that my existence is, in and of itself, unjust. Justice demands suicide.”
The fear that drives white supremacy is the same fear. And the denial in the grief is palpable. “YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US!” means you are going to be. The foundational idea of white supremacy, that white people built this nation, does not hold any water. White people KNOW they aren’t from here.
The problem with white people is the same problem that we BIPOCs have. Why wouldn’t it be? Our pain is simply white pain that has been inflicted on us. White people don’t know who they are without whiteness. So they make sure we don’t know who we are without the colour of our skin: red, brown, yellow, black…
But white people are now awakening to their own self-hatred. Cantwell’s tears were predictably met with derision on the internet. An archetypal symbol of white fear, masking as supremacy, cracked open for all the world, including other white people, to ridicule. This is surely a sign of the coming death of white supremacy.
And like in any death, there is tragedy. I think about how has this man come to carry so much of the weight of white pain on his shoulders that his world had become completely distorted.
I honestly wish I could reach this man. Hold space for his pain. If you mute his words and just watch the video, you will quickly see how vulnerable this man was in the moment of it’s recording. I fantasized today what it would be like to simply hold him lovingly. What would it be like for the world to see that?
I imagined that it would be the end of white supremacy, as a man who represents the angry denial of its impending mortality, would surely crumble and surrender to grief.
The real tragedy is that I have no way to reach this man. He is too far from me, literally and metaphorically – protected by others in denial. But I can work with my allies who suffer the same grief as Cantwell. And every bit of fear, anger, and despair that is assuaged from them would surely lessen the load for people like him.
I have a message to white people, stop hating yourselves and start carrying your weight.
Don’t deny the fear, sadness, and especially anger that grips you when you think about the end of your white privilege. Every time you deny yourself the reality of what you feel inside, you are making white men like Cantwell bare the incredible burden having to express the intolerable grief for the rest of you.
You can see the violence that this is creating. Your death as white people, as you knew yourselves up till now, is inevitable. I ask you to accept this and face it with grace.
And please remember, this death is also a rebirth. And as every death is a tragedy, every birth is an act of enduring pain.
The same group member that contributed the above excerpt also left these thoughts on the same thread: “But how can I shed my whiteness and acknowledge my privilege at the same time? How can I help whiteness die and, at the same time, hold it as my most important identifying characteristic? … Letting whiteness die and becoming something else, something new, is a thrilling proposition. But how can that happen if the first step is to never imagine that I could be anything else?“
We will see you on the other side.
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