Business as Usual
November 8 came as no surprise.
I watched states change color as faces of certainty waned throughout the night. Frozen shock contorted into silent gasps, tears pooled in their eyes as they gripped at a blind hope. I called my mom and told her to prepare. Trump would be President. She couldn’t believe me. It was too early and America was better than that.
America was not better than this. It was exactly this. She registered my urgency yet resisted its implications. What could we do? How could we leave? Your brother graduates this year, your sister is enjoying middle school and your dad is finally getting settled at his new job. You want us to start over again? To leave everything when we’ve worked so hard to belong? Yes. I need you to prepare. It’s a slippery slope from registration to internment.
She was silent.
We spoke a while longer, easing the terror at hand with updates on lives that never seemed to change.
I told her I loved her and that I’d call in the morning.
I was on a friend’s couch when I heard. She brushed her teeth as I slipped into a catatonic stupor. She returned to my still and silent body, wondering what had happened in her short absence. “He won,” was all I managed. She held me as warm tears washed my skin. Eyes glazed and vision blurred as I wept. I wept not from shock, but clarity. The cathartic cleansing of false hope purged from my perspective. Stubborn remnants of a body taught to believe in the inherent goodness of Whiteness washed away. I could see. See all we were told was not there, but had always been—what they could not see, for it called into question a sense of goodness that would wring the foundations of their being and tear their world asunder.
A world where they allow racists to return time and time again, welcoming them with warm embrace, shallow repentance and the forgiveness of forgetting. One in which they receive racist Snapchats, hear their drunk boyfriends yell “faggot” and are told by parents not to date someone who isn’t white. Yet they remain friends, dismiss slurs as “locker room talk” and accept that white women marry white men so they can raise white families. Racism exists over there, they believe, not here. We are good. We are liberal. We get it. Yet their shock leads me to wonder what it is they believe they get. How do they ask others to reject what they themselves cannot? That which their silent acceptance approves? What their impassioned defenses of free speech, empathy and preference never address—for what, if not the preservation of Whiteness, do they pursue?
Forgive me for not sharing your surprise. How arrogant I must seem. Forgive me when I look upon your shock with suspicion. How bitter I must sound when I receive your well-intentioned apology as an insult. What stubbornness and racism you think me guilty of. Forgive me when I respond with cool anger at your belief that you, with your blonde hair and blue eyes, will be affected the way I will. How small minded I am not to see that we are all equally threatened by environmental degradation, nuclear annihilation or whatever else dwells in the fear-stricken imagination of Whiteness. Forgive me for using that word. I know it reminds you of what you work so hard to forget—and this is not the time to make white people feel bad, they advise. “You need our support if we’re to stand any chance.” Haven’t I learned? Successful movements require a broad coalition drawing from every sector of society. We should gather to show solidarity. We should alert the police before. We should sign petitions. Above all we must be non-violent, respectful and courteous. To entertain the thought of anything else betrays the moral virtue we hold over our oppressor.
Forgive my foolishness.
How criminal to be ignorant of truth at a time like this.
It seems my six-figure education has failed me. What poor understanding I have of human behavior, the world around me and social movements, clearly not enough to write with any weight or authority. Were my education successful I would be shocked. I would share outrage on Facebook. Sign countless petitions. Demonstrate in the streets. Instead it has failed. To distract me. To make me color blind. To believe I was doing good because I was doing something. To forget my body. To accept White Supremacy. To graduate mute, blind, deaf and dumb, speaking to a world that cannot see me, whose insults they teach are compliments, and in which I cannot think for myself. Colorado College succeeds when its students graduate with the unexamined beliefs necessary to not only maintain, but to refine the well-oiled machinery of White Supremacy.
The mission of Colorado College is “to develop those habits of intellect and imagination that will prepare students for learning and leadership throughout their lives.” What a well-developed intellect it requires for you to avoid thought. To possess an imagination that cannot see. I feel you resist. Yet I ask, were you surprised? Did you not think this could happen? Here in the land where postcard lynchings became bullet-riddled bodies in the streets. Did you not imagine Trump winning? In a country built on the genocide of indigenous peoples and nourished on the blood of the enslaved. Or did you not want to believe, to awaken from the Dream and find yourself to be another’s nightmare?
You will not be roused from your slumber. Ruptures will be concealed, outbursts quickly forgotten and you will continue to be surprised by the consequences of your creation. You will become political science majors who never analyze Charles Mills’ “The Racial Contract,” economists who never discuss Eric Williams’ “Capitalism and Slavery,” philosophers who never think through Lewis Gordon’s “Existentia Africana,” or psychologists who never experience Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Masks.” You will go on to Teach for America, a startup, a non-profit. Perhaps politics. At best you’ll stumble forth to blindly maintain a status quo built upon inequality. At worst, you will enter communities, executive positions, government offices, and refine this system all while believing yourself to be doing good.
White Supremacy is the unspoken structure that orients our perspective on the world. If we understand White Supremacy as unjust, then an education which does not prepare students to resist and dismantle it, nor does so itself, is complicit in its preservation. This silence sows seeds of guilt and shame, bearing fruits of self-righteousness and moral illusion. Contradictions arise between what we are told and what we experience, carving chasms within the psyche. We become alienated from ourselves and strangers within our own communities.
Neely Fuller, who researched the linguistics of White Supremacy, writes, “Until you understand White Supremacy everything else will confuse you.” You will wonder how white women could support Trump. You will blame poor working class whites. You will hail Bernie as a revolutionary. You will defend Clinton as more than the “super predators” comment. You will ask why they hate our freedom. You will resist an enemy you do not understand, obeying rules they have determined and acting from knowledge they have given. To understand White Supremacy is to make Trump’s victory very clear. This is not an aberration.
It is business as usual.
We are confronted now by our most cherished beliefs of who we are. Some will bear witness, their actions testifying to their commitment. Yet many will perish as they defend a Dream built to destroy them. And make no mistake, it intends to eradicate. Sun Tzu wrote that to know yourself and to know your enemy is to not fear the result of a thousand battles. Our enemy has us accept the normalization of racism, bigotry, misogyny and imperialist insatiability. It tells us to patiently wait and see. It advocates non-violence as their militias descend upon our bodies, slowly marching us to our deaths as we protest and petition.
It is nothing new. It is new in form, yet refined through centuries of practice. Our enemy surveys. It imprisons. It tortures. It breaks. It severs. It kills. You must know this. You must know that to struggle for liberation is to commit your entire being. It is to struggle for the fruits of a freedom you may never taste. A war that cannot ever be understood as won. It is suicidal. It is to fight when the odds are against you, because they have always been, and we have always fought. It is to be a human that has not become. To claim citizenship of a world that does not exist. It is an aberration.
It is not business as usual.