I’m fascinated by the notion brought forward by President Barack Obama, that white people vote against their best interest and elect politicians that assuage their social and economic anxiety with promises to restore “traditional ways of life.” The premise of this argument seems to be that guns, God, and nationalism somehow lighten the burden of poverty.
On poverty, Zadie Smith, in her essay “The Shadow of Ideas”, states:
“When money’s scarce life is a daily emergency, everything is freighted with potential loss, you feel even the slightest misstep will destroy you.”
In other words: fear.
How do policies that systematically discriminate against BIPOC folks come to exist? More specifically, the thinking that people and politicians latch onto that inspires discrimination. Ta-Nehisi Coates suggests that racist policies are the means by which white people cling to power in an increasingly diverse country. One way to gain and maintain power is to silence those with different values, beliefs, and priorities.
In A Promised Land, President Barack Obama recounts an exchange had on the campaign trail during his run for President in 2008. An attendee at a high-dollar fundraiser asked why he thought so many working-class Americans voted…
To drive home a lesson learned from my reading of Claudia Rankine, that I — and all white people — benefit from systems of preference and privilege, Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his seminal work Between the World and Me, states:
“‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies. Sometimes this power is direct (lynching), and sometimes it is insidious (redlining). But however it appears, the power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being white, and without it, ‘White People’ would cease to exist for want of reasons.”
The best I can figure, the first question in this journey of awareness building is where to begin. I look to the non-fiction section of my bookshelf and shake my head. My current selection is limited to six BIPOC writers — James Baldwin, Zadie Smith, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barack Obama, Kiese Laymon, and Claudia Rankine. Next to dozens of white authors and thinkers — my goodness.
I’ve always thought myself to seek the perspectives of people with experiences different than those that shaped me. Honestly, I’ve taken pride in the inclusivity of my reading. But the inadequacy of my library is…
New year, new me, as they say. But what if there is no such thing? Any future version of me is an iteration of the experiences, perceptions, and beliefs that shape history. If I aspire to grow and learn and connect, then I must look backward, inward, to recognize the circumstances that led me here. Likely, the endeavor won’t be easy, but it is what I need.
This isn’t an original thought. In fact, the above is a rudimentary distillation of the wisdom shared by James Baldwin in The Discovery of What It Means To Be an American, found in…
I didn’t think much about it when I started snorting blow with my girlfriend’s mom. It didn’t happen often, maybe once every couple of weeks, and it fit in nicely with my life. We would go out, get drunk, and then retreat to her suite at the Omni where the moms and I would take bumps off each other’s necks. We were responsible about it, of course. We would order room service and then wait for the girlfriend to pass out before going at it, but, nine years thereon, it occurs to me that getting high with Mrs. …
social work. recovery. advocacy.