Prologue to a book that has yet to exist. First prose…?
Note from the Author
If you’re reading this, you may be a white person. If you’re a white person, despite all excellent intentions, there may be a somewhat cynical, ultra-logical part of you, however miniscule, that genuinely wonders, “Should I be invested in dismantling white supremacy? My own supremacy? Shouldn’t I be looking out for my own best interests? This is capitalism, after all.”
Don’t feel like a shithead if a small part of you feels that way. The nature of capitalism is to set us against each other, consciously or not, and that leads to a lot of us feeling hungry and desperate a lot of the time. Doubtless you have your own, serious problems to deal with–and chances are you don’t have the status and income of the Obama family, or of the Carter-Knowles crew.
But I want to stress from the outset that white supremacy is not simply a problem that plagues people of color. It’s a deep-rooted, systemic problem that has been invented, cultivated, and propagated by a lot of people with money and power for a very long time. White supremacy is not actually about empowering all people below a certain melanin percentage: it’s about driving wedges between those of us who have strength in numbers, but not in fiscal capital. Dismantling white supremacy is not simply about doing the right thing for others, but about bringing most of us together so we can improve conditions for us all.
To the people of color reading this book, it may seem thoroughly obvious to you why white supremacy is damaging. You probably have your share of ugly personal stories, be they of microaggressions, or the much more obvious and harmful variety of aggression. You may consider yourself to be very conscious, quite woke, in fact. If this is the case, I humbly offer the reminder that one of the reasons white supremacy is so profoundly harmful is because we are taught its credo from the beginning, in school, in the media we consume, and in our interactions with others. These lessons become so internalized, so deeply ingrained, that it takes constant, vigilant work to reeducate oneself. It is my hope that reading this book will help to make that work a little easier for you–and for myself!
Finally, I’d like to remind us all that it is not the responsibility of people of color to educate white people about these problems; it isn’t our job to take upon ourselves the inverse of Kipling’s perverse “white man’s burden.” This is work that people of color are often expected to do for free, that we often must do from time to time to make our lives bearable. As a biracial woman straddling the especially fraught line between white and black America, I’ve found myself in the position of reluctant educator more times than I can count. But I’ve also learned to refuse requests from curious white people to touch my hair, to respond to the eternal, “Why do black people always [insert sterotype here]?” I’ve found it to be the only way to keep myself sane, and my own property at all times.
This exploration, though, is on my own terms. I choose this role, at this time. I hope to be paid for my work, as we all do, but more than that, I feel called to do it. To be a person of color in America at this point in history can be deeply frustrating, painful, and complex, and it is my hope that, in educating myself and sharing what I learn with others, I can offer some measure of progress, and healing. Keeping ourselves blind to the truth has not served us well, as a culture, and I hope to be one among the many brilliant artists, educators, and activists out there who still believe there’s something in the American Dream worth saving, or worth creating. I am far from the first person to do this work, and given that we are still so far from where we need to be, I hope I won’t be the last.
To all my readers, thank you for embarking on this journey with me. It’s bound to be quite a ride.