‘RACISM IN THE US? NOTHING TO DO WITH ME!’
If you are a non-US citizen, it’s pretty easy to think the above, right? Well a selection of words hit me this past weekend – right in my chest. They challenged me to check in with myself. The truth hurts more often than we might care to admit.
They weren’t the words of a President or Vice President Elect, ushering in as they did a new dawn of hope, unity, science and truth, but from a Princeton professor, speaking to MSNBC back in August 2019, when the world looked entirely different.
I took the decision this morning to document them, for the words resonated greatly.
THE WORDS OF EDDIE GLAUDE, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
‘We are not unique in our evils. Where we may be singular is in our refusal to acknowledge them – and the legends and the myths we tell about our inherent goodness, to hide and cover and conceal, so that we can maintain the kind of wilful ignorance that protects our innocence.
What we know is that the country has been playing politics for a long time on this hatred…so its easy for us to place it all on Donald Trump’s shoulders: [but] THIS IS US.
And if we are going to get past this, we can’t blame it on him:
He is a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us.
Either we are going to change, or we are going to keep doing this again, and again, and again…and babies are going to have to grow up without their mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, friends; while we are trying to convince white folk to finally leave behind or embrace a history that might set them free from being white.’
EDDIE GLAUDE, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR.
Do these words move you at all?
THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO SIT BACK
Ever since the announcement of Biden/Harris’, I will admit to sighing in relief, to hear logic, reason, kindness and humility once again from the leadership of a country and people that I hold so dearly. That sigh was short lived as I was reminded by the likes of AOC, Greta Thunberg and Robert Reich: The work has only just begun.
Now is not the time to let up on calling power to account. I type this as a UK citizen, resident in Australia. Amongst the many great things all three countries can be proud of, abuse of power is not one of them, nor is systemic racism. It’s not often that we speak candidly about such things.
So why do these words of Eddie Glaude ring truer for me than the words of the first woman, of colour – mixed Southern Indian and Jamaican – to be elected to the role of Vice President?
Because they hit me. Right in my chest. There was an uncomfortable truth in his expression. That as white people, not just in America, but globally, there is a tendency to see ourselves being white as an IDENTITY. When we label ourselves as white (or anything for that matter) we then are able to make ourselves DIFFERENT from the rest, so therefore we can expect special treatment, or to move within a different rule set, an altering state of parameters within which to carry out our daily reality.
A MOMENT OF HONESTY, PLEASE?
Mr Glaude’s words – ‘leave behind or embrace a history that might set them free from being white’ – speaks to the fact that like all elephants in the room, as human beings we are expert at denying simple truths that are otherwise abundantly clear.
We are all a part of this world, and therefore a part of evolving it, one conversation at a time. As he says: THIS IS US!
To anyone looking toward the US, from the UK (noting the slave trade all the way up to present-day-Brexit), Australia (observing denial of indigenous land rights), or anywhere else for that matter, and judging it in any direction, I offer you two questions relating to the systemic racism in the US and around the world:
How is this true for me?
How am I a part of this, in my home country, in my life?
I know how to answer this for myself, and it doesn’t fill me with pride. I have had moments in my life where either I have either consciously chosen to be racist, or I have unconsciously denied a cold hard truth being shone back at me. If we can start by being truthful – honest with ourselves, and each other – then perhaps the healing can truly begin. Silence after all, is complicity. So why not have a conversation about it.
SO WHAT’S POSSIBLE?
I’ll offer one final thought. Imagine what might be possible if we all healed. Could we move beyond all forms of identity (yes, ALL!), in service of realisation that we are all born of the same cloth – conscious beings having a physical experience on this floating rock in the middle of space…
What might that world look/feel/sound like. I wonder.
Original image by: Bria Goeller and Good Trubble (Black owned design shop out of California). The shadow is little Ruby Bridges from Norman Rockwell’s iconic 1963 painting “The Problem We All Live With.”