An excerpt from the amazing workshop Sandra Kim did yesterday, in case you missed it (even if you were there, I highly recommend continuing with the course):
"If you find yourself having a lot of feeling that’s getting in the way of you processing that, of you being able to move into action to end racism even though you wanted to: I want you to consider that there’s a reason why that’s happening. And we’re going to talk a little bit more about what those reasons are. But there’s a reason why that’s happening.
And you’re not right or wrong for that to be happening. It just is what’s coming up. Your own pain may be intergenerational pain from the past.
I want to talk a little bit about how whiteness was created. A lot of folks don’t know this – that’s what came up when I started using the term “healing from whiteness” – is that people didn’t know that this is something that actually was constructed. It’s a social construct that was made in the early 19th century by wealthy land-owning Northwestern European elites. Folks from England, Denmark, and that area.
The purpose of this was to make sure that non-wealthy folks from other European countries like Ireland or Italy, it made sure that they did not get together with Black folks and Native folks in the Americas. Because they actually had a lot in common with each other. They were all being pretty exploited and oppressed for the personal gain of these land-owning elites.
What happened was – because previously folks were just Irish American. They were English American, or they were still just English immigrants, settlers. What happened was – when this sense of whiteness was created and that brought folks from the continent of Europe together in the Americas – poor Europeans in that sense actually gained white privilege. But they lost the connection to their cultural heritage. They lost connection to their own history, of their own struggle and why they left their countries to come across on boats to the United States, where a lot of them didn’t make it.
It was generally an awful trip, obviously. They had to come to a land that was obviously hostile because they were occupying it. They’re invading it. And so once they got here, you’ve got to think, this was their best option. Which gets me to think about: What was so terrible in Europe that coming here and going through all of this was actually their best option? Knowing the likelihood that they might die. If not them, their children. Half their children; the rate of mortality was so high back in the day.
What happened is that they lost their connection with that struggle, with the history of why they came to the United States and what their experience was: being exploited and oppressed by the wealthy land-owners. They got pitted against people of color because they got a little extra benefit – not as much as the wealthy landowners – but they got to at least be white and not to be a person of color.
So they cut off their humanity and connection to folks who actually would’ve been in much more similar situations. This is something to think about. This is not something that I think most folks in this country are very conscious about. We don’t get taught this history. You’ve got to think about why we don’t get taught it.
But we live the legacy of it. We live in this legacy and so we don’t exist in a vacuum. There’s a reason why you experience what you experience. There’s a reason why you feel the way that you feel. And on learning our history and how things were created for the current context that we live in, this is all part of the work.
I think it’s super important to always remember that racism was a tool. And it still continues to be a tool, particularly by the Republican party. But also, the Democrat party’s not that great, either. But it was a tool that was used to keep us distracted. It’s how the ruling has been running our societies for their own personal benefit. The percentage of folks who own the majority of the U.S., for example, is very small.
Most of us are very much struggling. The middle class in the United States have really really gone away. We just have to keep in mind that when we think about, for example, affirmative action, we want to talk about there being a meritocracy. Some folks, like Abigail Fisher goes after affirmative action when in reality affirmative action has most helped white women to get into position, to get jobs and to get into college.
And we don’t look at legacy. We don’t look at legacy. We don’t look at athletes who make their campuses or universities money, things that are tied to wealthier folks to making and earning money for those folks. You’ve got to think about why is racism at play? Who is benefiting? It’s all about power at the end of the day. It’s all about resource distribution.
I just want to throw that out there. You know, I’m throwing out a lot. There’s a lot of context for this work.
I want to really expand upon this notion of why white people need to liberate themselves from white supremacy is not one that’s often discussed. It’s usually why white people need to help people of color, to save them from racism. It’s the sense that the racism is happening over there. It’s outside of us. It’s not inside of white people.
That’s not really what we’re talking about. What we need is to understand is that white supremacy is something that was taught to all of us. It’s something that was taught to all of us. People of color, we have our own personal experiences and our collective histories that counter the lies that white supremacy taught us. However, white folks won’t have that unless they’ve proactively sought it out. They’re intentionally kept ignorant of it.
Just as the people of color need to do the internal work of freeing ourselves from internalized oppression, internalized racism, white people also need to do the same. And the first thing, of course, is to understand that you, too, have been unconsciously conditioned to think and act in everyday racist ways.
The lie that white supremacy taught that being a racist is one of the worst things that you can be so you’re either a good person who’s not racist or you’re a bad person that’s not racist. The fact of the matter is that we all have these biases. The question is: what are we going to do about it?
We also need to think about what has to happen to us to make us not care in the face of violence? What has happened to the emotional system of the people who will deny that racism is at play when 12-year-old boys are gunned down by police? Or little girls in their own home? Even the killing of children is still being like, “Oh, well, that’s still justified. There’s probably some reason.”
You’ve got to really think about this. And what have we cut ourselves off from to continue to be in denial? Because when we cut ourselves off from the pain of acknowledging the violence that happened right in front of us we cut ourselves off. From ourselves.
The work is about restoring ourselves to our emotional fullness. That’s why the work is individual."