Content Warning: This post is about white supremacy and may be triggering for BIPOC readers.
I can’t stop thinking about this video from poet, author, and activist Sonya Renee Taylor. If you’re white and you care about dismantling white supremacy you should just go ahead and watch it because Taylor is a powerful speaker and the words and ideas are entirely hers. The key point that I took away is that white people who want to change things should stop talking about Black people and start talking about whiteness. Taylor points out that the very act of white people talking about how Black people should be treated is a manifestation of white supremacy. Who the hell are we to be passing judgment on what another group of humans deserves? Instead of debating about Black people (as though we have any right), white people should be talking about what it is about whiteness that created the evil system we are operating in and, most critically, what inside us is preventing it from tearing it down?
This is the work of rooting out racism within ourselves. I want to answer the questions Taylor poses: What in me contributed to the white supremacy that is alive in well in the places I’ve worked, the neighborhoods where I’ve lived, the churches in which I’ve worshipped, the country I call my own? What in me allowed me to enjoy every inch of the privilege I haven’t earned and that’s come, make no mistake, at someone else’s expense? What in me let this mess stand as long as it has? What is the “sickness that is whiteness”?
I don’t have the answer to that question. But I suspect it’s the part of me that checked out of Mormon feminism when the Black and indigenous women started talking. I know it’s the part of me that checks Facebook and Instagram to see if people are going back to regularly scheduled program so I can share links to this blog. The thought of pulling eyes from the fight for racial justice horrifies me, but at the same time, I want what I want when I want it. I want people to read my words. I want mine more than I want you to have yours. When I prioritize my wants over other people’s needs, that’s the sickness that is whiteness. The sickness is taking and taking and taking and letting my sister starve. The sickness is talking and talking and talking and letting my brother sink. The sickness of whiteness is, at its core, a selfishness of murderous proportions, and I am sick.