The Problem With “White Pride” and a “Post-Racial” Society
Now that the George Zimmerman verdict has been read (of course he was found not guilty) racist Internet trolls are starting to show their heads. You might even find out that someone who you’ve been friends with for a while is actually racist because of their opinions on this case. It is a tragedy that Trayvon Martin was racially profiled and murdered, and the only positive thing that has come out of all of this is that racism, as an issue, has been brought to the forefront of mainstream discussions.
Recently, one of my “friends” on Facebook posted an uncritical meme with some witty phrase under it. The caption for the picture basically stated, “Why is it that white people can’t say ‘white pride,’ but black people can say ‘black pride?’… why is it that only whites can be racist, but no other race can?” Obviously, I responded, and within 10 seconds of responding, he removed the image and blocked me from his Facebook. (Don’t you love how modern-day discourse takes place?)
Before he completely blocked me, he sent me this enlightening message that only a white man could write: “It is sad what happened to Trayvon and his family, but since you wanna play the race card, Zimmerman is of Mexican decent, not white. And where was the national news for this?” After he felt like he shattered my intellectual world with his great racist insight, I decided to write this article.
The issue that many feminists and anti-racists have with “white pride” is that it completely decontextualizes how whiteness functions within our society. Our culture has a framework of whiteness where certain populations, knowledges, and bodies are privileged and normalized because of our white supremacist structure. Different raced bodies are not viewed as EQUALS, and saying “white pride” presupposes that equality is already achieved. If that were the case, you wouldn’t actually even need to say “black pride” or “white pride.”
There is evidence for white supremacy everywhere– even in your denial of racism (regardless of your skin color). The fatigue racist people feel when they see Rev. Al Sharpton periodically speaking out against racism on television is similar to the daily fatigue people of color feel when we walk down a street and have to perform with a white mask to avoid racist microaggressions.
Racism saturates all of our institutions. Just look at our criminal justice system/school systems/laws, etc. I mean, how many people of color are in prison now for petty crimes like smoking marijuana, something that most trendy white kids do to look authentically hippie-like?
This becomes a very problematic situation for brown populations, considering the framework we inhabit is a white supremacist one. Because white folks control how populations will be represented in mainstream media, as well as who can dream the “American Dream,” people of color are in a very unfortunate position. Therefore, the phrase, “black pride” is the evidence for a depressing realization— that as “equal” citizens in this nation, we must labor even harder to have pride in our humanity.
In order to not be swallowed by the terrible representations that come our way, and in order to not drown in all of the racism that pathologizes our behaviors, communities of color need to reinvigorate their humanity by believing that they are better than these one-dimensional trite representations. “Black pride” is a reaction to the normalized idea that blackness should be defined by whiteness. “Black pride” is a reaction to the overt systemic degradation that people of color have been forced to deal with. The act of conjuring up pride is all we have left when we are told that we are nothing; when we are told that we can be killed for attempting to be innocent, a space only provided to white folks.
How many schools in predominantly urban brown areas have dilapidated school structures,and textbooks donated by the white schools 40 minutes up the road in the suburbs that just got an influx of brand new books? How many presidents of color have we had? No, we are far from being equal. We do not live in a postracial society! White bodies and black bodies are not equal, and that is not from black people’s doing— that’s BECAUSE of whiteness, which needs oppression to strengthen its privileges. White supremacy packages this strategic oppression as individual responsibility to further dehumanize people of color. It’s highly ironic that in a racist society, minorities have to prove that they’re being oppressed because white folks think they’re so damn equal (obviously not all white folks, but the mainstream popular opinion).The only evidence they need to prove that we are now equal is President Barack Obama.
Pride is all we have when we are labeled “guilty” as soon as we’re born, and then expected to be treated like criminals by every institution that surrounds us. Pride is all we have left when DEAD images of Trayvon Martin are paraded around on television like we’re at some lynching party. Pride is all we have left when we are viewed as disposable. We NEED “black pride” to remain socially alive … to avoid social extinction.
Black pride is a symbolic marker of power and a constant reminder that we live in a white supremacist nation. Claiming to have “white pride” is redundant when you situate it in the mainstream culture which operates off of whiteness. Black pride is a confirmation to black folks that it’s OK to be dark, it’s OK to want to identify with a group that is socially undesirable. These constant reminders demonstrate that mainstream society is white.
The best way to learn about the dominant reigning structure is to speak to those who are most burdened by it. There’s a reason why their voices are being silenced. Their voices are threatening because only they have proof to expose how imbalanced the American dream is — how imbalanced our concept of equality it. Silencing us in the only confirmation that their privilege will remain intact.
All too often the privileged try to convince the oppressed that there IS actually no oppression— we are all equal. This façade of equality is merely one of several tools in the patriarchal white supremacist tool kit. If you REALLY wanted to assess whether or not racism was still alive, you would just ask those who are most impacted by it, instead of trying to convince them that what they feel every day is a figment of their dangerous crazy imagination. Be suspicious of grand narratives written by the most privileged.
So, for those of you who are so privilege-impaired that you deny the daily racist microaggressions that people of color face, like the ridiculous facebook message I just received, perhaps the most radical thing you can do is shut up and listen.
Written by Aph Ko
You can follow her on the Vegan Feminist Network
Header image courtesy of the Un-Fair Campaign
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