The Audacity of Whiteness
I’ll get right to the point. I’m sick of White folks performing. Sick of it.
Here’s what happened. I work at a majority White institution and interact with White folks of all ages. A White female coworker approached me. We made our usual small talk. I was sure the conversation was ending. Then, she announced:
“What is going on with people these days? When did people become so hateful? Can you believe the stuff going on nowadays with all this rioting? Why can’t people just be kind? We are all human in God’s eyes.”
I stared blankly at my coworker as she ranted about the current state of affairs in this country. After she wrapped her monologue, she looked at me, expectantly. I imagined cocking back and sending her entire body through the glass doors of the building. But, I’m one of a handful of Black staff. Not only would I lose my job, I would be hauled off in handcuffs because this woman had connections. I’m sure I would have racked up charges I didn’t even know existed. So, I sat there, frozen.
I finally responded, “Oh, yeah. It’s something.”
I excused myself from the conversation by looking down at my laptop screen. She started to say something, but decided it was best to walk away. As she sauntered off, a familiar feeling started to creep in. My jaws clenched. My face got hot. My eyes began to water. The knot in my stomach got tighter. The rest of my body went numb.
I’m sick of having this reaction. I’m sick of having these conversations with White people. I’m sick of seeing them exchange these words with each other on social media. Sick of it. Sick’ud. The shock and awe dog and pony show. The heavy sighs positioned at the right moments. The slight pout combined with the downcast eyes. The left hand on the chest with the head tilt and slight drop in posture. For a little razzle dazzle, some might take a small step forward and let a hand gracefully touch my arm or shoulder. I’ve seen it so many times. I’ve experienced it so many times. And every time, every single damn time……I want to scream.
I want to scream because I know they don’t really understand. And a lot of the time, they don’t care. Their statements aren’t to make anyone feel good but themselves. Gives them something to talk about at church on Sunday. “You know, I was just telling my Black coworker how awful all this is.” Then someone else will chime in that their Black friend agreed that the “looting is disgusting.” Another will respond with a quote from Candace Owens, or even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By the end of the conversation, everyone nods in agreement that the conversation was productive, and not a single soul will come to the realization that they have spent the entire time boosting their egos instead of discussing the genocide of Black bodies.
Each time I have this experience, I’m always left with the same question: “Why are White people like this?” This world has been a tragic mess. These issues are not new. Lately, I’ve fallen down an Internet rabbit hole, consuming article after article trying to understand one thing: the audacity of Whiteness. I’ve been taught to stop centering White people. F*ck them and go be unapologetically Black. Give everybody Black with No Chaser. Stop consuming Whiteness. Tell White folks if they want to be anti-racist, they have to decenter themselves.
But I can’t stop centering them. Because completely taking the focus off of them minimizes the harm that has been done and is still being done to us. And I’m not going to continue to cover it up with toxic positivity or religion. Frankly speaking, I want to gather all of them, put them under the same trees where countless mutilated Black bodies hung, put a glaring spotlight on them, and start by demanding that they explain why. Why? What the absolute f*ck is wrong with y’all? Why did y’all sell tickets to the lynching of Black bodies like it was a music festival? Why did y’all force our women to breastfeed your babies and wipe their nasty behinds? Why did y’all beat Emmett Till until he was unrecognizable, shoot him, and drown his corpse? Why do y’all gaslight everybody around you? Why do y’all steal literally everything you come in contact with? Why? Explain to me the audacity of Whiteness. Every bullsh*t answer I get, I’m taking someone out. Okay, maybe not that last part. That may be too far. But, that’s how I feel.
I’m tired of think pieces, YouTube videos, and panel discussions picking apart the issues plaguing the Black community and what the Black community needs to do to fix themselves. I’m tired of being under the microscope like I’m a tumor cell. When can we start putting the real problems with the White community under a microscope?
For over 400 years, Black folks have been forcibly entangled in an abusive relationship with Whiteness. We have generations worth of extreme trauma epigenetically written in our DNA. Some of us have responded by declaring that we are no longer victims and doing whatever we can to separate ourselves from this type of Black experience. Some of us have responded through violence and gutting the system. Some of us respond with humor, like giving racist White women nicknames like Karen. Why don’t we recognize these as collective trauma responses? Why don’t we study race relations with the same framework used to study abusive relationships? Publish data on the behavior patterns of the abuser. Publish studies on White female victimhood. Put a chapter in American psychology textbooks that discusses the psychological makeup of White boys that shoot up schools. Put a big ignorant mirror up and force them to look at themselves as they really are. Define the elements of Whiteness that drive them to oppress, control, and kill.
I do want us to continue to be frank about our experiences and heal from the constant macro and microaggressions that drain us. I do want all of us to appreciate everyone’s differences and love each other. But I feel that it is useless to continue to appeal to the humanity of a population of people that have spent over 400 years controlling, manipulating, beating, raping, stealing from, and killing us. I want this country to tell the complete story of Whiteness, instead of the image of Whiteness that’s been forced down our throats: the pursuit of thin bodies, girl bosses, overachievement, first steps on the moon, Gloria Steinem, Christianity, etiquette classes at the Plaza Hotel, the “right” way of doing things. Once we unapologetically confront White supremacy…then, we burn it down.