Monday, November 14, 2016

White People



It hasn’t even been a week yet. Can anyone think of anything else besides the election results of last week? I am only starting too, but wow. These past few days have been a blur. I woke up the following morning and googled ‘stages of grief,’ in preparation for what the coming days would be like. The night of the election I drank way too much for a weekday, I binge ate nervously as the results came in, I took a nap to avoid the inevitable and to pretend that when I woke up, it would all have been a dream.

The next day I had a pressing urge to have sex, wallow, and my body felt the same as it sometimes has during a depression spell, heavy and stooped. I met up with a friend the next day and my brain felt broken. I couldn’t think well or talk well and I cried over shitty tapas. We walked over to the protest at Union Square. I never go to protests as I feel they are symptomatic of something veiled but I must admit that after walking for a few blocks, in the rain, with other people I felt a bit better. I’m not sure it was cathartic but it helped me snap out of my natural tendencies, which can include debilitating melancholy and narcissistic self-pity.

Then it was the following day and the reality of having to say that the President of the United States would be Donald Trump starting sinking in. That we would have to ACTUALLY say ‘President Trump’ for the next four years flooded into my pores like hot fire. In addition, my brain started to work again and what it was working over was how and why this happened.

Like many of us I have been inundated by our social media feeds with links, petitions, wails, pleas and explanations. And also like most of us these social groups are essentially feedback loops of our own predispositions and views. I am a part of the liberal (far) left and probably 90% of the people I interact with, online and in real life, are also this or at least something along those lines. But I also grew up in New Jersey and although it’s only an hour and a half drive, it is another world and I know that world well because I grew up in it.

Let me tell you a little about this town. It is diverse to a certain extent. It has a large Jewish community, black people, Indian, a handful of Asians, and Latinos, but it is mostly middle to upper middle class Christian white people. This area used to be farming land (yes Jersey has farms) and one time when I was in High School the town was on the news because a giant swastika was crop circled into a field which was discovered by an overhead helicopter that happened to fly over it. Another time as I was waiting in the car for my mom to get out of the grocery store, a middle age white woman started screaming at me and telling me to go back to where I came from. I distinctly remember spit coming from her mouth as she yelled. These are just a few things of many.

This one small town is all over America and they are not ‘bad’ places but these types of things happen all the time across the land. In our cosmopolitan bubbles we don’t want to admit this and don't have to most the time because we are in this bubble and we like this bubble. The America that voted for Trump spreads far, wide and deep as this election reflects and it is real. Very very real.

When thinking about this America and the how and the why my brain just blinked WHITE PEOPLE over and over again.

Before anyone looses their shit let me explain what I mean by ‘White People.’

If you are a person of color, black, brown, yellow and shades in between America is a very different place, every day, all the time, everywhere. This country was literally built, torn apart and still entwined with racism. Racism is not just bigotry. Everyone can be a bigot. What makes racism different is the structural, empowered element of it. Racism is prejudice that is supported and upheld by laws, power, money and control. Let’s not try to be polite. White People in this country are the ones that have been in power and are still in power. As this country’s grown, there has been progress regarding rights, civil liberties and cultural shifts that have assuaged some of this. In that progress the balance of who is in power, or who feels like they are in power, has begun to shift. White people have lost some of this and they feel it and if this election doesn’t reveal how visceral that loss is and then wake up.

The above is all known. This is not a surprise and I’m not trying to insult anyone. It is just facts. I am not saying all White People are racist. Not by any means. But the truth is that if you are white and you live in this country you benefit from racist structures. Your day to day is different. Your psychology is different. The way that you perceive the world, yourself, and your capacity is different. This is not someone’s ‘fault.’ Being born white is uncontrollable as being born not white but the truth of those differences must be admitted to and conceptually absorbed.

During these last few days this idea of ‘White People’ has not only been focused on the above. I know all this and think this all the time. What I have been grappling with is the liberal side, the white allies and friends and the streams of people that have been wailing online and in person about the election. Dave Chappelle’s opener on Saturday Night Live hit so many of these points on the nose. White people are so mad. They are livid with this outcome. People of color are too, so is every other disenfranchised group in America, but there is a notable difference on the scale of reaction.

People of color in this country are not surprised. We are not surprised that a candidate supported by White Nationalists, the KKK and who has literally punked the entire country with racist, sexist, demagogic rhetoric has won. We are not surprised and we are not publically lashing ourselves with despair because this is how shit is. This doesn’t mean we like it or will lie down and float with the tide but this is not a complete shock. White people on the liberal left on the other hand are freaking the fuck out. Rightfully so but in addition to the absurdity that is Trump, I think the fact that this is a slap in the face and a reflection pool back onto themselves is just as jarring.

The left is totally fucked and it needs to wake up and stop self-obsessing and stop competing for who is the most victimized. This includes all of us and I am singling out White People in this post because like it or not you have the power. Do something with it. Help us. Only together can we make things better.

We all want the same thing really. Freedom.

If you need to wear pins, shout in the streets, wring your hands and cry. Do it. We all need to cope in the way that feels right but afterwards, snap out of it and get involved. Really get involved and surround yourself with people who don’t look like you, talk like you or even think like you.