Dismantling White Supremacy On The Front Lines And Loving Ourselves In The Trenches

*This piece was originally published on Medium

If you think white supremacy just rode into America on the Trump Train, chances are you’re a) white as snow, b) in dire need of a history book not written by Republicans, and c) privileged as fuck.

White supremacy is as American as Manifest Destiny. Both ideologies exalt white nationalism while rationalizing the genocide of over 110 million indigenous Americans and the enslavement of 30 million Africans. Hitler didn’t invent concentration camps; he modeled his “final solution” on the United States’ Indian reservations. The neo-Nazi white supremacists rampaging in Washington, Portland, and Charleston weren’t made in Germany—they are America’s own fascist chickens coming home to roost and murder.

Contrary to the rosy picture white Americans like to paint, white supremacy didn’t die during the Civil Rights Era. It just became less obvious to white people, masterfully tucked away in nearly every corner of American society from health care, education, and policing to more brazen forms of racial subjugation like mass incarceration. But blatant hate crimes and overt racism is making a comeback, with reported incidents jumping from 70 attacks a year in the 1990s to more than 300 a year since 2001. And after Trump was elected? 900 bias-related incidents were reported against minorities within the first 10 days. Trump’s racist rhetoric continues to provide the perfect climate for white supremacists: Nooses have been hung on college campuses, outside a middle school, and at the African American Smithsonian museum. Transgender women of color continue to be murdered at an alarming rate. Immigrants from India were recently killed by white men yelling, “Go back to your country,” an all too familiar racist refrain that’s been used in verbal and physical attacks against Vietnamese-Americans, Chinese Americans, Latinx people, Muslim people, and many more.

But let’s be clear. White supremacy doesn’t just look like Trump supporters and racist skinheads. White liberals also uphold it and perpetuate racism. While many enthusiastically support giving platforms to neo-Nazis, barely any white progressives are raging on behalf of Princeton Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, who canceled all public appearances amid death threats she received after her commencement speech condemning our current abuser-in-chief. Neither is there white liberal uproar over the consistent Facebook censorship of Black women, nor the lynching threats against a Black congressman calling for Trump’s impeachment. White liberal “allies” are as guilty as the Klan when it comes to upholding whiteness.

The impact of white supremacist culture is killing people of color. Literally. From racial trauma to premature death, every day is a constant hypervigilant struggle for emotional and physical survival in a white supremacist society. The cumulative, long-term effects of white supremacy further devastates our Black and Brown communities. And it’s not letting up anytime soon. From inside the White House to random attacks on the streets, people of color are being terrorized everywhere. Even our schools aren’t safe.

American white supremacists are counting on violence and intimidation to further their nationalist agenda. We need to fight back. We need to be loving and vigilant support systems for people being threatened collectively and individually. A safety pin or pink-knitted hat isn’t gonna cut it. The battle against white supremacy calls for some real weaponry, from white people becoming anti-racist accomplices to POC practicing self-preservation and self-care.

ACTIONS FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR:

Let’s make sure to love and protect one another while we are fighting for our own and collective survival. People of color overwhelmingly carry the burden of anti-racist work while living under the daily threats of white supremacy. Protect yourself, especially in white spaces. The everyday fight against white supremacist culture and hypervigilance is exhausting. In addition to showing up at the polls, protests, and town halls, people of color are in the trenches daily by virtue of existing. Recall Audre Lourde’s words on self-care: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

  • Create space for self-care and be diligent about it. This 3-minute video from Black Girl Dangerous addresses self-care and the need to cultivate nourishment and joy for self-preservation. Try this Black Lives Matter meditation to help heal from racial trauma, this short honest meditation, or these weekly Self Care Sunday articles for your soul. If you need extra support, here is a list of free to low-cost holistic practitioners from Healing for Activists.

  • Create systems that nurture our communities by “staying woke,” showing up, and taking care of each other. For both personal and collective safety and well-being, we need to love and protect one another more than ever right now. Reserve space to affirm and celebrate our humanity.

  • You don’t have to do the heavy lifting of educating well-intentioned “allies” or overt racists about racism, white supremacy, and social justice. White folks aren’t entitled to your free emotional labor. Get support from white friends and anti-racism groups like White Nonsense Roundup who are up for that job. White people need to be accountable for both learning and undoing racial violence.

  • Build and connect to community both online and offline. Nourish your friendships and connections in real life. Find dedicated spaces and activists online that provide affirmation, healing, support, and/or calls for focused action (such as Alicia Garza, Son of Baldwin, and Dallas Goldtooth).

  • Leverage support and resources in this struggle. Today’s civil rights movement is based on the leadership of many grassroots efforts. Because transformative justice takes a village, collaboration and networking will be necessary to gain collective advancement. Find local groups to connect with and build coalitions committed to anti-racist work.

ACTIONS FOR WHITE PEOPLE:

White people are responsible for racism, so they are responsible for undoing it. Step up and hold each other accountable for containing white violence. Deepen your awareness of racial violence/trauma and your commitment to effective anti-racism efforts.

  • Catch up on the anti-racism movement and embrace this code of ethics for white allies.

  • Unlearn white supremacy indoctrination—here are some antidotes to white supremacy culture. Recognize and accept that it’s a lifelong process.

  • Gather your skinfolk and be accountable to each other. Tackle this syllabus in a book club/discussion group and then dig into this collection of resources from Challenging White Supremacy Workshop. Expand the discussion to your neighborhood, activities, work, worship, and social media networks. Never forget that white silence anywhere is white violence everywhere.

  • Pay your teachers. Support the leadership of those impacted directly by racism and combating white supremacy in the trenches. Listen, learn, and then pay your activist teachers online. Rework budgets to come through with whatever you can for people of color working hard for their communities. If you don’t see a way to donate, ASK.

  • Take a stand, draw the line. Friends and family that are passive in their support clearly have not made the connection between this white supremacist administration and hate. They are not to be trusted. Neither are you if you continue to coddle white discomfort at the expense of those most vulnerable and endangered by white hate and violence. People in your life are promoting white supremacy and unwilling to change because you allow it. Stop it.

  • Be a loving and vigilant friend. People of color are being targeted, terrorized, and traumatized. Don’t assume anyone is OK in the midst of daily microaggressions, social media trolls, hearing or witnessing incidents of white violence, and direct threats or attacks. These things are triggering, soul toxic, and lethal. Check-in. Call, email, text, or message your POC friends today and, if necessary, show up in person to lend support.

MOVING FROM BYSTANDER TO ACCOMPLICE:

We ALL need to be effectively prepared, vigilant, and responsive. Be the resistance we need to see in the world. Never let white racial violence slide anywhere or anytime and don’t lose sight of the human beings harmed by that violence and what it means to show up for them. Whether it’s a subtle comment, overt hate speech, a microaggression, or a physical threat of violence — react. Silence is complicity.

Be prepared individually to act against hate and counter racial violence in the moment.

  • In addition to reporting and document hate incidents/crime, get the word out and take action by reporting to social media, news, and radio outlets. But we must also remember survivors and those targeted by racial violence and honor them. A kind phone call or letter of support to victims and/or their families can reduce the effects of trauma, minimize further trauma from gaslighting or victim blaming, and help the healing process.

Be prepared to act collectively in the greater anti-racism and transformative justice movement. Individual action is good, but group action is much stronger.

  • Fight hate with direct actions, such as calling community leaders/organizations or writing letters to newspaper editors and your government representatives. And don’t settle for single incident responses! Keep the momentum going with outreach and teach-ins on white supremacy in neighborhoods, schools, houses of worship, and community centers. Invite and center those affected by hate and violence. Listen to their stories and be guided by their needs and leadership. At the same time, we must create systems that actively protect vulnerable people. Build coalitions among community leaders and professionals (such as teachers, healthcare professionals, counselors) to more effectively track hate incidents and improve anti-racism strategies. Collaborate on campaigns, share resources, and develop action plans. Make workplaces, schools, and local government accountable for the safety and welfare of employees, students, and constituents. Work on community action plans with those most at risk and under attack by white supremacy.

But most importantly, remember this—people of color need accomplices, not allies. We are beyond the safety pin. This struggle requires a hard commitment to showing up and undoing racism in substantial ways. It’s time for those in the resistance to move from support and solidarity to dismantling the increasing threat of white supremacy.

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