I recently published a blog post about my experiences with racism on my campus as I complete my PhD in Educational Studies and Research. As a result, I received numerous emails regarding my post. Some from other Latinas/os who have and are experiencing similar situations on their respective campuses and thanking me for sharing my counter-narrative. Some from white friends and family who were very supportive. However, many of the emails and correspondences were from angry and annoyed white people. Some of these emails directed me to get over my "entitlement attitude," to "stop being a pussy," and to "give my nonsense a rest." Now, since I am an educator in a teacher preparation program, which is overwhelmingly white and middle-class, I am completely accustomed to these types of responses from white people when talking about race, racism, and white supremacy. However, I did have a conversation that lingered with me and that I feel I need to address.
I received a message from a former colleague that I worked with before I began working in education. I should preface by saying that she and I always had wonderful debates that were civil despite us almost never agreeing. Needless to say I was happy to receive her message. In her message she plainly stated, "I would like to see you write about solutions someday. I think in your passion you can also be divisive...Not all of us our vicious racists, and many are just ignorant...it's important to not pigeon hole "white" people." I was not surprised with her analysis of my experience with racism. In my response I told her that I do indeed have a solution and that I was not completely sure said solution will accomplish what she hopes; to promote less divisiveness around racism. I told her that my writing about racism gets to the cause and not the symptom. Racism is a symptom of a larger societal and institutional issue...white supremacy. Essentially, racism is a white people problem.
Because I study, teach, and write about race, racism, and white supremacy, most people who read my work or take my classes initially think that I don't like white people, in fact that I hate them. This is insane. My wife is white, my two boys are half white, I have white uncles, and colleagues who are white. Trust me, I love them dearly. I love me some white people. What I hate is whiteness and white supremacy. These two systems of oppression are distinctly different than white people although largely made up and upheld by white people. I think to end racism we have to stop whiteness and white supremacy. And that cannot and should not be the responsibility of those most affected by these oppression systems. It is important to note that you can have people of color adopt whiteness ideologies (see Dr. Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Allen West, or Ted Cruz) and whiteness can manifest without the presence of white people, just like patriarchy can be present without the presence of men.
As we finished the conversation I conveyed to her that we must all fight together to end systemic white supremacy. However whites must actively work against their own unearned privilege to make this happen. Many might find that radical but my fight to stop this shameless and oppressive institution comes from a deep place of love. And while I hate these oppressive systems I still love the people who uphold them.