The very notion that whiteness is a social construct rather than a descriptor of skin tone, is difficult for white folk to understand.
Maybe it was then I first asked the question: would I risk my own life to protect the Anne Franks of this world? The answer was always yes. But hindsight is a flattering bedfellow.
But the course of your chosen response in the fight against dehumanization is not necessarily dictated by your political stance. Whether you use reasonable discourse or violent protest is more likely be influenced by another factor: privilege, and how your privilege promotes your own survival.
For me one of the real differences between narcissism and privilege is not therefore in the actions of the individual, but in the extent of their internal distortion of reality.
There could be many potential reasons not least that to become a overseas voter is a bureaucratic nightmare, especially for those like me who left before voting age. When I eventually found the energy to jump through all the hoops, I was turned away. The electoral commission had only been formed in 2001 and when I discovered the website several years later, my rights had already expired.
For people of colour, white ethics do not promote their survival–it only promotes white people’s survival and usually at the expense of theirs. People of colour have not been allowed voice, still today have less voice and any choice of an ethical framework–even by me, a white person–is ill-informed if it does not take this into account because our reality is weighted privilege.
Donald Trump uses ‘alternative facts’ to achieve harmony in his inner world. He’s put a photo on his wall describing the crowd as a ‘sea of love’ indicative of the fact he craves adulation.
I explain that when you live as a woman, there is often a power imbalance. And that power imbalance means that I would in all likelihood let myself be raped if I perceived a threat. And seeing as the prevalent power imbalance means that threat is ever present, rape is always a viable possibility.
You’ve heard it in so many wise texts; power is a gift, use it wisely. And what is wisdom? Wisdom is understanding that you know very little and that that is a natural consequence in being human. You are human. And you know very little.
We attach to those of our ilk, beyond rationality. And few of us have enough self-awareness to overcome it. The law and our systems were designed to counteract this; ‘the law is reason free from passion’. The very concept of the American electoral system is based on a fundamental belief that some people are able to be more objective than others and will vote for the benefit of all. And yet because of the strength of their own self-interest, the strength of their own reptilian instincts, they will naturally fail to do so.
So white folk, we have a task in front of us which might seem huge, but really it isn’t. It is to face our own prejudice when the most obvious and comfortable way to survive is to stay in our bubble. It is to step up and be accountable for our ignorance, even if ignorance is part of our humanity. I will hold your hand as we overcome our fragility and cultivate empathy and battle our minds which tell us that it’s not our problem.
In-groups are formed by what we consider to be ‘relevant’ familiarity. Children, and even adults, process most of our information visually which means that varying skin tones might be not only the first but also the only indicators for who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’.