White Supremacy: I Don’t Know How Much More of It I Can Handle

5 min read

Since Sandra Bland died (was murdered?) I’ve shed tears nearly every day.  I haven’t watched the video of her encounter with the police officer who pulled her over. The police officer who stopped her for failing to signal when changing lanes which somehow led to her death. It’s too painful to view. I cannot consume more images of Black death by the hands of white supremacy. It’s traumatizing.

Yesterday on my way to drop off my rental car before heading to the airport, I accidentally made a wrong turn and came upon a police blockade. A handful of uniformed officers milled about, weapons encircling their waists, their Black and white Ford sedans forming a passageway wide enough for one car. 

Great. Fucking cops. My pulse sped up and my hands dampened with sweat as I quickly considered my options.

The officers were busy inspecting a car in front of me, so while they busied themselves with that driver, I backed up, planning to make a u-turn to get the hell away. I hadn’t done anything wrong – except having a terrible sense of direction – and I had a flight to catch.

The street was too narrow to make a u-turn without at least 15 points. I decided not to draw anymore attention to myself. When I pulled up to the sizable waiting officer, he peered into my rental – my heart threatened to explode – and said with a half-smile, “I saw you tried to turn around there. Where are you headed?”

I quietly told him, my voice wavering, blood pumping loudly in my ears, “I am headed to the airport. Returning my rental car first.”

“There’s no rental agencies this way,” he informed me like I’m an idiot.

He gave me instructions to find the rental car depot and then, speaking to me the way you’d approach a child:

“Don’t just dump the car on the side of the road,” he nodded his head toward the direction of the airport. “The rental company will charge you extra and you’ll get a ticket.”

It never would have occurred to me to dump the car. The rental agency has my credit card on file and my driver’s license information. More importantly, I am not irresponsible. I didn’t need his condescension.

I thought about Sandra Bland and how the police officer who pulled her over had the nerve to act surprised she wasn’t thrilled to get stopped. NO ONE IS HAPPY TO BE PULLED OVER. I wish I had Sandra’s composure when talking to the police officer, but I’ve never been good at hiding my fear.

I drove away, careful not to speed, even though I wanted to get away from them as fast as fucking possible, my hands still shaking.

When my eyes aren’t wet with tears, I’m filled with rage.

When I’m not crying or seething with anger, I fall into hopelessness.

I’ve begun to question what my goal is in writing about racism. What do I hope to achieve? Black people (and others) have been writing about the United States’ problem with racism and white supremacy for centuries.

I told someone recently that fighting racism is like trying to kill roaches. You kill a few and then 50 million of their disgusting relatives appear. It’s not about killing individual roaches. The problem is larger.

Let’s say I open one person’s eyes. I help them wake up to the reality of our country. Then what?

I’m exhausted by the gravity of the problem.

I’m sick of it all. I’m sick of being racially gaslighted by people who can’t see the world beyond the prism of whiteness, including some of my own friends. Or being trolled on Twitter by angry, racist white men who insist they’re Christian and love their country. These men usually have a bald eagle or American flag avatar – rarely do they show their real face, as they type the bigoted, ignorant drivel they harass Black tweeters with. Even on this blog, I am not safe from the racial harassment of “well-meaning” people.

Then there’s the irresponsible mainstream media that’s complicit in perpetuating white supremacy with their penchant for biased reporting. 

I find myself seriously reconsidering my personal views on having children. They’ll be born into the same twisted system. I’ll spend a significant chunk of my parenting time not just protecting my Black children from the usual elements of society and the human experience, but also protecting their sense of self-worth, their humanity; working hard to transcend the damage white supremacy inflicts upon black American’s self-esteem and lives.

I’m angry that a world exists where for centuries we’ve lived in a system based on a tremendous lie created and promulgated by greedy white men – that of white superiority. The avarice of these men that’s led to the genocide, murder and oppression of millions of people of color – ALL OVER THE WORLD for centuries.

I’m sick of trying to remain positive and buy into the idea that things will get better one day or “when the old racists die off.” In an interview with Vulture last year, on the topic of racial progress, comedian Chris Rock had this to say:

When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that Black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

(Some) people, more specifically, (some) angry white people, decried his comments as racist(!). Because that’s what sometimes happens when you call out racism. Instead of acknowledging that there is problem, some white people remain on the defense or mired in their own feelings of guilt.

They’re not racist, no. It’s the Black man who says “white people” who is racist. How dare he bring up race? Meanwhile, Donald Trump is running around saying all manner of racist shit about Latinos and Black people and he’s a leading Presidential candidate for the Republican party.

Chris Rock is right though and anyone who’s being honest with themselves knows it.

Just this past weekend, several hundred angry white men (and a smattering of women) gathered in Stone Mountain, Georgia – former KKK headquarters, to rally to defend their right to fly the Confederate Flag. They maintain that it represents pride in their heritage, not racism. Even though the heritage of which they are so proud, of which the Confederate Flag represents, depended on the free labor of enslaved Black people. The Confederate Flag which in several states saw a resurgence in popularity in response to the ban on school segregation – long after The Civil War ended. But, no. They’re not racist. They’re just “proud.”

20 years from now, those will likely be the same folks, who with the benefit of hindsight, will be ashamed of their actions. Apologizing and contrite like the damage hasn’t already been done. Just like those angry white people who greeted Black students trying to integrate white schools, with hostility, threats and indignant rage.  

Every day its some shit.

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  • Roberta
    January 26, 2016

    I’m going through your posts for about half an hour now..I enjoy your blog so much and this makes me so sad. I think it’s crazy that America, a country with the most diverse people, has the most rasism in it..instead of being totally NON rasist because you can see so many different cultures and skin colors it is totally opposite. Instead of glorifing this diversity it is being judged..that seems very crazy to me and i don’t understand it at all. If people would only listen to their intuition and emotions and act by them there would be no sexism, racism, homophobia and all. Instead of looking at the soul and pay attention to the energy of other human being, people look what is outside. I will never understand rasism and how someone would have a problem with something so irrelavant as skin color…beneth this body we are all the same, how are people forgetting that so easily?

  • Gregory Daniel Stanton
    August 20, 2015

    White supremacy is a white problem. Our problem is when we try to rightfully point that out in the wrong situations. It is time we stop looking to white people to solve our problems. It ain’t gonna happen. Sure we can hope the next president, or Congress, or the courts will eventually do something to stop the discrimination, but in all practicality we are doing nothing but becoming schizophrenic by thinking that political success will equal some sort of social equality, sometime down the road.

    This brings me to the point that we need to work on our problems. Whites kill whites at alarming rates, is that our problem to deal with? At this point, no. Whites kill Blacks as well, definitely our problem as well as theirs. Blacks kill Blacks at alarming rates, more than whites kill Blacks, that’s really our problem. The only way we will ever save Black lives is by working on Black problems with Black people and becoming a unified race that will have the influence and power as a community to change hearts and minds.

    This wont happen looking to others as our savior.

    It won’t happen addressing white supremacy in lieu of Black inferiority. We can change our path, as hard as it may be.

    Let’s start holding ourselves to something higher. I’m not talking about blaming victims or avoiding holding other races accountable. I’m saying if we right ourselves into “equality” then we can stop expecting someone to allow us to have it. Maybe it’s just a shift from “Give us equality” to “We are equal”. If we knew that and believed that, together, things could move forward.

  • Savvy
    August 9, 2015

    Your story sounds terrifying and so realistic. I have a terrible sense of direction and returning rental cars before catching a flight is the worst.

    What a total ass. You did the right thing in staying composed, but still total jack ass!

    Keep writing I want to learn too and I don’t always pay attention to the news. I’m still reading The Warmth of Other Suns. Great eye-opening book.

  • Heather
    August 4, 2015

    So what should we do? What is the right thing? This is not meant as condescending, but I’m truly curious. We ask questions, we are wrong. We keep our mouths shut, we are wrong. We speak out, we are told it’s not our place. It is a damned if we do/damned if we don’t. I’m on the receiving end, too contrary to what anyone else thinks. I’m angry, too. I’m scared, too. I see racism in my new community that makes me sick, too. I don’t feel it in the way you do; I can’t possibly. I know that. But I feel it. I have respected you very much for writing on this topic, but what do you offer toward progress? Is there no solution other than to hope? I wrote letters to the two people within a few miles of me who have rebel flags hanging from their houses. I asked them to meet with me to discuss their thoughts. I can’t see progress without discussion. It isn’t much (believe me, I know that), but it is a start. Where is the other side of your discussion?

    Eta: I wish you could hear my tone. It is meant as kind and curious.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      August 4, 2015

      I know this post wasn’t all that hopeful, but it’s unfortunately my current state. However, I’ve already received some very encouraging / supportive messages from non-black friends that reminded me that all hope is not lost.

      You’ve asked some very important questions, Heather. Questions which I’ve been giving a lot of intense thought over the past year. Which is probably, in part, why I’m overwhelmed by it all.

      Discussion is important and can be impactful. However, the onus can’t be on black people to initiate or lead these discussions (and I’m not saying that’s what you’re asking). For some it amounts to risking more trauma from yet another maddening conversation about race. Consider how many more white people there are in this country (and not just white but non-black people of color) who look to us to educate them. Then compound that over time. It’s exhausting. Black people can’t end white supremacy on our own anymore than women can end patriarchy. Do you know what I mean?

      A woman I don’t know posted this comment on one of my blog posts.

      “I wonder what would happen if things were turned around. If a black police officer arrested (or ‘beat down’) white kids? Would everyone still be kicking up such a fuss? Or, if a black teen went to a church and killed 9 white people (including the priest)…would there be an uprising? No. There are other things to worry about!”

      Her comment erases history, ignores the racial climate in the US and how white supremacy operates, as well her last sentence serves to invalidate the experiences and feelings of me and other black Americans. This is an example of how NOT to have a productive discussion on racism.

      One of the things I think you can do is educate other white people. (I understand that you also have South American ancestry, but I imagine people who see you assume that you are white – forgive me if I phrased that wrong). There are people whose attention you will be able to command who will not listen to people who look like me. Either because they immediately resort to defensiveness or their personal biases kick in (e.g., “black people never take responsibility…”), behavior you may see referred to as “white fragility.”

      There are conversations you will be privy to that I will never hear because I’m black and some will censor themselves in my presence. Talking to your neighbors about their Confederate Flag is a step in the right direction. I would probably not do that (in person, at least) because my experiences have taught me to be careful around people who support that flag for the sake of protecting my physical and emotional safety.

      I’d also suggest questioning most of what you read, see and hear from the mainstream media and that includes Hollywood. Hollywood relies on base stereotypes to tell stories. Hollywood adjusts and progresses when enough people object with their dollars. It was just in the 1960s that Mickey Rooney played a Japanese man in Breakfast at Tiffany, a movie which I saw for the first time a few years ago. I was horrified. Whether or not it’s conscious behavior, the media perpetuates white supremacy almost daily.

      Also, keep reading and seeking diverse viewpoints and then share them with others. We need more white people raising a fuss about dismantling white supremacy (without drowning out the voices of the oppressed).

      I also try to post on this FB page, articles that break down white supremacy, the mechanisms behind it and suggestions for how to move forward.

    • Heather
      August 4, 2015

      Hubs and I are out running an errand. I will reply soon, but HAD TO write…that comment on your blog!!!!! OMG WTF!!! I just can’t even…. That is part of the problem. I know people are that ignorant, but what?!?! I just don’t want to believe it. 🙁 therein lies so much of the problem.

  • Natalie
    August 4, 2015

    Please keep writing. I’m learning from you. Thank you.

  • suemidd48
    August 4, 2015

    Thank you for this post. I can’t help that I was born white and you were born black, but I want to somehow bridge the divide and be someone who openly helps this situation. There are others like me who want to help. I’m sorry you had to face this police officer and be talked down to – I truly don’t know why people act this way. It’s been my experience that even as a white person, police officers often talk down to others due to their superiority complexes. But I know you have every reason – many many more reasons than I do – to be afraid. And for that I am sorry and I will pray.

  • zrusilla
    August 4, 2015

    I am sickened by this. The roaches don’t just multiply, they mutate. Slavery becomes sharecropping becomes the projects becomes the prison/industrial complex. It’s all the same thing.

    Looking at the political climate: as the Obama administration draws to a close, a lot of pent-up racist rage is boiling over. The neo-Confederate types are seeing their chance and stirring the pot. It is going to be a long, ugly campaign season. I am glad Black Lives Matter disrupted Bernie’s presentation at Net Roots Nation. This has got to go to the top of the Democratic agenda.

    Here in France we have amongst many other racist problems the one of “contrôle au faciès,” racial profiling in checking papers. Cops stop Black and Maghrebin youth all the time, check their IDs, ask what they’re doing, and address them disrespectfully as ‘tu’, as you would a dog or child.

    Thank you for writing and for letting me comment. Black voices matter.

  • Heidi
    August 4, 2015

    What happened to you is exactly what I’m afraid will happen to all of my black friends in America. I’m scared too. Why the fuck would that cop say that to you? Why, if he’s not being racist as hell? I’m glad you kept your cool. I’m happy that you are still alive and got away. How do you live with this fear every day? I honestly don’t know if I could. Love you!!!! Hx

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      August 4, 2015

      Thank you, Heidi.

      You know how as a woman, there are certain precautions we take in certain environments to protect our safety? They become such ingrained behaviors we don’t realize we’re doing it or how even having to think about such things adds stress and complexity to our lives? That’s kind of what this is like. It’s not constant fear (at least for me). It varies in intensity and impact.

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