There is something strange and humane in me that sustains hope for white people’s humanity despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The degree to which I am still patient with white people confuses me, especially since time after time I see them make the “descent from dignity” as James Baldwin once wrote.
I have watched well-meaning white people derail sensible conversations about race.
I have watched mediocre white men gain success and popularity.
I have seen white power mask hatred and indifference under terms like “rules,” and “objectivity.” Nevertheless, there is a small part of me that still has hope for them, and when I am certain they mean well, I still make attempts to be loving. Sometimes, this opens the door for deeper dialogue; other times I feel I have been sucked into a wormhole of white insecurity.
So the joy I felt watching Maxine Waters announce “reclaiming my time” over Treasury Secretary Mnuchin was indescribable.
The moment is like most snips of social media. Hyperbolic. Devoid of context. Fleeting.
But man it felt like an ancestral spell calling to take back everything ever taken from people of color.
White people steal from us all the time. To date they have stolen, are stealing, or attempting to steal:
But the greatest of these--is time.
The time we have spent fighting back is time we could have spent creating, loving, living. Imagine all the energy of the world being wasted trying to convince and coddle whiteness. Imagine all the energy being spent to remind the world that people of color matter and deserve to live. Imagine all the energy that has been expended trying to undo the white supremacy that has crept into our bloodstream and worked to devour us from the inside out.
Instead, we could have turned this energy towards our friends, family, and neighbors. Caring and supporting them. Or perhaps we could have had more nuanced conversations about how we love and who we love. Or tell our loved ones that sexual biology is not a pretext for rules, values, or hate.
Perhaps we could have used that energy to save some of our own: The OJ Simpsons, the Stacey Dashes, the Omarosas and the Ben Carsons.
But I think of all the grandeur and elegance that we have created, and that is with the distractions of whiteness. Left to our own freedoms we could have built a new earth.
We have spent too much time trying to operate within the rules of whiteness. Personally, I know that I have spent too much time affirming whiteness. There are so many other things I could be doing. I thank Auntie Maxine for the gentle reminder.
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.” -- Toni Morrison
Aaron is a Chicago-based writer, activist, and educator. His work has been featured in Colorlines, Mused Magazine Online, the Feminist Wire, TruthOut.com, the Advocate, the Education Post, and Chicago South Side Weekly. He is currently working on a speculative fiction novel for young adults. Follow him on twitter and Instagram: @Talley_Marked