Proximity to Whiteness
People always wonder why so many Black people who vocally engage in anti-racism activities have white partners. I’ve thought about this for a minute, and while I cannot speak for anyone else, I can tell you how and why I became more engaged in speaking out about it. It was a process that I didn’t recognize was a process and it was because of my white spouse.
I grew up in Black spaces that intersected with white spaces in very specific ways – through institutions. I went to school with white people and that was my sole exposure to them and it wasn’t by choice. I didn’t really think of them differently until I had to, and I had to because the white people I was forced to interact with began harming me. I had classmates who wouldn’t play with me, or who would say racist things as though they were casual banter. I had teachers who underestimated me or overly punished me because I was an intelligent Black child who questioned everything all the time.
When I started calling white classmates my friends, my parents tried to step in, to warn me of what was coming. My mom has so many stories of white children she grew up with who stopped acknowledging her existence when they were with other white people. They tried to tell me how whiteness operates, and I didn’t believe them, especially as racism had become subtler and more insidious over the years. The violence of whiteness was always psychological and physical, but the physical danger became better masked through the lies of law and order and the violence became reasonable cause.
My parents tried to warn me, but I thought they were paranoid. Experience has taught me that white people’s veneer of civility is thin, but their violence is absolute. I have learned that the violence we thought was in the past, was really a carefully maintained public relations campaign to absolve white people of their savagery and the multitude of lies they tell to maintain it.
Being with a white man gave white people the idea I’d been fully indoctrinated into white supremacy. Prior to him, I'd never been considered a "safe" Black person. There is an assumption that if you are a Black person with a white partner, you've fully embraced anti-Blackness and accepted that white is right. Our relationship gave white people the silent consent they needed to comfortably ask you many of the racist shit they've never felt comfortable asking other Black people. You become the cool factor, the thing that makes them become interesting and different from their white peers. You're not one of them, but you’re not like those other Black people...you know better than them over there...and they test you to ensure you can be in those spaces with them.
I never passed the tests. At best, I became silent, withdrawn. I would stop being social with them. I sat there and listened, hearing the carefully coded racism in their comments; racism framed in ways I’d never experienced before. I experienced them trying to manipulate me into co-signing on their bullshit. They’d create situations to test my boundaries and they would try to sway my opinion in particular directions that aligned more with their unchallenged white supremacist beliefs. There was a reward and punishment system in play, one that was never directly acknowledged or challenged, but that I became aware of when I stood alone in the conviction of my beliefs or challenged their assumed authority.
My relationship with my significant other increased my proximity to whiteness and I found myself confronting white supremacy in spaces and ways I’d never done before. The more intimate your relationship is with whiteness, the more you see their disdain and callouts disregard for your humanity. I found myself behind the curtain where they all own white robes, and very few challenge their choice to wear them.
In the beginning of our relationship, I honestly thought I could change white people’s perspectives. I truly thought they didn't understand what they were doing, that if only I could explain it to them another way, they would surely see the error of their ways. But it was me who didn't understand. I didn't understand that white people believe on a fundamental level that they are always better than Black people; that for them, Black people are always lacking some intangible aspect of humanity and that lack gives them power over us. I didn't understand that this belief was so intrinsic to their sense of self that the merest inkling of challenge would send them into a spiraling rage, a rage so indoctrinated into their appropriative approach to life that it made them landmines of horrific violence. That they use every tool in their arsenal, from humor, to guilt, to concern, to lies to twist every interaction with Black people into something that maintains their perception of superiority. For them, a hierarchy of humanity is not a socially crafted construct. For white people, social hierarchy is the root of their identity. It is the hubris their ego nestles in to soothe itself to sleep. It is the core of their humanity, a humanity they seem to relish sacrificing to maintain this self-image. In no uncertain terms, white people believe they are the best of humanity and consider anyone else an acceptable loss to maintain that image. Regardless of how gruesome and horrid they are, white people believe they are the most rational, reasonable, and capable of all people. They believe utterly in their own redemption at all costs. And they are willing to destroy anyone who threatens that.
Black people, according to whiteness, are never redeemable. We are always in need our management, interrogation, and control from white people. According to them, our judgement is rarely, if ever, sound. Our abilities are always questionable and we are expected to prove time and time again that we are somehow "above" the “taint” of our Blackness and worthy of their attention and approval. Any perceived challenges to their authority or belief of their superiority are met with aggressive emotional terrorism and violence. It's why a Black woman posting on her private social media about white fragility can be fired when a white co-worker sees the post. It is why we can be snatched from our cars, arrested, and murdered by white civilians and any person in uniform for looking at them in a way considered disrespectful. For white people, disrespectful means we haven't acknowledged the "superiority" of their whiteness enough to satisfy them. It means we had the audacity to see ourselves as equal, which contradicts everything whiteness has ever told them about themselves and their role in society. That is why violence is the white norm and we see it reflected in the number of white men going on murder sprees when they feel their entitlement challenged.
White patriarchal capitalist supremacy and its benefactors, white people, accept no challengers because whiteness does not deem anyone worthy enough to compete. Whiteness does not deem anyone else deserving of life. For white people, our continued existence is at their whim. And because I, like many Black people, was born and raised in white supremacy, I was raised to care about white people, even when they hurt me. I was raised to respect all people, regardless of their inhumanity towards myself and others. I was raised to love my enemy, to constantly work to treat them better than they deign to treat me, to never sink to their level, to fight hate with love, to accept harm because they don't know better, to forgive and forgive and forgive regardless of how much it hurts because that is what being the better person is...it is forgiving and loving them as they tie the nose around your neck, kick the chair out from under you, and watch you struggle for breath as you die.
Forgiveness and love are the lies used to keep you in shackles. It's an infinitely effective tool in the arsenal of oppression, wielded without concern or remorse. Fuck forgiveness. Fuck love. Fuck anyone who tries to manipulate me with that bullshit and fuck whiteness for spreading that toxic toolbox across the globe, all so they can feel fucking special and worthy of decimating entire cultures to take the shiny shit they like.
This is, as always, a lot to take. It’s a lot to live with day after day. I know I'm fucked up. I'm writing this while lying next to my white husband as he sleeps. I share my home with a violent ass product of white supremacist culture and I struggle with the why. I struggle with the how. I wonder when I'll cross the line of hating whiteness so much that I start to hate him. Maybe I already hate him. It's because of him that the illusion of white people destroying their racism was ripped away. But it was also with him that I learned that the shit I keep seeing, feeling, and experiencing wasn't just me. He helped me open my eyes and see it has always been them and then he stood with me and fights to be better that who he’s been and better than those before him. I live with the knowledge that he'll never be better, but at least he seems to be willing to die trying.
But his people? His family and former friends? They won't admit that they have a problem. They won't even admit a problem exists. They are happier that way and I hate them for it.
But I appreciate the lesson because until I saw for myself just how much they don't give a fuck and how hard they'll fight to continue not giving a fuck, I didn't understand the irredeemable nature of whiteness. And now that I do, I can stop killing myself trying to change people who enjoy wallowing in their shit and focus my energy and time in this life on building something that does matter.
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