Your Amerikkkan Life is a Training Ground for White Supremacy
Every time I hear a Black person say, “Black people don’t like me because I speak properly” it makes me scream internally and flinch externally. It takes everything in me not to jump up and start interrogating them on what they meant when they said it. It is a classic coding of anti-Blackness, one I struggle with dismantling for myself, but now I recognize it when I hear it and can actively disrupt the thinking that leads to that erroneous conclusion. Because what is “speaking properly”? What does that actually mean? So much of how we are taught to speak, the “queen’s english” is nothing more than policing your form of expression and forcing you to conform to speaking in a way that whiteness will approve.
It’s a complicated topic because so much of Black survival is rooted in making ourselves seem as safe as possible for whiteness. And that means that we distance our identity from things that are coded as Black to appear safer. We watch this happen and when capitalism and patriarchy get their claws into the mix, which it always is but we don’t acknowledge, we see the monetary value in making ourselves appealing to whiteness and patriarchy. We see those with lighter skin, straighter hair, those who speak and dress “professionally” i.e. white approved, get discovered, hired, promoted, invited into the white spaces where we were told to strive for acceptance. We see Black people with darker skin be erased from their stories, their work, their lives. We see them actively excluded from jobs, specifically acting jobs, and be diminished by casting calls, actively placing them lowest in the attractiveness hierarchy. And if you are fat and Black, well, you get to be a joke, a shame, or nothing at all.
Our humanity is diminished by laws and rules and social etiquette that demands we emulate whiteness in every way because everything else is less than and will not be tolerated.
It’s fascinating to watch it play out, to see white people be praised and exalted for exhibiting behavior coded at Black. Like “Cash me outside” girl, Izzy Azelea, and Post Malone, we see white people co-opt what they believe defines Blackness and profit from it, just like Elvis did. We see ourselves actively pushed out of our work, as evidenced by women’s suffrage and white feminism.
We see white supremacy exert itself in patriarchy, in the many ways that police violence against Black men is prioritized over the needs of Black women. This is especially evident when talking about domestic violence – the laws protect men from accountability, but Blackness makes us vulnerable to police brutality which begs the question: who do Black women call when their abusers are Black men? The answer is apparently to suffer for the culture because accountability is something oppressors band together to fight against.
There’s a reason we know the names of white male authors and composers and that is defined as being cultured yet our knowledge of Black creators is barely considered education. There’s a reason that HBCUs are ignored but when I share that I graduated from an ivy league school, people suddenly take notice. Suddenly my opinion matters. Suddenly I am credible. And that is your anti-Blackness in action.
I recently had an exchange on my Facebook page about statistics and how data collection and analysis is a gatekeeping tactic. It requires validation from whiteness on all levels, from approval of the topic, approval of data collection methods, approval of data analysis methods, approval of the manuscript, and then approval for publication. All of this approval is administered by people in a hierarchy that is white supremacist and rewards white supremacy because the vast majority of those creating those rules and making those decisions are white. These are people who define people as white and get upset/irritated/angry/irrational when you use the term “white people” to describe them. In their minds, they are just people and then there’s everyone else. And because so much research is based on population size, if your population is majority white, how much import is ascribed to those who are not white? If your goal is to provide data on the largest populations, how does that inform what matters and what doesn’t? This isn’t even taking into account the individual beliefs of those conducting the studies, especially as racism is mostly unchallenged or the cost of submitting and gaining access to those studies. Capitalist, patriarchal, white supremacy is coded into everything we do. EVERYTHING we do. Which means we need to think about what we’re doing when we use our success in navigating these systems as the standard.
When we uphold the rules and systems of our society, we are co-signing on capitalist patriarchal white supremacy. We weaponize them against other Black people to tell ourselves that we are better or different than them. We use these tools to signal to whiteness that we aren’t like them, and we do it in geek culture. How many of you are the only Black person in your circle of friends? How many of you are the only Black person in your group? Your club? The local branch of your fandom?
How many times have you heard that you’re different? That you’re not like the other Black kids in your school or neighborhood? That you somehow managed to be Black without being a nigger. And how often are you used as their shield against racism?
Do you let them use the “n-word”? Are they glad at how you don’t bring race into everything? Are they darkening their skin to honor the character and you don’t consider it blackface? Are they so cool that they are honorary Black and invited to the cookout?
Do you avoid other Black people? Do you call things you don’t like “ghetto”? Do you think that politics don’t belong in fandom and try to keep them out of yours?
All this shit is anti-Black as fuck and if you see yourself in these comments, you got some reflecting to do. A lot of reflecting to do. And, real talk, you’re not going to like what you see.
I get it. I get why this is such a hard thing to accept. It shakes our very foundation of who we are. It challenges everything we’ve thought about ourselves and our accomplishments. It makes us question everything we do and our motivations for doing it on a fundamental level, especially as we have no immediate answer as to how to escape the orbit of white supremacy. Learning how I participated in anti-Blackness rocked my core belief of who I was and I continue to struggle because despite knowing this, I live cuddled up with whiteness in the form of my husband, my education, my job, and almost every part of my existence. That was what I learned was success and it is how I survive. But it’s rooted in bullshit, which means that I’m full of shit as I knowingly co-sign on white supremacy constantly.
Except I don’t. Because now I better understand how much we are full of shit. It is an understanding that I use to disrupt spaces at work and in my relationships. It helps me challenge the status quo and mull over ideas and concepts and behaviors to figure out how and why I’m making my decisions. And it helps guide me away from inflicting more harm. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t fuck it up because I do. And I take those lessons and learn from them and continue to grow, which is important because to grow as a society, we must grown individually while considering the needs of those with less access and less privilege in our process.
We gotta want to do better for each other if we are going to get out of this shit-spiral of self-destruction that we are perpetuating. One of those steps is recognizing the anti-Blackness that is woven into our society and how it actively silences marginalized people. We also need to own how we use it to amplify ourselves at the expense of others. Because we do it all the time. It’s the amerikkkan way and the amerikkkan way is broken and needs to be torn down.
You know what needs to be done. The question is what are you doing to accomplish it?