Today, I was called a “racist” more times than I have ever been called one in my life. This fact, coupled with the few times I was called one over the weekend, inspired me to write this post.
Each and every time I brought up white privilege, I was called a racist. Each time I mentioned the white patriarchy, I was called a racist. Each time I said I was ready to dismantle the systems that perpetuate white privilege, I was called a racist. I was once even told that my children would end up in work camps and that when they do, I should remember that I had been warned. I started to screenshot it for y’all, but it really was a lot. And it really does get quite exhausting to read through. So alas, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
This tactic isn’t new. It’s called gaslighting. And white people do it all the time when they are feeling threatened by conversations focused on race and oppression. They assume that if they flip the script, they can force the person speaking with them to question their own reality. It’s a manipulation tactic… one they feel entitled to engage in because of their privilege and one that is meant to discredit the very real experiences of racism and oppression faced by people of color every day.
Calling out racism does not make you racist. Calling out oppression committed by the white patriarchy does not make you racist. Saying you want to smash the white patriarchy doesn’t make you a racist. You know what DOES indicate that you might be a racist, though? Feeling like any of the phrases I just mentioned were racist. For you to feel fear or anger when I say these things means you must recognize that, in some way, they do exist. Not only must you recognize that they exist, but you must be OK with their existence. After all, if you’re a white person, they directly benefit you. So if you feel a gut reaction of fear, anger, and guilt… it’s because you know. And if you follow that up with gaslighting me, then you are a shitty human being and probably a racist.
I would like to say this stems from ignorance, but I don’t really think that’s the whole truth. I think more than anything, it’s a ploy to maintain power. It is a fear of losing power. And this combination is something more dangerous than anything I can imagine. A white person, ignorant of the reality of society outside his bubble, living with a visceral fear of losing the very systems that give him power… that’s the person who will do anything to make sure they maintain the status quo that feeds their privilege.
A new friend, who I’ll call Buddha, sent this to me last night.
This is what we are facing right now: ignorance allied with power. And we must resist it vehemently. We must combat it at all costs. I know that it’s exhausting. I find it especially exhausting when the majority of his support base could care less about facts; they literally live in a different reality. But we have to.
I haven’t quite figured out how, yet. Most of the time I feel like I am beating my head against a very loud and obnoxious brick wall, but I will never stop trying. And please, if anyone has any idea how to appeal to people who just won’t listen to fact, let me know. How do you reason with someone who doesn’t care about reason? How do you incite empathy in people who, by all accounts, only have empathy for their own? How do you appeal to someone’s morals and values when they looked the other way for the entirety of his hateful campaign?
And the reality is: I don’t care that Hillary lost. I care that Trump won. I don’t care that we have different views on politics. I care that we have different views on human decency and human rights. Autistic author Sparrow R. Jones said it best:
“I am not mad at you that Clinton lost. I am unconcerned that we have different politics. And I don’t think less of you because you vote one way and I vote another. No… I think less of you because you watched an adult mock a disabled person in front of a crowd and still supported him. I think less of you because you saw a man spouting clear racism and backed him. I think less of you because you listened to him advocate for war crimes, and still thought he should run this country. I think less of you because you watched him equate a woman’s worth to her appearance and got on board. It isn’t your politics that I find repulsive. It is your personal willingness to support racism, sexism, and cruelty. You sided with a bully when it mattered and that is something I will never forget. So, no… you and I won’t be ‘coming together’ to move forward or whatever. Trump disgusts me, but it is the fact that he doesn’t disgust you that will stick with me long after this election.”
So when his base is gaslighting us, claiming that naming racism is an act of racism, and defending atrocity after atrocity, what is there for us to do? As far as I can see, the only thing to do is push back, push facts, and resist.