Last week, a classmate and I gave a presentation on multicultural ethics. Given that we attend a largely conservative university, I was excited at the opportunity to talk about about politics and its relationship to multiculturalism in this nation. I went into it hoping to ruffle some feathers and open some minds.
At around the same time, The Nation published this report. The details of this piece underscored what I have been saying all along: yes, this is about whiteness. Yes, this is about a feeling of entitlement that comes with whiteness. Yes, this is about white fear.
The report relays census projections stating that by 2043, people of color will make up the majority of the American population. An analysis of whether this was viewed in a largely positive or negative light indicates that white, poorly educated Republicans were most likely to find rising levels of diversity extremely problematic. The report also proves that there is a direct correlation between negative views on diversity and support for Donald Trump. This information, along with that of all of the other reports out there, was vindicating. It proves what I have been saying all along: this. is. about. race.
The most frustrating thing, though, is the struggle that so many white people have when it comes to admitting this. And this is what I see in every conversation I have. Stop calling it “economic anxiety.” Stop saying it’s a class thing. Just stop. Own what this is: you don’t want to live in a world where you aren’t in a position of power. Equality scares you. Admitting your privilege scares you. Until you can own that, we can’t have a conversation. We can’t have a conversation until you admit you are missing (at least) one key piece: cultural humility.
Cultural Humility is defined the ability to be open, self-aware, egoless, and self-reflective/critical when it comes to your relationships/interactions with diverse populations. The concept is not complex. It is not new. But it is a bit difficult for racist white folks to get their minds around. That piece about letting go of your ego and owning your shit? I don’t really know a lot of racists who can do that. To be fair, I don’t know many people AT ALL who can do that… but especially not white people who have issues with diversity.
Now, before we go on, I want to point something out. Take a look at the last line in the preceding paragraph. Do you see the bullshit I had to pull with language there? That’s part of what I am talking about. The ego of the white racist is so fragile that, if you are to reach them, you almost have to handle them with kid gloves. It seems you can’t just call things as they are because it evokes too much shame and guilt. Sugar coating is the name of the game. And that’s on the list of things I am not so good at.
Don’t be fooled; when we are talking about racists, we aren’t just talking about the stereotypical ones. Racists don’t always wear hoods. Sometimes they don their “I don’t see color” glasses. Other times they tie on that white savior cape. They’re pretty much everywhere; even in that “woke” white friend, you might see racism.
And here’s the thing: being racist doesn’t automatically make you a shitty person. We all have biases and, if you say you don’t, I am going to call you a liar. However, the line between shitty racists and less shitty racists is cultural humility. If you can look in the mirror and own that you’ve fucked up, then the process of change can start. If you can let go of your ego and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to learn from people who are different from you, then you might have a chance.
But if you’re the kind of person who doubles down and refuses to face the realities of who you are? I have no time for that. No one has the time for that. And before long, you’re going to be outnumbered and out of luck. If I’m honest, I can’t wait for that day. I want to watch you writhe in discomfort as the walls of your white privilege crash down around you and you need us to dig you out of that rubble.
However, cultural humility, as a concept, doesn’t just apply to Trump supporters (read: racists). We all need a dose of it. Seriously. We all have biases that impact how we view the world and the people we share it with. Personal example? I’m working on reminding myself that not every racist is a shitty human being. However unlikely it is, it is possible that there is something salvageable there. I am working on making it my mission to find that thing. Leading someone down a path of cultural humility while trying to work on your own isn’t easy, but it is imperative. Cultural humility is a lifelong process. We are all always going to be “in process.” I have no perfect answer for how to do this. I don’t even have a good answer, but we must strive to light the fire of change in people and challenge them to dismantle systems of oppression. We have to create partnerships with people who want to do the work. These conversations can be earth-shattering; I’ve seen it. But the key piece is the humility, which must exist on both sides.
That’s the biggest problem I have with Trump supporters; the humility is missing. I know I’ve said this already, but it truly confounds me. I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know how to break through that. And if you do, please let me know. Because I am not perfect. I don’t have all the answers. And maybe my rage is making me blind. I just don’t know, but I have enough humility to admit that. And enough to ask for help.