Sunday, August 5, 2018

The White Supremacy Of Not Caring

The phrase "white supremacist" conjures up visions of Klan robes and shaved heads and swastika tattoos. These days one might also think of a Trump rally. These very obvious manifestations of white supremacy are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. White supremacy is maintained in this country less by openly expressed hate, and more by quiet, subtle, apathy.

One of America's dirty little secrets is that while white Americans by and large don't give a shit about the lives of people of color they don't talk about it much, either. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. I know a lot of quiet white supremacists who are not vocal Trump supporters, do not express open bigotry, and in some cases are not even conservative. Many of them also don't even really seem to think a whole lot about race.

It's something they'd rather not think about at all. They have internalized the racist hierarchy in their minds, and so feel no need to examine their skin privilege, or even to think that such a thing exists. Their position in society is natural, as far as they are concerned, the product of hard work. When things happen that display the massive levels of racism in this society, they just choose to ignore it and just not care about it.

When Trayvon Martin was murdered, they assumed he must have done something to deserve it. (Repeat this for every time a black person is murdered by the police.) They look at the system of mass incarceration and only think that it's a fine thing that so many criminals are off of the streets. When Flint's water was turned into poison, they just turned the page and moved on. When immigrant children were kidnapped and jailed, they told themselves "well, they were breaking the law" and maybe, just maybe, thought "it's really too bad that had to happen." They heard Trump's racist rants and maybe didn't like them, but still went in to vote for him for a tax cut or an anti-abortion judge on the Supreme Court.

The protests by NFL players are the ultimate litmus test of this phenomenon. While I support the protesting players, I can understand but not agree with those who disapprove of their methods, if and only they are also upset about the police killings inspiring those protests. The thing is, I have never met one of these unicorns. The same people made at the kneeling are, surprise surprise, the same who never said a single word when Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and so many others were murdered. Why? Because they tacitly support the racist system responsible. 

And when you meet these people, you will often find that they are "nice" people. They are friendly, respectful in their speech, and may even have close friends and family members who are not white. Some people are amazed at the stories of white Trump voters whose immigrant spouses were later deported. I am not surprised in the least. White supremacy in America is violently maintained by the state, but those who approve of that system mostly do not do so by screaming "Build the Wall!" but by hearing about immigrant children abused in custody, shrugfully saying "that's a shame," and not giving it a second thought. 

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