A long, heavy list

Dear President Trump,

How’s your Sunday been? You’re back from vacation starting tomorrow, aren’t you? Lucky us.


Ok, on to way more important things. I want to develop the idea of vantage points further and tie it in with the next part of the People’s Institute’s Undoing Racism workshop that I think you need to hear about. To be honest, I’ve been poised to go into this next part for several days now, but I keep finding other things to write to you about because it’s such heartbreaking stuff to take in and sit with.

So where I left off with the workshop material back on August 13th was with the sick siblings that feed off each other – internalized racial superiority and internalized racial inferiority. When I told you about how we unpacked the superiority part I misspoke and said that we didn’t pay much attention to the inferiority part because it was so well known that we didn’t need to. That was wishful thinking – white wishful thinking. After the two facilitators of color got the list started, the people of color taking the class added to it and the list got really, really long and really, really heavy.

For the sake of shaking up myopic vantage points, I’m going to include the entire list here rather than picking a couple of exemplars. I know that in doing so I risk losing you (as if I ever had you) and having you just glaze over and tune out, but in some situations we really need to hear it all and not take the easy way out with a couple of measly examples.

Here are the ways the group identified that internalized racial inferiority often shows up for people of color:

feel angry and unsettled knowing that things are unfair and out of balance * living ancestors’ and one’s own anger * can have so much rage that it harms self and others * the “minority” label gets stuck on and it feels like have to pack it around * sense that less than * hard to not believe that savages, infidels * try to assimilate fast and hard * engage in protectionism of the dominant culture (church, whites) as a form of survival * can become so loyal that buy into institutions that are killing POC * end up mimicking someone else’s values * don’t realize how disempowered * leaves an empty space because not being genuine * distancing from community, culture, family, people, self * negative casting of community * anti-Blackness; running away from blackness and brownness * if a person of color is in relationship with a white person à self-doubt re whether love that person or hate self * worthlessness * silencing, self-questioning * fear, shrinking * if too uppity, could pay a price * learn to cope and tolerate * don’t make waves * grin and bear * make it to retirement * tolerance gets passed down to protect children because to speak out risks being “sold down river” * become complicit * self-hate à hate community * easier to kill own (across communities) * don’t want to grow up into this messed up world * internalize minimization so minimize impact of whites’ superiority behaviors * want to give up and leave * feel burned out, fatigued * depression (assumed “chemical imbalance” but that’s not the root – the root is this f’ed up arrangement) * if wrong, it reflects on other POC so stay silent * feedback from other POC that acting too white and insulting community * crabs in a barrel tearing each other apart (but how natural is it for crabs to be in a barrel?) * pitted against each other * I’m not like you * exaggerated visibility * constantly questioning motivations * performances are exaggerated – driven by insecurities * you will know I am somebody, but who seeking validation from? * sense of a predestined path – not seen as a whole, agentic person * performance anxiety * imposter syndrome * posttraumatic slave syndrome * addictive behaviors

It’s a long, heavy list, isn’t it? It’s not truly exhaustive, of course, but together with the internalized racial superiority list from the other day we can start to get an idea of what the People’s Institute folks conceptualize as the first ring of factors that keep racism in place. Our largely unquestioned perceptions and understandings of ourselves, our families, our communities, and those who are different from us keep the whole sick system of racism churning. Essentially, racism is so slick that it’s hijacked us all. It’s gotten us to carry it around and spread it everywhere we go, like the most tenacious parasite laying it’s nasty burrowing eggs under our skin and spreading spores on the airwaves that we take in with every breath.

The insidiousness of the situation and it’s tremendous longevity and tenaciousness can make it seem hopeless that we’ll ever unpack, untangle, and ultimately undo racism. But you know, it is possible to eradicate parasites if there is sustained, concentrated, collective effort. I know we aren’t there yet. There are way too many people who’re vulnerable to your brand of hateful fear mongering. But as someone at work said the other day when I told her that the number of Undoing Racism workshops per month jumped from 10 to 40 after you were elected, we are gathering momentum for a massive forward-lash and I think she’s right.

May we be safe to say out loud all the shitty things that racism has done to us.
May we be willing to share from our vantage points and to stretch to catch glimpses of others’.
May we be strong enough to bear the long, long lists of harms.
May we make peace with one another and with ourselves.

Tracy Simpson

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