Emily Pothast, The Establishment, May 10, 2016
Hello, Internet! My name is Emily, and I’m a white supremacist.
I believe in the mission of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. As a white ally, I believe that it’s my job to engage in uncomfortable conversations with other white people about racism, taking whatever pressure I can off people of color who are constantly called upon to educate the rest of us about the nuances of oppression. And most of all, I believe that it’s my job to shut up and listen when Black people take the time to tell me about things I’ll never experience, so that their insight isn’t lost on me.
Do I deserve a cookie? Better hold onto it for now. Because nothing I have said here changes the fact that I am a white supremacist.
How am I a white supremacist? Well, I was born and raised in the United States of America, a country built by slave labor on stolen land, and every privilege I’ve ever enjoyed has come at the expense of someone else’s oppression. The education I received was white supremacist education, from its demand that I learn to write and speak “proper English” to its reliance on a literary, scientific, and artistic canon comprised of and curated almost exclusively by white men. My aesthetic tastes are permeated with subtle coding that extends subconscious preference to those who look like me and communicate themselves in a way I can identify with. I have interjected my unwanted, unwarranted opinion into conversations that are out of my lane, and I have chosen to look the other way rather than confront instances of racism because of cowardice, complacency, and a misplaced sense of politeness. The very foundations of my way of life are in white supremacy, and the list of microaggressions I have committed, and will no doubt continue to commit in spite of my “good intentions” for as long as I’m alive, is virtually endless.
Now, if you’re like many well-meaning white people, you might be feeling defensive at the implication that, like me, you might be a white supremacist too. I have noticed that there is an ugly tendency for liberal, well-meaning white people to take loud umbrage at being called “racist” or a “white supremacist.” And I can understand the reaction. When I started paying attention to social justice conversations a few short years ago, I also found some of the language shocking to my sensibilities. The first time someone called me a white supremacist in an online forum, I found it ridiculous. After all, I’m from Texas–I know “real” white supremacists, the kind of people who watch Fox News and sport Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. The idea that there was no difference between me and those people, or even that we might be perceived as different shades on the same shitty gradient, struck me as absurd.
But once I began unpacking the implications of the words “white supremacy,” I realized that there really is no better way to describe the system of murder and exploitation that benefits some of us at the expense of others, and there is no better way to describe my behavior when I reinforce those oppressive dynamics with my actions. I realize this is a bleak reality to absorb. But in comparison to the suffering on which we’ve built our entire way of life–and which we continue to perpetuate even in our finest moments–it really is a small thing to have to come to terms with.
I am a good, kind, smart, well-meaning person who happens to be a white supremacist. I didn’t ask to be born this way, but I was. Coming to terms with white supremacy means being able to reconcile these seemingly paradoxical truths. It’s hard to hate something and simultaneously admit that the thing you hate is part of you. But it is necessary.
I’m a white supremacist. If you’re white and American, you’re probably a white supremacist, too. This isn’t the end of the world–it’s a beginning. The first step is admitting we have a problem.