By: Taylor Zachary
Through 500 years of enslavement, thousands of anti-black policies and millions of Black lives annihilated in the spirit of avarice and hate, the United States intentionally assured me that I am no more than a Black body: liable to suffer the historic consequences of being in my own skin. I know this because I’ve discussed it, learned about it and sought to challenge the targets placed on my Blackness.
Indeed, as I’m surely not getting any whiter, I fight a lifelong struggle. In light of the Jesuit values cura personalis (both intra and interpersonal care for the whole person) and magis (the act of glorifying God through a constant pursuit of knowledge and excellence), my personal position raises an intriguing question. Why are my white counterparts not held to similar standards of identity?
Can the white students of Xavier articulate the manner in which the United States has intentionally constructed their identity? I won’t answer for white students with respect that they would never answer for me. However, the reality of the afore question, the sheer existence of implicit and inherent superiority amidst white identity, leaves a hole of concern in my heart for the progression of this university.
Indeed, all persons usually fail to question their most comfortable beliefs. Thus, I remain depressingly unsurprised that at a recent campus event specifically focused on white identity, white students didn’t seem too inclined to attend.
For clarification, a few white students arrived. However, with an attendance ratio of one White student to every 14 Black students, all prior assumptions that a strong majority of white students would attend an event about themselves seems unfathomable. But, I digress. Or, maybe I shouldn’t. So during this event, where were you?
When I first wrote this article, I filled it with informative material. I sought to make amends for your absence. I provided information about white privilege and the consequences thereof. I elaborated on the illogic of post-racialism and the racial dismissiveness of colorblindness.
I cited provocative articles that answered the question: Why is it so challenging for white people to discuss their race? I found research articles unpacking the intersectionality of white identity.
These same articles addressed the history of gender constructions, race constructions, systems of oppression and systematic heteronormative, misogynistic and anti-Black white supremacy. I included information outlining the racist inflammatory implications of saying #AllLivesMatter amidst a #BlackLivesMatter movement. Hell, I even went so far as to define the difference between racism and prejudice. But then something hit me. I realized that everything I did — the research, the learning, the thinking, the critiquing and the informing — everything I did, you too can do. Indeed, online search engines, the library and Xavier professors all serve as knowledgeable resources.
If you don’t know where to start, here are three immediate -action steps. First, google white privilege. Recognize it. Grapple with it. Let it make you uncomfortable. Second, google white allies. Learn it. Live it. Join the re-imagination movement. Third, find a white friend and repeat the previous two steps. Among yourselves, discuss the unconscious and unintentional consequences of implicit bias.
Devise strategies to combat your privilege and dismantle ideological systems of white supremacy. And, don’t be afraid to attend a Black Student Association meeting. Yes, the Black Student Association is open to people of all races, genders, cultures and ethnicities from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
In 2010, despite officiating the Iraq War and fostering one of the greatest financial disasters in history, George W. Bush testified that the worst moment of his presidency was five years prior when Kanye West deemed him a racist for his complacent response to the Black families devastated by Hurricane Katrina. If this illustrates anything, let it serve to help you understand the abrupt trauma and subsequent fragility inevitable when white people learn about their racism.
However, racism and superiority are inherent components of white identity. To ignore yourself is to ignore the plight of Black and Brown people. Within the U.S., I don’t enjoy the luxury of ignoring my identity. If you want to call yourself a friend, aware or a person who upholds Jesuit, Catholic values, learn about yourself before you try to learn about me.
So, where were you?