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Doing the Work to Dismantle Global White Supremacy: What We Can Do

“Doing the Work” to dismantle white supremacy means dealing with one’s own “whiteness,” even if you’re not “white.”

Culturally Fluid people hold skills that are necessary to challenge and fight against an emboldened ideology of white supremacy through the recognition and rejection of whitely scripts, the effects of which are exhibited in countries around the world through what Charles Mills would refer to as processes of colonization, slavery and appropriation under his “Racial Contract.”

These processes are made possible due to a global system that has had an ordered and structured history of white solipsism and an epistemology of ignorance that permeates the discussion of race even among non-white peoples.

KKK member in garb shaking hands with a soldier who has a "white league" patch on over a black family who is cowering, mother father and infant in their arms.
Thomas Nast’s The Union As It Was, Harper’s Weekly, October 10, 1874 (via Library of Congress)

Adrienne Rich discusses white solipsism in her book On Lies, Secrets, and Silence as:


The tendency to think, imagine, and speak as if whiteness described the world. … A tunnel-vision which … does not see non-white existence as significant.”

White solipsism is a very westernized, Eurocentric idea. On a more global scale, it’s an epistemology, or theory of knowledge that is centered around ignorance on the topic of race is pervasive.

ADDRESSING WHITENESS, NOT PRIVILEGE

Addressing one’s whiteness is difficult, especially for those who don’t consider themselves belonging to white identity.

This has to do with the fact that the meaning of “white” has changed over time and is dependent on place. People of Whiteness, which include those taught in Eurocentric programs, are heavily socialized to stay silent on the topic of race so when considering one’s own whiteness, the knowledge and conversational skills needed to actively engage the topic are severely lacking.

On the podcast “Code Switching,” Shereen Marisol Meraji points out that:

We talk about everyone else as a clearly defined special interest group … but we tend to talk about white people’s concerns as just politics.

CHALLENGE IGNORANCE

 
Dismantle white supremacy
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

In order to challenge systems that uphold white supremacist ideals, one must examine their own “whiteness” and pinpoint where they contribute to what Marilyn Frye calls “whitely scripts.” In Frye’s book “Willful Virgin: Essays in Feminist Theory,” an example she shares is people holding “a firm belief in authority and … expertise.”

This is part of the epistemology of ignorance and the scripts are framed in a way that makes it hard to identify to those who uphold them. Cross Cultural Kids (CCKs) and Third Culture Kids (TCKs) have an ability to not only recognize these scripts but to challenge them through their emotional intelligence skills that value self and social awareness in a critical and meaningful way.

The answer to challenging the epistemology of ignorance inherent in this highly diversified world involves culturally fluid people drawing attention to a problematic and unfair ideology, along with white people’s continued commitment to unlearning white supremacist ideals.

DISCOURSE ON THE SUBJECT

Using the United States as an example, CCK Dr. Cori Wong presented “When Doing the Work Means Dealing With My Own Whiteness … and I’m not even White” at Colorado State University’s Diversity Symposium where she discussed the white supremacist use of these scripts to further a global epistemology of ignorance, an idea taken from Charles Mills’ “Racial Contract.”

Dr. Wong spoke about how people come to internalize and perpetuate these whitely scripts despite holding non-white identities. Whitely scripts are so culturally poignant that Kikokushijos — Japanese “returnee children” who come home after receiving Eurocentric schooling — are rendered foreigners in their own home country due to this ideology of ignorance that they bring to their first culture.

If we are taught to ignore whitely scripts, how can we be expected to critique them?

Instead of giving in to the epistemological ignorance inherent in Whiteness, one must unpack it and examine the whitely scripts they perpetuate and in doing so, reject them entirely.

Alison Bailey calls this a “race traitor” in her essay entitled “Despising an Identity They Taught Me To Claim.” Race traitors are “privilege-cognizant white people who not only reject whitely scripts but who actively work against them,” challenging the systems of power and working towards a more liberated future where, as Dr. Wong hopes: “people of color [won’t] need a white savior to escort them through life.”

On a global scale, nations recognizing their own colonial history and the part it has played in building a global epistemology of ignorance that permeates Whiteness will aide in creating a more equitable and tolerant future. It’s only by unlearning the socialization of racism that one can refrain from perpetuating harm to underprivileged and disenfranchised identities and it’s a problem for whites and non-whites to face together.

March against white supremacy
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash
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