white supremacy lives in my body…and yours
By Natalie McCabe Zwerger
“White supremacy defines our current reality. It is not merely a belief that to be white is to be better. It is a political, cultural, and economic system premised on the subjugation of people who are not white. That subjugation takes on an infinite number of forms and is enforced with varying degrees of physical violence, mental abuse and robbery. White supremacy is the voice in our collective heads that says it makes civilized that one group of people gets to annihilate, enslave, incarcerate, brainwash, torture, sterilize, breed, and terrorize other people. White supremacy establishes, upholds, and normalizes hierarchy based on the premise that the less Black you are the closer you are to God.” (How We Fight White Supremacy, Akiba Solomon and Kenrya Rankin (2019))
White supremacy lives in my body in a multitude of ways, many of which embody complicity, acceptance, and willful ignorance of the following realities:
- Internalized sovereignty over the lands of Indigenous peoples;
- Performative land “acknowledgement” with no efforts toward, or understanding of, the movement to give land back;
- Arrogantly assuming that sprinkling diversity into curriculum suffices to tell true and textured histories of historically excluded peoples;
- Welcoming immigrants to this country only to create narratives of how they are “burdening” it by their very presence here;
- Telling history through the lens of powerful white men and declaring truths when we learn of whole peoples and nations only from the point at which they were colonized, enslaved, forced from their homelands or effectively erased via genocide;
- The perpetual slaughter of Black men by incarceration, the injustice system, and at the hands of law enforcement officers;
- The interconnected lack of justice for LGBTQIA+ youth, particularly youth of color; who unalive themselves when their families and community do not affirm their whole selves; and
- Centering of white and light skinned people during points of global crisis and war as de facto categorization of who gets humanity and who does not.
My ancestors owned people. That lineage creates a sense of generational entitlement that society also reinforces, preserves, and fuels. The disentanglement of that history with the being of the person I want to live into, requires me to unravel everyday. It requires resisting the invitation to disconnect from the realities of stolen land, colonized legacies, and lives taken for the protection and preservation of my skin. It requires dissenting daily from everyday realities that invite me to forget rather than confront, to accept rather than defy, and comply rather than resist. I reject these as forward-facing chapters in the book of my life. In order to live more fully into my own humanity, I must understand how wrapped up it is with the real and true principles of white supremacy named above.
The blood of the colonizer and the colonized flows through me and many of us. White supremacy is a poison served up at first breath with the dosage continuously fueled by our passivity during big and small moments of injustice. If we aren’t prepared to confront, defy, and resist its power, then we are choosing to accept its ownership over our future in this world.
Natalie is a white Puerto Rican, cis hetero non-disabled educator, advocate, non-profit leader, & mami with significant class privilege.
This post was originally featured on the Everyday Race blog.