on being de-centered, listening, and who needs to be doing what

donald trump and the explicit resurgence of white nationalism (previously known as white supremacy), imo, are in large part the reaction to the cultural de-centering of straight, cis-gendered, white, christian, able-bodied men. i know many people voted trump who don’t fit those identities, but the leaders of the backlash i believe are feeling the pain of being de-centered. and they’re being real strategic about dragging the whole system down/in reverse with them. 

and it’s painful. as ta-nehisi coates brilliantly laid out in between the world and me, can you imagine how pissed you’d be at someone waking you up from the most pleasant dream? this except from a counterpunch article frames the section well…

“…The Dream of whiteness:

I have seen that dream all of my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is treehouses and the Cub Scouts. The Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake.

You can just hear the cries emanating from the Fox News studios: “What’s wrong with having a nice lawn? What’s wrong with cookouts and Cub Scouts? I love strawberry shortcake and I refuse to apologize for that!”

But Coates won’t play this game. He immediately explains that what is wrong is that “the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies…”

now, obviously, being de-centered is worlds less pain than being intentionally, systemically, and strategically oppressed for centuries or longer. there is no equating the two. the pain of being de-centered is obviously less than the pain of being oppressed (raped, having your identity, land, culture, peace, love stolen. 

but not acknowledging that pain, i fear, is only going to make the situation in the country (and the world) worse. pretending like the pain can just be ignored seems just makes the backlash worse, hydra-style.

in general, i think we all need to be doing more listening. i also think that everyone needs to be real clear about what role they play in our society and, consequently, what work is theirs to do. combining those things, i think we all need to be doing more listening, but we definitely don’t all need to be listening to everyone. everyone deserves to be heard, 100%, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs to listen to everyone speak their pain.

example: when male friends tell me they feel discriminated against because a job application mentions they’re prioritizing women for a position, i’m more than happy to listen to them complain and then explain how centuries of sexism have kept women out of power in myriad ways. i would never want any of my friends who are women to be subjected to that same false equivalency and complaining.

that analogy carries across all sorts of things, including the pain of being de-centered. am i thinking everyone needs to listen to white supremacists be sad about whiteness no longer being the cultural center? hell no. am i saying that someone needs to help those folks who have lived in a false reality for centuries process their pain? absolutely. but only because i fear that ignorance of that pain fundamentally undermines forward movement for all of us.

i dunno. maybe i’m wrong. but until whiteness becomes no longer desirable, we’ll be stuck at this impasse just like we have been before.