It isn’t the theatrical of white supremacy that worries me. It’s the practical.
While we are outraged about the blatant racism in Charlottesville, we can and should ask ourselves, where is both racism and sexism subtly embedded in and enacted by our laws? Here are just a few easy-to-find examples if we look.
“Right to Work” laws were initiated in the 1940’s to maintain segregation and prevent economic equality, equity and justice that unions provided; unions were labeled “communist” because they were seen to reduce the wealth and power of owners. These laws targeted not only blacks and other minorities, but also anyone who wasn’t WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant): Catholics, Jews, Irish, and Italians. What Martin Luther King said in 1961 is still true today, “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”
In 1971, the “War on Drugs” was covertly designed by the Nixon administration to target, criminalize and imprison blacks and “hippies” to disrupt their communities and vilify them. The true impact was felt in the 1980’s with privatized prisons that use inmates as a source of labor, in other words, slavery.
In 1996, the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” touted as welfare reform by Clinton, actually instituted significant setbacks for both minorities and women.
Reagan’s “Supply-side/Trickle-down Economic” theory was implemented primarily to extract wealth for white privilege and power while suppressing everyone else: It “makes things better” for wealthy, white men. This neoconservatism/neoliberalism has been reinforced and expanded by every administration since, both Republicans and Democrats.
And today, Washington is making visible and concerted efforts to roll-back progress in civil rights, and politicians at all levels consistently deny equal pay for women and increases in minimum wages, again disproportionately experienced by minorities and women.
Code words mask intent. Racism is deeply embedded in our society; it is systematic and institutionalized; it is the malware silently running our culture. When a white person does something violent, we see an individual and say “mental illness;” when a minority does something violent, we condemn the entire group. How many of us go along with inherent racism and ignore apparent racism? How many of us deny our own racism and sense of privilege? We keep compounding the source of the problem: Us and our denial.
Here is a question to ask yourself: Would you be happy to be treated in the same way that minorities and women are treated in this society? If you go along with or support these policies, I suggest that you have bought into both racism and sexism. We all need to look honestly at our cherished political ideologies and agendas, what they are based on, and their true impact on society.
What does white privilege look like? We look the other way because inequality and injustice are not our personal problem. We look down on others who are not like us. Our politicians tout as accomplishments things such as: land preservation, enhancements of places to spend leisure time, expensive school renovations, etc. Meanwhile, people go hungry, are homeless, without healthcare and education, and live in the shame of being treated such that they are not good enough to “make it.”
To confront ourselves is uncomfortable. Change will not come until we do.
The intent of our Constitution is equality, equity, shared power, justice, dignity, and well-being for all. The founders of this nation, who wrote the Constitution as a rejection of the elitist caste system in Britain, recreated the same system of “social order” here through their actions that continue today. We made inroads to set things in alignment with our professed ideals in the 1960’s with the Civil Rights movement; Nixon began undoing this progress. The current administration is simply fully exposing our regressive societal-economic-political system and our continuing hypocrisy. These are moral failures by political and business leaders and in how we lead our own lives as human beings.
We haven’t yet enacted the basic tenets of the Constitution that apply to all of us, not just whites, any more than we have for Christianity: Love one another. Truth is that as human beings we are all deserving of equality, equity, shared power, justice, dignity, and well-being. The Constitution outlines this public face of love in action.
And no, I am not a “liberal.” I shun labels as false identities. I am a human being who deeply cares about every other person as a human being. I seek to expand my perspectives and grow beyond obsolete beliefs, to cultivate my moral conscience and awareness of my own accountability to take responsibility for the whole of life with empathy and compassion. This is what it means to be a human being. This is what it means to be a citizen of the United States. This is what it means to be a leader standing for the Constitution.