The -ism in Race

Updated: May 4

The -ism in race is how notwithstanding its pungent systemicity, too many are quick to find comfort in immobility and in presupposing that racism is an individual event at best that can be outmaneuvered by the reductive exertion of meritocracy.

And THAT right there is privilege. As Brené Brown teaches us, privilege is resorting to the touted option of disengaging when oppression is directed externally against others & otherness.

Privilege is how you can cosmetically appreciate oppression and personalize it to individuals in a way that makes racism diffused through a people-to-people format where accountability is elusive and non-institutional.

You know a system is dangerously hermetic in its dominance when the flagrancy of its supremacy is so inescapably ubiquitous and unchallenged that unchecked oppression is part of how normal unfolds.

You know that system is pernicious when what is most unquestioned is the un-self-reflective reflex to micro-aggression.

What makes institutional supremacy so ubiquitous is the gamut of micro- and macro-tools it deploys to normalize oppression with sophistication and a dangerous rhetoric that mainstreams the trivialization of micro-aggressions.

Denialism is supremacy's staunchest implement.

Denialism is when you use your privilege to negate oppression that intimately correlates your privilege and capacity for complacency, immobility, and disengagement in the first place.

Denialism is when you choose to unsee the privilege in your context by trivializing the under-privilege of others, making oppression personal not institutional, cosmetically localized not quintessentially systemic. Denialism is a privilege when you let inconvenience steer you clear of mobilizing yourself into the action-oriented responsibility to use your mobility and your privilege to empower the resistance, not to counter/minimize it.

Opting out, being non-committal, choosing disengagement, personalizing institutional supremacy, being micro-aggressive, denying your privilege, being complacent rather than inconvenienced in your immobility, are all ways that you use your voice as a form of silencing of the othered, and your silence as a corrupting negative space that undermines the resistance.

So where do we go from there?

  1. Don't be assumptive: when a person that is reductively othered & racialized shares space with you, don't be pre-emptively assumptive (especially in your actions). Be mindfully un-assumptive. Don't try to self-justify how the institutional prescription of raciality defines their capacity to be complex & whole. Every time you assume character and capacity from race, you question their capacity for depth and self-determining to be greater and more affirming than the stereotypes you were reflexively conditioned to force into relevance.

  2. Be open-ended: an extension of no. 1 is to create space for self-definition where yes-or-no assumptive binary-centric language is disaffirmed. So, rather than "are you XZY?" go for "how do you self-identify...?" for instance. Even then, such questions emerge out of organic intimacy. You are not entitled to somebody else's truth or body. Why? Because enforcing intimacy reeks of demanding the brutalized to comfort the privileged in total controlling non-reciprocity. So learn to observe humanity, not challenge theirs. Ask yourself those same questions to see what that level of disruption does to your privilege.

  3. Direct questionability inwards, not outwards: fling inwards questions of self-identity that over-visibilize YOUR race as a prescription. Meaning, the same way you may be critically inquisitive of somebody else's self-identity as an othered and racialized human/e, what about you? Reflect back upon your own race-determined self-perception and learn to see how whilst all are racialized, specific racialities are made questionable and others centralized. The reflex to dish out questions that only limelight the presumed divergence of others, is a way to exoticize them and segregate normality by assuming specific races need be unilaterally questioned.

  4. Personalize don't generalize: the surest way to be complicit in affirming the rule of racializing supremacy is to gauge one individual by the monolith of a group, using that person's voice & humanity as a placeholder for a whole people. Wonder why you are surprised to hear XZY person is doing ABC? Is it because you generalized their humanity into the stereotype their people are saddled with? Is it because you stopped being interested in their individual personhood and started cross-examining them micro-aggressively? Is it because there was depth, paradox, flaw, contradiction, power, and untragic unapologetic self-expression, where you came to expect a monolith, a token, an othered?

No more assuming that depth in othered is questionable through innuendoes-strained comments, conditionings, & reflexes that presuppose that my depth is imperceptible and questionable because of how I am systemically being racialized. No more: "How come you...?" or "Where did you learn XZY?" or the infamously overly vocalized: "you are great for a XZY".

Race as we are subjecting ourselves to it, internally and (non-)reciprocally, educationally and institutionally, is a premeditated fabrication, a genocide-affirming ideology of delegitimization of humanhood, and of eviction out of humanhood that denies personhood. It assumes and presumes monolithic peoplehood that denies individuality and complexity in divergent personhoods. It is pungently echoed through questions like: "You are different from the other XZY". "How come you don't do XZY like the other ABC?".

Race as we are subjecting ourselves to it is a forceful instrument, an externalizing construct that chooses which parts of this disjointed & segregated humanity are dignifiable and which ones are conversely brutalizable.

Don't assume I am unworthy because you segregate my normal against your normal. Don't assume homogeneity is the way to simplify. It is a way to typify.

My questions to you are: Do you want to live complicitly in disservice to your privilege and the under-privilege of the othered? Do you want to live as a self-critical agent of the resistance so as not to irresponsibly live from your current privilege?

However we are, because the system is a paradox and because humanity is nonlinear and uncontainable, we embody privilege and under-privilege with synchronicity. The question is, how will you use both in ways that make you and all of us the better for it?

As Les Brown quoted, (I'm paraphrasing here); it is easy to live a hard life and hard to live an easy life. So which one will you honor? The easy emptying life of supremacist complicity through privileged immobility or the hardest, fullest life of gainful and enlightening resistance where otherness is our new complexified normal?

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