Put your race-talk fatigue aside and hear me out.
Yesterday I shared the above Instagram post by one Future Baby Mama (@dynamite8503). It reads, “Trump has disrespected black ppl, Muslim ppl, Mexicans & the disabled. I guess he gotta kill a dog for white people to see how evil he is. Smh.”
The first reply my share received read, “That is such a racist and insulting comment.”
I felt like replying, “Now you know how the black, Muslim, Mexican and disabled people have felt every time Trump opened his mouth.” I did not say that, of course.
Others pointed out that they haven’t met one white person who doesn’t think Trump is evil. And so on and so forth.
Here is my problem with these kinds of responses.
In the States, and in many ways in our home, inequality is systemic, it’s real and the only people who stand to gain from not seeing that privilege excludes anyone who is not a heterosexual white Christian male – are heterosexual white Christian males or people who share in one or more of these attributes and their accompanying privileges.
That is why Donald Trump can get away with saying the moronic things he does about people who do not belong in his demographic as a heterosexual white Presbyterian/Christian male: white people in general do not want to talk about inequality and privilege as demographical realities. Many are not only ignorant of the true extent and effects of systemic racial inequality but are ignoring the reality. And they get very angry at anyone who insists on treating it like the systemic demographic issue that it is because systems, demographics, lump the good and the bad together.
But we must view insults directed against Muslims as the fruit of systemic white Christian privilege preserving itself the only way it knows: systemic exclusion and othering. Because that is what it is.
After this post, I was tacitly asked to celebrate that many people (some of them even white Christians) condemned Trump’s words in general, instead of focusing (as I had been doing) so closely on exploring the mindset in particular that brought these words out of his mouth. Such a focus on the mindset instead of the incident would seemingly condemn scores of white people who are ignoring systemic white privilege.
I felt I was being asked to generalise this particular expression of racism as though it were like any other. You know, the way black people can also be racist towards people of other races and black privilege is so real? Because they can and it is?
Only, not quite. And here is why.
Utopian non-racialism and non-discrimination only work on paper and in theory. The effects of colonialism, heterosexism, whitism, and so on, are the effects of systems that did not set themselves up by accident but existed by ruthless human intent. Recent, relevant history is not about racism in general but systemic white-on-black systemic racism in particular. That is not just a theory but the tragic reality.
America removed racist policies in general without confronting white privilege in particular – and now has the blood of many unarmed black shooting victims on its hands. Had those people had a lighter skin colour, they’d probably still be alive today.
Contemporary racism is the insistence on treating actual history as though it was one of many scenarios that may or may not happened in a past where racism may or may not have flourished: this fuzzy, selective amnesia allows the formerly privileged to say he is now being oppressed when what is happening is that an actual past is being addressed.
What will it take for heterosexual white Christian males, or people who share one or more of the attributes of maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality and/or being of the Christian tradition, to stand up en masse and say, “Enough, Donald Trump, we do not accept what you’re saying about people who happen to not be heterosexual, or white, or Christian or male?”
This is white privilege in a nutshell: if Muslim people tell Trump he’s wrong, it won’t make much of a difference. If white people say exactly the same words, it will make a difference. Nobody has as much power to discredit Trump as his fellow white male heterosexual Christians. That is what actual history has left us with.
Have white Christians spoken out like this? Yes, but we haven’t reached the tipping point where the body of bigotry Trump embodies is rejected in its totality precisely because Americans insist on dealing with bigotry in its generalities (homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, etc.) but not systemic, historic white male Christian heterosexist capitalist privilege in particular. Because that in actuality, and not racism in theory, is the problem. And Donald J. Trump embodies the prejudice that is dominant now. He has not recanted or qualified his words because he has not had to.
So while reassuring rumours about white people who think Donald Trump is evil persist, there is little reassuring evidence that there are enough of them acting on those thoughts hard enough. There is right now in fact more evidence to support claims that Santa Claus is real.
This leads me to conclude that despite reassurances otherwise, white Christian America will take what passes itself off as safety and security at the cost of “the other’s” dignity and humanity.
That is what is not just racist or insulting, but downright evil.
“Racist” Instagram posts should be getting shared. We should all be uncomfortable.
Thank you for reading. You may take up your race-talk fatigue now.
Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex
Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987