Doing Violence to America’s White Soul
by Jorge Dante Hernandez Prosperi 2020
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit with the core belief.”Frantz Fanon
White America will not change its inherent inherited racist pathology until it does violence to its white racist soul and deals with the pain.
No one knows how long it will take for white America to INNATELY be reborn, raised and schooled in a socio-cultural curriculum fostering and mentoring equality – “that all human beings are born as equals with inherent, inalienable and sacrosanct rights.”
White America will not change unless it engages, by choice and design, in a radical transformation resulting in a new socio-cultural-educational-political-economic covenant and reality developing an innate aptitude that embraces justice, equity and fights against all forms of personal and institutional racism.
No one knows whether it will take decades or centuries for white America to believe, think, live and see non-whites as equals. What we do unequivocally know is that white America is not there yet, with much work that America’s “Greatest White Generations” left undone.
Achieving such a noble and honorable innate state of being will require white America to pursue ongoing personal reflection and radical transformation through cognitive socio-cultural critical thinking. Such acknowledgements will need to be in raw terms regarding America’s racist legacy and history.
The process will demand rewiring constructed beliefs and attitudes followed by discourse among white Americans without hiding behind walls of ignorance, denial, fear, anger, defense mechanisms, deflecting responsibility and/or avoiding authentic engagement.
The language of the discourse itself among white America must change from an unread and unlettered society to a citizenry grounded in critical thinking and analysis. This will NOT REQUIRE A COLLEGE DEGREE. What will be required is embracing emotional intelligence, moral courage and authentic engagement with truth telling as its guiding core principle.
The calling will be for white America to go far beyond token tolerance. A time for White America to realize that wearing a BLM tee shirt and marching because of an atrocity caught on camera is not enough. As Eminem reminds, “. . . Then I turn and cross over the median curb. Hit the ‘burbs” and all you see is a blur from 8 Mile Road.”
Crossing over from that 8 Mile Rd by white America will require sacrifice beyond skimming Google, Facebook and Twitter for simplistic “constructed confirmation biased” talking points about racism – leaving “8 Mile white liberals” temporarily feeling good.
The challenge is for the awareness and advocacy to become a way of life dealing with racism’s systemic debilitating socio-cultural pathology as people of color do – on a daily basis minute by minute. Yes, racism is a disease and like COVID-19 is in the air we inhale and exhale infecting, contaminating, debilitating and killing.
White America has been raised to believe that racism “was and is” a matter of isolated events – simplistic chapters in history books learned while moving through middle and high school. History, Social Studies classes and their curriculum mapping constructed by white authors, writing through white lenses, about white America, depicting white events, white protagonists, white military heroes and white wars. White “arm-chair historians” writing from a distance, about native annihilation, colonialism, nation building and slavery without a sense of racial, ethnic or cultural affinity.
American history was written by white historians who approved a white history about their ancestors. White America history remained for centuries unedited or editorialized. A white history to be digested and believed wholesale with historical nostalgia and repeatedly affirmed as the official approved version and legacy without context. A white history without counterstories by Native Americans, African Americans, LatinX, Asian and immigrants with their own versions of America’s underbelly.
White historical revisionism fostered regional white ideologies, broadcasting a well-marketed white washing of the truth. This is the historical baggage that white America has been carrying in its backpack upon graduating from middle school, high school and college classes. Educators leaving graduates with the challenge, “Go out there and learn the rest of the story on your own. Go out there and be good citizens . . . and don’t forget to vote!”
This is how white America was raised, went to school and learned about its racist soul.
There should be no surprise – no wonderment – no shock that America in 2020 has a racist, authoritarian president who speak to America like a plantation owner, a Republican Party that sanctions the racism and a segment of society that supports a racist ideology with blind loyalty holding on to its delusional white capital, entitlements, privileges and supremacy for dear life.
History requires prodding, digging and unearthing the truth about people and their socio-cultural-political beliefs and how they felt about and treated each other. The study of history is the pursuit of the truth – regardless of the number of episodes of human cataclysmic horror, cultural ruptures and pathological -isms and phobias. Lest we forget that some two hundred million human beings have been murdered due to some insidious political or religious ideology. The meticulous engineering of dehumanization requires relentless scrutiny.
Lest we forget the separátocide of caged niñitas/os. No, not in the 1940s but in 2020.
White America has been raised educationally with a cognitive dissonance – resulting in being an accomplice and accessory to white America’s version of the truth reaffirmed from one 4th of July to the next – believing, celebrating and living a lie.
White America guards the capital of its whiteness well coating itself with a thick layer of teflon in order to deflect responsibility. White America is hard-wired with well-rehearsed absolving metanarratives, “Some of my best friends are . . .”, “Well what about electing a black president?”, “Melting Pot”, “Color Blindness”, “Aversive Racism by Well-Intended Egalitarians”, “Meritocracy”, “The American Dream”, “Survival of the Fittest”, “Don’t Tread on Me”, “Political Correctness”, “Race Card”, “Gerrymandering”, “Voter Suppression”, “State Rights”, “Filibuster”, and the infamous, “Pulling on Boot Straps.”
White America will not change until each white citizen does a socio-cultural DNA check on how they were raised, how family members influenced their view of the world and its inhabitants. How were they schooled? How did their local community and regionalism impact their beliefs and attitudes on race? How were they influenced by peers growing up, current friends and colleagues at the workplace? When and how were predispositions shaped about rural, urban and suburban neighbors? When, how and why were opinions, prejudices and biases formulated about otherness and difference? How did they come to believe and become convinced that their personal dysfunctions and personal bad decisions were the fault of others? How did the media influence and continue to impact their thinking and language?
White America will not change until it confronts its truncated white evangelical versions of Christianity. White America will not change until religion is not used to foster white supremacy promoting beliefs in a white deity with promises of reaching an all white after life. White America will not change until white Christianity stops absolving itself from the mortal sins of its past. White America will not change until church and state are kept separate – honoring the constitution and fully cognizant of the fact that prayers, thoughts and good tidings are not enough when dealing with the insidiousness of racism and when religion is politicized.
White America will need to go through its transformation without urging or motivation from people of color. White America should not expect gratitude, applause or a parade for finding its conscience. People of color did the heavy lifting for centuries trying to teach white America about multigenerational trauma, oppression, suppression, systemic racist power and control. White America must stop relying on people of color to teach the children of oppressors about oppression. Lest we forget that people of color were and are the victims, not the victimizers.
White America will not change until white Wall Street finds its power to transform white Capitalism. White America will not change until white Wall Street acknowledges its ability to change the ethos and conscience of CEOs, Boards of Trustees, Stockholders, the Banking Industry, Corporations, Investors, Politicians and Business Schools. White America will not change until white Wall Street celebrates each closing bell knowing, that on that day, it has moved America towards authenticating its founding principles and has enhanced the quality of life for all Americans because all lives matter – even those who may never buy a single stock. White Wall Street will not change until young white turks are motivated to work on Wall Street for a greater cause than just finding their way to Scarsdale, with a summer home in the Hamptons. America is waiting for the next generation of Wall Street traders and brokers to find their spine and transform the major driving force and difference maker of white America – America’s white economy.
While white America celebrates each 4th of July in a time-warped bubble, other segments of America pause to reflect on a preamble not realized – of broken treaties – of hundreds of years of inhumanity and hypocrisy; a lingering dilemma of inequality, instigated by self-absorbed greed, fear mongering, divisiveness and its mortal original sin . . . RACISM.
The journey for white America will continue to be uncomfortable, struggling with its cognitive dissonance of being taught that “all men are created equal” and yet living with the realities of its paradox “equal but separate.”
White America will not change until it makes a bold statement about its legacy by astutely analyzing, researching and keeping track of hate groups on a local, state, national and international level. Hate groups fostering an ideology and/or manifestos of white supremacy, such as White Nationalists and Neo-Nazis groups should be investigated as to recruitment strategies, use of media/technology, financial support and associations with local, state and national politicians, parties and businesses. This should also include any association and support of hate groups by local police, military, corporations and local, state and/or national lobbyists. Such research and findings should be made public and readily available to all segments of the citizenry.
The reality of America’s living paradox is the most impactful and influential dilemma that white America lives with and is haunted by – so painful – so brutal a reality that the legacy has been rationalized, ignored and denied.
The “equal but separate” paradox constructed and kept alive over hundreds of years, will require deconstruction – a purging of white America’s racist legacy – be it regional iconic names of athletic teams and buildings, statues, flags, bridges – all racist reflections of the terror and horror of dehumanization. A new focus should be on honoring heroes and heroines who gave their lives in the relentless and selfless pursuit of justice, democracy, freedom, inclusivity, equality and a quality of life – authenticating the constitution . . . and above all else . . . honoring the dignity of the human condition of all human beings.
White America can begin to demonstrate its authentic will to change by rejecting racism with every vote cast at every local voting district. This would be a beginning followed by a relentless advocacy to live truth to power in every aspect of American life – family, schooling, community, profession, nonpartisanship and citizenry.
As Eddie Glaude Jr. soulfully challenges all of us, “A version of America is dying. We hear its death rattle, loud and violent. But a new America is desperately trying to be born. We are its midwives. We have the responsibility to imagine America anew. Will we do so, or will we turn our backs once again?” Eddie Glaude Jr. In His Own Words – on MSNBC Kasie DC – June 7, 2020
White America in 2020 is showing signs of awakening – reflecting – pausing with angst. Some of the reasons deal with the COVID-19 – some due to witnessing on TV another needless murder of a black man calling for justice – some due to the economic inequalities of a “fail safe” society versus struggling middle and lower socio-economic classes – some due to a white citizenry becoming increasingly aware of the rise of an authoritarian-racist-populist political party and the unconscionable, corrupt and exhausting chaos of Trumpism.
White America has gone through turbulent times in the past. Each time leaving a footprint – a marker – a pathway for white America to learn and change. John Lewis left us a marker by way of his parting words, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.” . . . reminding us that “the truth does not change.”
To what degree will the times and spaces of 2020 provide white America yet another vision and mission, to not only seek to change mind and heart . . . but dare to finally do violence to its white racist soul?