“What is not brought to consciousness, comes to us as fate.” – Carl Jung
Since the days of slavery, well before the founding of this country, we’ve refused to confront the cancer of the white male psyche that defines itself in terms of self-proclaimed superiority and privilege. That psyche was expressed in the form of rape, torture, and terror aimed at African-Americans. That psyche was the foundation of American and global capitalism. (See, for example, Empire of Cotton, and The Half Has Never Been Told). It did not disappear with the Civil War. On the contrary, it morphed into new forms of exploitation. (See, for example, Lemann’s Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War. Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns offers a fascinating look at the ways in which history molds the present.) It has reared its head numerous times, and found new targets over the years – Native Americans, Mexicans, Asians, Jews, and other “foreigners.” The recent incident at a Trump rally, where a Black Lives Matter protester was beaten up by a group of white men, should be seen as part of the continuing assault by white men on people of color, as part of the need for white men to “prove” their superiority.
White men, like myself, who do not engage in violence, still profit from the system created by those who were and are willing to use violence to prove their manliness. Of course I do not condone violence. Of course I believe that all men and women are created equal. Of course I believe…and therein lies the problem. Those beliefs of equality and opportunity are true only if you are white, and only if you are white and part of a particular slice of the socio-economic pie. A growing number of whites do not have equal opportunity, and so on. (See the recent articles about the increased suicide rate among middle-aged white men.) Yet those same white people have, over and over again, been deluded into believing that the powerless – Blacks, Hispanics, and others – exert power over them. This is not a new story. It was used quite successfully by wealthy white plantation owners who did not want poor whites to realize that they had common cause with poor blacks. As every white person knows, though may not be willing to admit, “I may be dumb, I may be poor, but as least I ain’t a nigger.”
Until we confront the entrenched racism that was bequeathed to us and codified in the U.S. Constitution at the birth of this country, until we have truth commissions, until we look at what we have done to create this country (remember, all this land was occupied when whites “discovered” it), only then might we inch towards the ideals of equality and opportunity for all, and only then might white supremacy fade away.
“The real reason that nonviolence is considered to be a virtue in Negroes—I am not speaking now of its racial value, another matter altogether—is that white men do not want their lives, their self-image, or their property threatened.” – James Baldwin