I am always struck by how damn
stupid binary our political and social discourse has become, when human beings and our feelings and values and beliefs and even the words we use are not binary at all. Like the hotly debated question: is Trump a racist? The answer for me has always been, yes, abso-friggin’-lutely YES, but I always feel like that answer does a huge disservice as to the different dimensions of racism and racist behaviors. He is one type of racist, and it is particularly horrible and sickening to have him occupying the highest office in our country, and enabling the worst among us to commit violence and do harm. But to end the discussion there is to ignore who we are, as individuals, as groups, the incredible diversity of the American populace, and the complex ways we need to grapple with and understand race and ethnicity (as well as all things that catalyze us to see groups of people as “other”). Every time I think to myself, “Trump is a racist!,” I then challenge myself to think, “Well, what do I mean by that? And do I want to just sit and stew in my feelings or do I want to link up to how I plan to fight for a better tomorrow?” And also, I admit, I always think of Avenue Q, i.e., everyone’s a little bit racist. Trump, by contrast, is a lot racist. (Although I generally hate using “a lot” like this, here’s why.)
Anyway, I wrote down some of my thoughts about different levels of racism, using astrological signs as a model. Here you go.
(P.S. On my best days, I feel like a Tryharderus, and on my worst days, a Wishywashi.)
(P.P.S.: There’s probably a ton of sociological research about racism and none of the following is based on any of it. If you’re looking for something scholarly, this ain’t it.)
You believe that the color of your skin (white, blinding-white, bluish-gray white, pinkish-white) makes you superior to everyone else, you want to eliminate or do all kinds of harm to people who are in any way different than you (the question must be asked, why would anyone want to be like you?). You are often referred to as a white supremacist, or a Nazi, although the latter term is most often used as a reference to a specific political movement during a terrible episode in history and what you would know about politics and history would fit on the head of a pin. Your defining characteristics are rage, stupidity, and a propensity towards violence. Also cowardice, like when you deny that you were the person in that photo taken of you holding a tiki torch (damn you for wrecking tiki torches) and chanting racist sentiments.
You tend to believe that being white makes you better than non-white people. You like to loudly claim you’re not a racist and in fact, your discriminatory and bigoted beliefs are not limited to race: you also tend to be sexist and religiously intolerant, without possessing any sense of religion or spirituality or morals yourself. You are the worst kind of enabler for Delusioni, but your defining characteristics are not racism or bigotry, even though you are still a racist: your defining characteristics are actually pathological lying and predatory behavior. While this group is most often represented by white men, there’s often a substantial number of women standing next to them, giving their asshat behaviors a veneer of legitimacy.
You believe that whatever cultural/racial/ethnic group you identify with — if you identify with any — is what it is, and you don’t think a lot about anyone outside of your group. You use the term “colorblind” a lot. You may be moved out of your insularity through developing a friendship or romantic relationship with someone outside of your group and then have the eye-opening realization that yes, other people are treated differently than you because of the color of their skin (or because of their gender or religion or some other characteristic, which are not race-based forms of discrimination, but, still bad).
You define your general set of values as “progressive.” You believe in equity, diversity, and inclusion, and understand the difference between those concepts. You are moved to act against intolerance and injustice and oppression. You still have views of other racial/ethnic groups that are not positive. You struggle to remain cognizant of the ways in which you stereotype other racial/ethnic groups and fight against applying those stereotypes when engaging with members of a particular racial/ethnic group on an individual level. You make mistakes when engaged in dialogues about race/ethnicity/culture and you learn to apologize for those mistakes and avoid making them again. Your ownership of your own identity along multiple dimensions is a constant work in progress.
You are widely experienced with groups representing all sorts of identities: race, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, disabled. You are thoughtful about what you have learned from these experiences and humble about how much you have yet to learn. You are aware of how much privilege you’ve grown up with, and how people have treated you based on the color of your skin. You treat everyone with kindness and respect, even when they are not behaving similarly to you. You are a lovely, joyful person who is also sensitive towards other people’s pain and suffering. (I can count the number of people I’ve met like you on one hand.)