White folks attempting to align themselves with a decidedly #BlackLivesMatter moment must first contend with an inconvenient though liberating truth — authentic anti-racist solidarity is only possible through the unmaking of whiteness.
Whiteness has only ever held one intention: to invalidate or refute any claims of non-white citizenship or personhood — differentiation in service to subjugation. Indeed, the term “white supremacy” even as it is used by anti-racists, is a redundant construction. An error arising from a fundamental denial regarding the ongoing function and redeemability of whiteness. Once whiteness is properly understood, violent white terrorism, for example, can be seen for what it is: a single component of a coherent, rational system of intentional disadvantage and dominance.
Truly, the very real function of structural white racism is that it automates its violence and harm through a myriad of policies, institutions, and adherents. To attempt to disentangle, to extricate (Black) bodies and futures from these interlocking systems of subordination is to realize how their complexity also leads to white cognitive dissonance. Layer after layer, a labyrinth of seemingly near inexhaustible, near plausible deniability for the beneficiaries of whiteness.
“All liberation starts as fictive works of radical imagining and inquiry.”
Yet even exposed, whiteness operates unrepentantly, refusing all attempts at redemption. It contorts reason to avoid contending with questions and implications of racial harm (white refusal) simultaneously asserting race-neutral objectivity and perspective (white rationality) ironically from atop a racial caste system contrived to legitimize claims of white supremacy. And, that is why racial unrest is so disruptive to whiteness: it lays bare the absurdity of white refusals, rationality, and asserted supremacy exposing a racist complicity.
Racial whiteness, white rationality, and white refusal undermine even the best anti-racist efforts and intentions entirely. And, you can’t fight racism, be anti-racist, or hold authentic solidarities with the work of either when you are bad at racial sense-making and analysis. Consequently, an appropriately anti-racist relationship to whiteness must start with a commitment to its unlearning, to unmaking whiteness.
How then do those who currently identify as white, yet wish to be in solidarity with radical movement-making, decouple themselves from the profoundly incompatible implications of whiteness? How do they “unmake whiteness?” Anti-racist work, after all, is the undoing of racism. We cannot authentically pursue that work without properly contending with whiteness. So, here are some anti-racist inquiries for white people, starting points that might inform more meaningfully authentic solidarities:
“An appropriately anti-racist relationship to whiteness must start with a commitment to its unmaking.”
What are the process of delegitimizing legacies and symbols of historically white (Western/“American”) racial dominance? How do whites both figuratively and materially deconstruct, disavow vestigial structures of racial terror — Confederate monuments and memorials, causeways named for slavers and genocidal tyrants; the police, public education — appropriately relegating them to a despotic past, properly accepted and recorded as shameful.
How do white people remain wary of fetishizing or tokenizing impulses and the overburdening of (Black) bodies with the labor of relieving white consciences or undoing white racist harm? Such transference imposes its own implicit, unjustly perverse sort of blame and added trauma. What does it mean to stave off the near imperceptible creeping return to normative racial harm; to a world of mundane ritualized racial indignities and further white racial ambivalence? Remembering primarily that ensuring such a return is no longer possible, and the undoing of the conditions that might make it so is part of the unmaking process.
“What does it mean to stave off the near imperceptible creeping return to normative racial harm; to a world of mundane ritualized racial indignities and further white racial ambivalence?”
How do you responsibly begin to re/claim identities not fundamentally animated by racial subjugation while not circumventing the critical project of racial reconciliation and accountability? What does it take to creatively curate narratives rooted and imagined through inclusive notions of cross-cultural coexistence? How do you begin to privilege folks-ways that do not demand dominance; or, require exploitative, transactional relations with each other or the natural world?
All liberation starts as fictive works of radical imagining and inquiry. A people and a world free from whiteness afford space to collectively conjure into existence other, more holistic ways of being. An absence that could breed such invention! Truly then, the next and final acts of cultural whiteness must be the beginning of its unmaking. The beginnings of a reimagined intercultural civility that does not merely gesture to solidarities but makes material commitments, reshaping new cultures that can authentically inform and sustain them. The unmaking of whiteness is a critically emancipatory and anti-racist work. Reconciling labor that must be as intentional, extensive, and enduring as the creation. A deliberate excavation and reclamation work. The subverting of a generations-long cultural consolidation scheme that subsumed whole identities to produce racial whiteness.