Struggling to openly name race and racism from a privileged white perspective is a symptom of the convergence of many fears and often conflicting feelings. There is the horror at acknowledging what people have done who we share something with, even for those who refuse to self-identify as whites. The more personal guilt and shame for our own participation in various ways in this system, from moments when we acted upon our prejudices and communed with others in racism, to the general invisibility that other people’s pains have had for so long in our eyes.
But deep inside there is a more fundamental, almost uncontrollable fear of karma. That what white people did, the atrocities we continue to support and benefit from, will come back to haunt us. That the discriminated and the oppressed will exact revenge on us. That’s why many reactions from privileged whites are of aggressive self-defence. We feel our very existence is in danger, because we know what we’ve done, and can’t imagine that people we’ve done it to will be anything less than brutal in response.
If we listen carefully to what people are saying around us, we would quickly realise that our fears are unfounded. There is a growing space for humanity emerging out of the cracks of a system of domination in crisis, where people of all walks of life are coming together in solidarity.
That space cannot be built on superficial colour-blinded gender-neutral ideologies that gloss over individual and collective differences and discriminations, histories and experiences. It cannot be built by denying the claims of those who push us to reflect on multiple forms of oppression and our complicity in them. It dissolves in the instant we want to write out our personal life and positionality, erasing with it not only the humanity of others we have for too long exoticised and devalued, but the very possibility of our own humanity.