It would be a whole lot easier, wouldn’t it, if systemic racism didn’t exist? As a basically white person, it’d be a whole lot easier, and a whole lot more comfortable, to just go on as before, ignoring what I’ve seen play out over the past month. It’d be a whole lot easier to ignore the thinly veiled but heavily defended racism getting posted on Facebook right now. The distortion of truth, the picking apart of black individuals’ characters, the diminishing of human life against an overinflated consideration for public property.
I can understand why I’ve heard gaslighting getting talked about so much in anti-racist conversations, because it’s starting to make me feel crazy. Sat on the bed earlier, I thought about what it might be like to be a black person seeing what I’m seeing right now. I’m not seeing the worst of it in my social circle, and neither am I seeing the best. But I’m already viewing almost everyone in my life with suspicion. People who were quick to disavow racism at the start of this are now changing their tune to disavow unruly protests and whatever else allows them to deflect from the problem, and nearly everyone else is silent. I guess it’s just the same old story, but, man, is it bleak.
I’d be sleeping much better if I was silent too. Multiple nights recently, I’ve gone to bed not long after seeing a hateful comment or deliberate misinformation online. Whether I’ve had time to address it before putting my phone away or have saved it to look at again later, it echoes around my head while I lie in bed. Not because I’ve seen it, exactly, but because I have accepted the responsibility of addressing it. I’m not even doing this that often, but the burden is still significant. So I can see the lure of returning to (wilful) ignorance.
For that reason, one of the people in my life I am suspicious of is me. Putting aside all of the resistance that anti-racism work is met with, both internally and externally, diving deep into a subject for a period of intensive engagement only to abandon it and move on quickly after is kind of my M.O. So, based upon that, I’m not a good horse to bet on. I guess my saving grace may be that the one thing I have always stuck with – with admirably dogged determination if I do say so myself – is trying to be a better person, and there is no way to extricate anti-racism from that.
This is too big a problem to even wrap our heads around, and new distractions are popping up every hour of every day. The system wants us to forget about it. I’m starting to understand that most of us probably will. But I need to find a way to make sure I don’t.