I understand Donald Trump, by executive order, is penalizing anyone for teaching or asserting that the US is a racist society. I suppose this isn’t surprising – significant change or challenge will always bring some reactionary response. But it’s also depressing, because the awareness of structural racism that appears to be taking hold, finally, is a key component of what might be a real step forward for us.
Reading the very fine book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo I am beginning to become aware of the variety of ways our society, and we white people, erect defences, change the subject, punish prophets, turn the attention to ourselves, and otherwise protect ourselves from seeing or constructively discussing our own racism. Trump’s order is just another brick in the wall. As long as we deny that racism is our problem, we prevent any action to change it. Said another way: if white people like me (or Donald Trump) pretend that racism is someone else’s problem, we are in that way supporting the structures of racism.
Addressing denial is one of the key components of recovery from addiction. Addicts build complex and effective mental defences that prevent them from seeing their addiction for what it is, that prevent them from acknowledging that the thing they are doing is actually killing them (and often the people around them that they love most). That’s why one of the foundations of AA’s 12 steps is total honesty. It takes practice, discipline, and help to simply see what is real, to see what is there before our eyes, and to name it for what it is.
President Trump’s executive order may not be surprising, but it is devastating. Land of the free, and home of the brave? It is neither free nor brave to deny the truth, or to pretend to be better than we are. The structural racism in the US and Canada is plainly before us, even if white folks like me need to be helped to see it. Facing our racism, our sexism, our consumerism, our unsustainability, our violence – this is the courage that will give us a chance to step forward, to be better, to change, to be free, to survive.
Oh, I think I do get it. The price of facing these truths is the loss of privilege. I’m afraid of that, but really – is there anything I’ll be losing that is genuinely good?