by Jules Assata
This is part of a series of posts from participants in the Texas Local Food Anti-Racism training by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Together we are creating an anti-racist food system in Texas.
How long has it taken me to write my blog piece? Longer than I intended, that’s for sure. While I can name plenty of good reasons it took so long, the underlying truth is that I’ve struggled to articulate my experience… or even grasp my take-away from the intensive anti-racism training.
I’ve attended anti-racism training before, several times, including an in-person, weeklong intensive from NCCJ back in the mid-90’s. I’ve explored my racism and white privilege ad nauseum and am stunned each time another example comes to my attention because, as I am (sometimes reluctantly) aware, I will never be finished excavating the layers and nuances of the racism and privilege I have lived my entire life being served by.
So what did I get out of this particular training? Well…. this time I really ‘got’ the notion of white supremacy… as something other than those awful, skinhead, neo nazi, violent haters. What was different this time? Was the phrase newly inserted into NCCJ’s training, or worked into the experience more effectively, or was I just ready to hear it, to open the door to more awareness? Because I absolutely do NOT want to see myself in the context of that phrase and the images of people and beliefs that appall me. And yet ever since that training, especially one activity, one question, I have been seeing white supremacy everywhere.
We were once again sent into paired conversation in our breakout Zoom rooms, this time with the question “What would it look like to live in a world without white supremacy?” I was increasingly excited as I considered the endless possibilities of a world almost unimaginably different from the absence of white supremacy. If people of color~ particularly dark-skinned people and the descendents of slaves~ were not systematically subjugated to the control and benefit of light-skinned people~ particularly those of european descent or close enough to pass as the owning caste… if all those oppressed people had access to the same resources and opportunities as the oppressing caste… Wow! Everything we know in life could be different~ our homes and communities and work places, and types of work and play, our art and music and languages and ways to express ourselves and connect, our teaching and learning, our health and wellness, our environment and connection to it… it just started flowing and was beautiful. When I tried to articulate my wonder to my partner, I realized I sounded like a fantasy novel, so far removed from ‘reality’ these possibilities were. And the door opened wide and I began to see.
White supremacy is the water we live in like fish in a tank. As a white person, I am so perfectly bred to the fishbowl~ and do very well living in it~ that I literally could not imagine another setting… until I was asked to. Grateful am I for an active imagination and some broadening experiences in other places, among other people and cultures both from within and beyond my country’s borders… and I love and read fantasy novels… otherwise I think my responses to the question would have fallen along the lines of “it would fair” or “there would be equality”.
White supremacy shapes every aspect of our lives… all of our lives… all of the time, in every setting… and in ways that are so much a part of everyday life they may be invisible, even to the majority who do not benefit from the way life has been set up. As a female, lesbian, non-Christian there are ways I most definitely do not benefit and must work to pass well enough to be relatively safe and secure, even if always a bit insecure and at risk. Dark-skinned? No way to pass, therefore safety and security is never fully achieved, no matter how much money or education or type of job or place to live. Not in this fish bowl. So that is a lousy, unjust, crappy outcome from white supremacy.
Crappy also is the way our communities are built and organized, the way our education is organized and the poor outcomes for the vast majority, the treatment of as many ‘others’ as the controlling caste (primarily wealthy, white, Christian, straight males) can contrive, the state of our planet~ our Mother Earth~ and yes, our food system. How much better might it be without white supremacy? No one can say for sure, but it couldn’t be worse. I would love to be alive to see what will happen when we evolve beyond.