Demographic Surveys & the Perpetuation of the White Race

I don’t want anybody working with me because they think they are doing something for me. What I want them to do is work in their own communities. I want you to tell your brothers and your sisters… Don’t tell me, because I already know.

– James Baldwin

I reckon most racialized white people in the U.S. don’t know race is an invention. I didn’t until a couple years ago and I’m not exactly young. But whether you think the white race is superior and thus entitled to greater wealth and power, that it’s a shameful scourge on humanity since the dawn of everything, or that it’s some combination thereof – I think most people with light skin and no reasonable claim to identify as a person of color figure they are indeed white. There is centuries of socialization driving this, and that identity is often put on them by others, but a key artifact in naturalizing and perpetuating self-identification is the demographic census survey.

But to understand how made-up and bizarre racial identifications are, we need some common historical reference. Terms like “white supremacy” and “whiteness” get bandied around and repeated, but what they refer to is not simple nor obvious. They are also rarely meant or interpreted the same way by different people.

The first and only race in the first US census of 1790 was “white”.

Historians trace the invention of the white race in North America to the late 1600s. It was a consequence of Bacon’s Rebellion, happening around 1675 in colonial Virginia. Nathaniel Bacon united indentured servants of English origin with enslaved Africans to take over Native American land. This terrified the colonial ruling class. While sometimes this newly united group attacked Powhatans (political alignments are volatile), some attacks were against the governor of Jamestown. It looked as though groups who didn’t have land or autonomy were starting to unite against those who did. Wealthy land-owning leaders tied to the King of England had to split up this kind of organizing or risk losing power. So they established new identities on this growing legion of angry, poor workers based on geographic and ethnic origin and then codified it with new laws. 

Before this, people likely identified with their place of origin or religion. Make no mistake, that could be a cause for misunderstanding, division or subjugation. But forced identification with a completely made up category for their own oppression was quite an innovation. And race did not come naturally. It had to literally be beaten into people. It started as more of a straightforward divide and conquer strategy. The newly “white” English indentured servants were likely pretty aware of the differences between themselves and the wealthy English landed gentry policing them. Their new “privilege” entailed reprieve from jail, torture, or death if they got with the program and stopped co-mingling with other not-yet-racialized people.

Eventually, divide and conquer got refined into something like divide, subsume and conquer. This happens when a small minority of elites (in this case wealthy English ruling class landowners) need to expand their ranks to remain in power, especially when some aspect of democratic accountability or respectability is involved. Dividing and conquering isn’t enough – they would still be outnumbered. And maintaining order through constant policing and violence requires a lot of upkeep. Not to mention, those police and overseers doing the dirty work need to be recruited from somewhere. So the minority ruling class cozies up to one or more groups with whom they establish a fairly obvious (often superficial) commonality in order to fight another group they’re actively scapegoating or more severely exploiting. Basically, the ruling class throws them a bone so they won’t attack them and instead rewards them for attacking others. Eventually normalization and socialization sets in and the group they cozy up to will start believing they actually do have some real connection with the people in power. They form an (often unconscious) agreement to team up against the othered group. This involves diverting hard labor, undesireable land, environmental externalities and other stuff everyone wants to avoid to this other group. This realignment transformed the labor force of early America. The group most likely to suffer the harshest conditions transitioned from being English people in indentured servitude to enslaved Africans.

It’s crucial to be aware of this tactic because when you’re the one being subsumed it’s very hard to see, especially given enough time and precedent. However, it’s usually painfully obvious to the othered group. Another thing to be aware of is that there were very specific reasons for these divisions rooted in material conditions of labor, land, and power. Contrary to “colorblind” neoliberal narratives painting race as arbitrary and those who fell into racism as being stupid or uniquely, irrationally awful, it was deeply embedded into all levels of society by those in power to serve specific political and economic purposes. The social aspects of it simply laddered up to those bigger purposes. This is why those trying to get to the root of it talk more about capitalism and class and “structural” or “systemic” problems.

It’s also important to note that these alignments and who has it better or worse are fluid and are liable to shift in response to changing geopolitical or economic conditions or shifts in culture. Racial alignments have been in flux since the movements of the 1960s and the end of de jure racism. De Jure racism is enforced by law and policy as opposed to de facto racism which is due to socialization. But the self-identification of being white has been incredibly persistent, even as it has become increasingly perceived negatively. Why is that?

The coalition emerges out of your recognition that it’s fucked up for you, in the same way that we’ve already recognized that it’s fucked up for us. I don’t need your help. I just need you to recognize that this shit is killing you, too, however much more softly, you stupid motherfucker, you know?

– Fred Moten

I believe the persistence of white identity happens for a few reasons. But it might help to use language divorced from race to see the underlying dynamics at play. That way it’s easier to identify true alternatives and not just a new twist on the same old thing. It’s also not as triggering.

So instead of “white” it might be more helpful to say something like “hegemonic culture”. This is the result of the ruling class’s manipulation of a society’s values so that the ruling class perspective becomes the world view of that society. Elites in power translate their view of how the world works to everyday people in a way that’s resonant but still ultimately benefits elites. Through control of government, laws, education, commerce, media, urban planning, etc., this watered down and recontextualized elite perspective just becomes normal. There are lots of examples of this. There’s the prioritization, protection, and hoarding of private property as opposed to public or commons. There’s the demonization of government paired with the private usurpation of its powers. There’s the primacy of consumerism, individualism, competition, and branding – even self-branding. There’s the way history is primarily about military leadership, focusing on the empires of Greece, Rome and Britain as “our” cultural precedents. There are gender roles which rationalize control and justifies unpaid or low-paid labor. The list goes on. It’s also important to note the imperative for domination in hegemony. Hegemony is not a network of diverse peoples, but a forced adoption of the sensibility of those in power. Our success as average people depends on assimilation and getting with the program, not living according to our own values and preferences. And when history and culture reinforce domination-based societies, it makes them seem inevitable. It becomes hard to picture a pluralistic group of different ethnicities, cultures or tribes who co-exist, co-ordinate, trade, etc. – which has definitely been the case in different times and places. Instead, we can only manage to picture a different group on top, or a more superficially diverse hegemony. This leads to more anxiety and competition as we try to be on top – or give ourselves compelling stories as to why we aren’t there yet.

In the present day, hegemonic culture is often reflected in the culture of the middle class or professional class. These are segments seen as valuable in their numbers as well as their capacity as consumers, workers, and likely voters. They are more strategic to subsume and thus they are targets for most messaging and economic activity. Inclusion or identification with hegemony is fluid. You can be of any race and be in these classes. You can make it in as a newer immigrant. This can totally change your orientation and survivorship bias can set in. Or you can lose your privileges based on a number of factors or change in conditions and your consciousness shifts to see how things really are. Or you can pass within it and get by, even if you see some of its more brutal workings. Each person’s life has its unique place within macro forces. Racial identity can roughly correlate with inclusion and prosperity, but it’s not strictly determinist for every individual.

Most people don’t think about stuff like “hegemony”. We go about our days at work or at home or in relationships trying to get our immediate needs met – food on the table, roof over our heads, a date on Friday night. But we are constantly picking up stories and sense-making from stuff around us. This is increasingly through corporate-owned media conglomerates or big social media platforms as opposed to local media or first-hand experience. Or it comes from social groups or the leadership in your workplace. Young people pick up ideas from school. And to get picked up, this info also has to sound legitimate or at least familiar. It’s gotta resonate with one’s values, interests, or things you’ve heard before (which is why education is always a high-leverage battleground for ideas). In the U.S., values get simplified and channelled into two broad ideological categories that correlate with the two major political parties – conservative and liberal. As different as they purport to be, both are constantly pulled towards elite interests, both take race and white identity at face value, as reality, though with different connotations.

The conservative believes more explicitly in hegemony and that they are firmly within it. In a dog-eat-dog world they’d rather be the top dog. Identification with current or historic power is a matter of self-preservation and to be against that is either an absurd embrace of weakness or empty rhetoric to manipulate weak people. As the name conservative suggests, they are more bought into an older story of the hegemony rooted in traditional race and gender hierarchies. Winners on top identify with “lessers” though shared values. So it might resonate with people of any race or gender who believe in the inevitability of domination, the importance of clear order and a respectability in being straightforward and facing reality. They are ok with autocratic rule because either it reflects their values or upbringing, or they’re convinced they’ll one day be among the rulers. They aspire to prevail physically or financially against other people or the environment. Even if they don’t win, they’ll accept a loss to their betters as it is within the natural order of things. To their credit, they often have a more fundamental understanding of power and a direct relationship with self-interest (even if it may be short-sighted or extremely optimistic).

Modern liberalism on the other hand seems to be rooted in the idea of “noblesse oblige”, which implied that with privilege comes responsibility. Liberal elites believe the way to legitimize your high position is not through force, but to be seen as a noble person who does good works. They look down on brutality and vulgarity. However, they take their high position as a given. They embrace prevailing hierarchical systems, especially in regard to the accrual and protection of private property, and show no intention of significant material change or sacrifice. Service is something to bestow, often with condescension and unawareness, without true empathy or solidarity, and in a way that reinforces one’s superior position. The nature of service is only subject to prevailing norms. While there are vague gestures towards progress or freedom, there are no deeper, fixed ideas about how to achieve a truly equitable society or what that might look like. Instead, phrases and fragments are often a mixed bag pinched from folks who are actually thinking about it combined with their own intuitive impulses driven by self-interest. This process of selecting and altering ideas to reinforce the establishment, even those seemingly critical of the establishment, is called elite capture. Dependent on these new-sounding ideas and being adaptable to the zeitgeist, liberals see creative and thoughtful people not as weak or threatening, but entertaining or useful. So morality is a game that boils down to one rule – be less bad than the other guy. Retain enough wealth, power and position to be comfortable while also taking the moral high ground. In this way they connect with their “lessers” on the general inclination of wanting to do good, generally being open to progress, speaking to those basic values you learn as a child, while remaining pretty vague (and likely uninterested) as to how to go about it. Since this game is defined by keeping some kind of balance between obscured self-interest and the outward perception of goodness, modern-day average people without much financial capital, socialized by decades of neoliberalism, become fractured – simultaneously driven to ambition, hyper-competition and individualism but told to distrust self-interest and power of any kind. This can result in political impotence and an intense focus on perception and radical rhetoric, and accruing and maintaining social capital.

The genteel elites may also believe in a dog-eat-dog world when it comes down to it and will reach for the stick if the carrot stops working (though best hidden or taken offshore, not like the brutal displays conservatives seem to crave), but there’s more of a complicated etiquette about it. When their own interests are threatened, they often fall back on solidarity with the conservative elites of their class and depict the radicals they previously pinched from as brutish, naive or unreasonable rabble rousers that need disciplining. You can sometimes see this impulse behind calls for civility, bipartisanship, listening to reason, considering both sides, pointing out the respectability of fellow (supposedly oppositional) elites, and generally facing reality and getting with the program.

Conservatives and liberal elites can be contrasted with pluralistic democratic visions that see all as equals trying to figure out how to best get our needs met, live in dignity, and allow others to do the same. There are those that truly grapple with what a society that centers fairness and care looks like and how to get there. They believe change happens not through domination from above but by talking to other people and organizing something different together. They realize inordinate hoarding of control or wealth by one comes directly at the expense of others. They craft strong egalitarian structures not because they’re better than everyone else, but knowing they’re fallible and likely to drift into lazy patterns of domination and exclusion without them. This vision, judging from how often elites co-opt it, seems like the option many people long for, or at least would be fine with (or at worst need to come to grips with). But being busy people trying to get our needs met, we’re susceptible to the gravitational pull of compelling narratives and structures the two camps of elites create with their vast resources and self-interest. 

The US Census of 1890 got obsessed with purity, reflecting the time. A half-baked absurd mishmash, race becomes real through forms like this.

Both conservative and liberal elite perspectives have approaches to race that fall in line with the rest of their thinking. For conservatives, race is real and being white means belonging, entitlement, or superiority. It enables a kind of winner-take-all freedom where I can tell you what to do, but you can’t tell me what to do. For liberals, it’s about being a good person, being anti-racist – which can sometimes be a vague modifier disconnected from any specific material demands. It’s about appearing smarter or more moral or caring that the other guy while holding onto whatever you can. There’s still the underlying feeling that race is inevitable, that race is real, even if we feel bad about it, read NY Times bestsellers about it, and theoretically, passively long for something better. 

So both sides are firmly rooted in race and traditional structures, not nearly as far apart as you’d think by the look of U.S. political discourse these days. It’s more a difference in style or culture. That said, the liberal orientation can be more open to influence from radical democratic ideas. After all, if they completely lose the appearance of affinity there, they lose the coalition that gives them power.

But radicals are also more open to influence from liberal ideas, especially when couched in their own phrases, undetectably reconstructed in ways that make them more compatible with the establishment. This is why I believe the elite liberal perspective needs much more scrutiny. It’s the one many of us fumble towards as we sense we need to do better. But it produces a more subtle, convoluted brutality that can be hard to put words around or inoculate yourself from or know when its counter-productive. It’s the invisible subsumption we fall for when we try to do good. It’s killing us too, however more softly. Though previously embraced by both parties, especially when culture was pushed much farther to the left in the 1960s and 70s, Democratic Party leadership are currently the biggest perpetuators of noblesse oblige. This happens via massive investment in comms, media, think tanks, policy positions (or lack thereof) and non-profit or NGO projects dependent on their same elite donors. They are one of the most influential forces on leftish populist discourse – forever using it to bolster domination in new ways. 

Instead of casting off the totally-made-up identity of the white race entirely, the liberal mindset clings to it as if it’s real and inevitable, like the system it was invented for. As such, racialized white folks are still encouraged to identify with elites. This is most obvious with privilege discourse. Invoking privilege can be a way for elites to discipline working class white people. When unexamined and replicated, it in turn becomes a way for working class whites to police and shame (and further trap, immobilize and divide) each other. This interminable focus on being entitled and perpetuating hegemony (elite/dominator thinking), even if it’s full of guilt and lamentation, ultimately reinforces it. The essentializing of race precludes escape and change. It keeps us identifying with elites, believing we are inherently different from each other and better than the riff-raff around us. The dynamics of division, authoritarianism, condescension, and top-down or mobbish thinking runs rampant in communities seemingly dedicated to the opposite. The game of being seen as better than the other guy becomes an obsessive individualist pursuit. Racial lines are still there, though they have shifted a bit from that of conservatives to adapt to leftist discourse. The “us” are smart, accomplished, professionalized, logical liberals of the meritocracy, the “them” are ignorant, tacky right-wingers – a group from which we can derive no end of libidinal self-satisfaction in hating and trying to banish from our lives. There are also more subtle divisions in the deference from us privileged white people towards marginalized people of color, perhaps in our same middle/creative/professionalized classes. And further down are the poor (non-white) unfortunates who don’t have the capacity to make it in this system and are worthy of pity and charity. While superficially in allyship, this framing reinforces hierarchical, savior, and binary mindsets and significantly hinders forging true empathy, authenticity, human connection, and solidarity. It grasps for ever-more radical language and intricate performance while holding onto division, anger and fear – delivering ever-diminishing returns.

Contrast all of this with a pluralist vision that looks beyond race and towards a democratic society. This is not just about appearing better, but organizing and constructing something that actually is materially better. People have distinct ethnicities and cultural affinities but can reject fixed racial categorization imposed from above. Their backgrounds may or may not correlate with their values, temperament or orientation towards hegemony. And what anyone feels about race in the abstract or what they post about on social media is ultimately inconsequential. It’s more about looking at how much democratic power and ownership we have in the communities and institutions we’re in, how much say we have in systems that affect us, and how to make sure everyone gets their basic needs met. The self-interest that drives us is not the delusion that we can safely make it into the upper echelons of the ruling class and that our privilege will protect us, but the knowledge that we’re likely next on the chopping block in a deeply inhumane system driven by neurotic logic. The natural limits to hoarding or being a total dick is accountability to an actual community of people you see or talk to day-to-day with the capacity to support you when you’re in need, not a hypothetical one invoked by strangers on the internet who only pay attention to you when you fuck up. When you establish empathy and commonality first, it is way easier to bridge differences and inequities in a natural, productive, even enthusiastic way. Drawing inordinate attention to superficial difference or commonality is the impulse of elite conquerors, which unfortunately often resonates with those of us who associate our trauma with identity.

The US Census of 2010 adds nuance and options, but White remains – standing in for hundreds of countries and distinct ethnic identities.

But back to census surveys. That is where, in a few words, we make sense of our place in the U.S. – of all this obscured, convoluted history and all our messy fears and insecurities. It’s one of those times, perhaps increasingly common as things fall apart, where we make a choice – which side are you on? “White” has come to mean dominator. Yes, it has become demonized and put into contention, but with good reason. The problem is not that “white” now infers something bad, it’s that we continue to identify with it. None of us are inherently white. We can indeed choose not to be white. In fact some African-American thinkers seem to have been waiting for us to wake up and realize this for decades – if not centuries! This choice is unclear because most evolution and organizing on race has been led by non-white people likely uninterested and perhaps uncomfortable with figuring out other peoples’ identity for them. So most racial narrative for white people is constructed by elites who have very different interests and sensibilities.

We know early Americans from Africa had their specific ethnicities erased and were racialized as Black or Negro or Colored. As such, they may take pride in the resilience of their new forged identity as Black, or reference their original ethnic and geographic origin as African-American. Whatever anyone calls themselves, as is true with any group, is ultimately up to them both as individuals and as organized movements.

My interest is specifically in redefining “white people”, the most racialized of all. That is the identity that is most often put on me and one I have been prompted to grasp for, if somewhat ambivalently. The place we have to do it explicitly is on demographic forms. These questionnaires are instruments of the state or establishment institutions where race becomes most real as a self-identifier – where we become white. Ironically, with more awareness of identity and diversity these calls to explicitly identify as white are becoming more common – and more awkward. Race is getting entrenched in surveys and event sign-ups in progressive organizations I’d expect to reject it. These should instead be opportunities to question the legitimacy of race, if not abolish it altogether.

This survey from the Allied Media Conference stands out in that it focuses not on traditional demographic categories, but dimensions and identities that they want to include or serve. It also allows people to self-identify or refuse to identify.

So what defines white people if it’s not skin color or ancestry? This changes over time. Sometimes it’s just a euphemism for people identifying with or acting from a place of hegemonic inclusion – the “us” in us vs. them. It meant you got in, you made it. Any white pride was either manufactured by thought leader bootlicking elites for personal gain (ie. eugenics and purity-based census questions) or was just bought and appropriated (ie. talented artists or thinkers of European descent patronized by the wealthy). In that regard, it makes sense that people have wanted to pass as white to be included. 

However, it has also come to mean a legacy of entitlement that’s true to its origin – average people acting like elite superiors who think they own everything and can tell everyone else what to do. A “Karen” isn’t literally any middle-age woman of European descent. Well, it could be, you can’t account for every inarticulate person on the internet. But usually it means anyone who can’t resolve a conflict in a reasonable way and instead calls in some outside muscle or authority to settle it in a way that reinforces their entitlement via domination. And perhaps there’s a venn diagram of class, race, age, and gender among people more commonly socialized to do that. But white can be similarly fluid – more about socialization, mindset or comportment than skin or hair. The phrase “acting white” applied to people of color can sometimes get at this idea. Or sometimes it’s just bitter and lazy. None of these phrases are applied with uniform intention or insight.

The original architects of hegemony were wealthy English or European colonists, monarchists, and imperialists. So when people say “whiteness” or “white supremacy” I see it as referring specifically to values, attitudes, tastes, and practices of this ruling class who built systems based on colonization, labor exploitation, resource extraction and domination. If someone legitimately wants to identify with that, they can certainly call themselves white. If someone is grappling with an actual family history rooted in that or current conditions of actual significant wealth and privilege, they might call themselves white. But there needs to be other options for people who don’t come from wealth and domination or are looking for a path forward. 

Many, many people think the white race is a real thing based on your skin color or ethnic heritage that you have no control over. They associate it with healthy, legitimate, ancestral sources of pride. I reckon this confusion causes a vast majority of the tension and disconnect in talking about race, whiteness, and white supremacy. And then we yell at people when they don’t get it. Given centuries of daily socialization and normalization – how can most people not not get it?! Before beating people up with nomenclature, it would help to get clarity on where people are coming from.

While a huge factor in this confusion is co-option of nuanced radical rhetoric, we’re stuck with words. So we have to try for more authentic communication in plainer language. As such, I propose a solve. A way to clarify this distinction is to literally have a neutral term for people that either you don’t know or you know aren’t white supremacist. Otherwise it feels like the only non-academics reading critical theory are conservatives, redefining and spreading it for their own ends. 

So if we aren’t white or don’t aspire to be white, what are we? A place to start is “European-American” or Euro-American. We often come from a legitimate ancestry – Jewish, Italian, Swedish, Sami, Scottish, Croatian. Some who have lost their ethnic origins claim lineage with European-American radicals of American history like John Brown or Anne Braden. In my opinion, none of that is white. An Asian-American can be from Korea, a European-American can be from Ireland. This basic step of reintegration can be a reset to orient to a different kind of culture that puts us all on similar footing. On surveys this term should be an alternative or replacement for “white” so that it stops being a default we slip into without our conscious knowledge. It isn’t healthy to cling to some weird disconnected construction that was created to divide and subjugate.

In more liberal spaces we are currently incentivized to identify as a (guilty) dominator or whatever marginalized status we can cling to so that we can be seen as worthy of care or inclusion. But we are all worthy of care, humanity, and belonging and need a self-image with room for that. There must be a vision of places different people can co-exist and just be themselves, even if not everyone is ready to go there yet, or be there all of the time. It is crucial to get a clear, positive, self-identity to ground yourself in order to work in solidarity alongside (not above or below) others. It is important for everyone to acknowledge ancestors and connect with one’s true history. We cannot grapple with race if we cannot even see a place beyond it. We all need a path to grow into humanity and disengage from being conduits for a bad system. 

So my call to action is very specific. Normalize the term “European-American” as a catch-all, or reclaim our more specific authentic ancestry or identity outside of race/ethnicity as others do. Use it in your surveys and in your style guides if you work as a communication professional. Don’t keep using a terrible PR invention from over 300 years ago and continue to perpetuate its agenda. “White” is not a neutral term. Why radicals would knowingly self-identify that way or put it on fellow leftists is bewildering. The way liberal self-identified white males use “white male” to discipline others who fail their ideological purity test seems like illogical mental gymnastics or unproductive self-loathing. That said, I’ve totally used it myself out of habit. When we’re frustrated and confused and overwhelmed, we grab for what’s there. So we need more constructive, precise words within reach. Each of us need to get clearer about our own unique position in capitalism and what perspectives and contributions we can bring. We can’t defer to everyone else to figure out who we are.

That said, this is not an easy solve. This nuance might seem silly to conservatives – like more politically correct language noodling. And liberal-influenced leftists might see it as avoidance of accountability instead of the forced elite identification it is. Again, it is in dominator’s interest to spread the identification and shame of domination around to normalize it and avoid specific material accountability or sacrifice. The fact that it’s a ingrained habit that’s awkward to break is a sign of its enduring success. The more people still identify as white either to acknowledge blame and shame upon themselves (on the liberal side) or take attacks as personal and direct their anger to those demanding repair (on the conservative side), the more we stay stuck. The co-opted or trauma-driven culture of rigid radicalism makes reconciliation and transition much more difficult than it already is. Systemic change and transition means bringing safety and hope to what inherently requires vulnerability, risk, discomfort and sacrifice. The brutality and shame common in social change spaces is antithetical to solidarity, forward momentum and growth. And for elite influencers, even if it’s subconscious, that’s exactly the point.

This questioning of the white identity isn’t new. It was most prominently raised by activists like Noel Ignatiev who called for the abolition of the white race in service of cross-cultural solidarity. His rhetoric was radical, full of boring things like politics and history and he’s commonly referenced in conservative blogs in typical bad faith as a terrorist who wanted to literally kill all white people. 

But now elites even embrace talk about whiteness. It’s been so disconnected from economics, power, and organizing that most people alive now don’t remember a time when that kind of radical rhetoric invoked common cause to rise up against them. So we now double down on white identity and define racism as an interpersonal problem among average people. In doing so we bolster the guilt, confusion, inaction, isolation and condescending sense of superiority endemic to the neoliberal capitalist psyche. We need to push back on this co-option and create space to clarify the original purpose of interrogating race.

a new approach

This is not calling for language policing. It’s just a proposed possibility, perhaps a tool for clarity. Even if people were to use new terms that reference geography or culture, it would take time before it’s common. It goes against the sensibilities driving race discourse these days. And will white supremacists co-opt references to European heritage for recruitment? They already have for centuries. So we need to be prepared for critical thinking to make space for those who are celebrating legitimate healthy practices (family lineage, music or food traditions, earth-based religions) while recognizing those who dog whistle dominator culture, and leave room for the possibility that there are a lot of confused people that may be doing both. The only answer we’ll ever have for capture, co-option and recuperation is discernment, innoculation, deep organizing and authentic relationship building. We need to make space to include, not rush to banish. 

There needs to be some vision of a place beyond white hegemony and more precise language to help us get there. Racism isn’t just judging people negatively or thinking someone is inferior because of their race – it’s the very belief that race is real. The effects of racism are real, but we need a way through it. This is the real work, but we will never get to it if we’re drowning in the self-absorbed mental make-work of liberal elites or the hierarchical divide-and-conquer habits of conservative ones. White is over if you want it.

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