Our Creation Myth
This is not an excuse.
The views voiced by the Columbia University student shouldn’t surprise us. We read them in our textbooks and see them in our media. We legislate them in our politics. We mythologize them in the stories we tell. Our creation myth, as told by whites. White people built this country, made it great. A great country, a great people. Our country, we’re told. Our people. The best country. The best people. For many, the only people.
We hear these proclamations in today’s White House, but they’ve echoed in those halls before. Theirs is a long, long history.
This is not an excuse. This is an owning up.
Representation matters, and what is represented in the United States is whiteness. What is represented is a reflection of what matters, and what is represented in the United States is whiteness. In the United States, white lives matter.
They don’t feel much like your textbooks if you are systematically removed, your stories left untold, or partially told, or falsely told. The Discovery of the New World. The Lost Cause. Freedom. Liberty and Justice for All.
It doesn’t feel much like your media when all that you see and hear are false, harmful stereotypes perpetuating the systemic injustice assailing you daily, as much a part of your life as the air you breathe. Racism. Sexism. When you’re told by the people who hurt you that they aren’t hurting you, that you aren’t hurting, stop complaining, be grateful, that you’re the problem, that you’re hurting them.
They don’t feel much like your politics when Justice is anything but blind. When justice is meted out or withheld according to a multi-tier system, where your beginning is your end, your birth already condemning you to die at the bottom, than it is not Justice. The gap between top and bottom is an uncrossable void your accomplishments will not bridge. Freedom poisoned from the start is not freedom.
Our creation myth is Hollywood heroics. Your creation myth is rape, chains, and genocide. Broken bodies and broken lives. Colonialism. Capitalism. Imperialism. This is not myth.
“We don’t see color.” “Race isn’t important.” “Don’t tread on my meritocracy.”
This is not an excuse. This is an owning up. This is a condemnation.
Our creation myth is also rape, chains, and genocide. Broken bodies and broken lives. Colonialism. Capitalism. Imperialism.
What drives the United States, what has always driven the United States, is white supremacy, the unspoken normalization of whiteness (ideas, ideals, and identity), the invisible benchmark against which and by whose metrics all else is measured and must fail. This system is rigged, and we’re all immersed within the system, enrolled at birth and without the option of opting out.
The systemic centering of whiteness is a contrivance, a con’s rationalization for retaining unfairly seized political, economic, and cultural advantage. Race is a social construction, a means for exploiting others. Whiteness is likewise a social construction, conjured into being through similar machinations and wielded to bring about similar ends. Both concepts justify oppression and moral corruption. Both concepts justify life and death. This is “blame the victim,” deadly and carried out on a massive scale.
Labeling individuals as “white supremacists” without acknowledging how our social, political, and economic systems are mediated along racial lines, allows the pointing of fingers, the dodging of responsibility. “It’s them, not us.”
The Columbia University student is a manifestation of the underlying problem. We are part of the underlying problem. It is long past the time that we as whites must divest from this system of unearned, unexamined privilege.
This is not an excuse. This is an owning up. This is a condemnation. This is an affirmation that we need to do better. We need to do good.