The Stickiness of Superiority

Hey white folks, can we talk?

If you are on this Rachel Hollis bandwagon (or the next famous white person who offers us public evidence that the system of white dominance is, in fact, still alive and well), I have a few thoughts…

How might our internalized superiority be showing up in our impulse to display outrage?

It might sound like shock and awe directed at the offender, in comments where other folks are discussing, or posts made on your own page or in groups where you frequent. I know I have messed up as big as she has. Haven’t we all? None of us came out unscathed from the system of white dominance that is working on, in, and through us. What if we trade in outrage for something like “ah…I recognize this”? And if we can recognize, we can build skills. And if we happen to be folks who have developed some minutia of skill about addressing those patterns, let’s grab our tools and get to work.

How might our internalized superiority be showing up in our impulse to create distance from her?

This might sound like encouragement to unfollow or statements like “I never liked her”, etc.? What is propelling our fear? Are we worried that we are her and she is us (spoiler: I’m pretty sure that’s a true statement)? Are we worried that someone might see us still engaging her? Might that be the exact places where we are to labor? What feelings come up if we think of her as our grandmother, our mother, our aunt, sister, daughter, niece…………….our family? Attention is finite…who and what do we take our attention off so we can battle her? Who does divide and conquer most benefit?

How might our internalized superiority be showing up in our impulse to slide out the back door and let someone else handle her?

This might sound like “she isn’t worth my time” or “she needs to listen to those she most harmed”. Do we think that watching our people behave in violent ways doesn’t impact us? I know I feel impacted. What if we were to not expect someone else to pick up the pieces of our broken humanity but rather set up our tent in her camp and stay awhile? Who has been in her community? Commenting for years? Aren’t you in exactly the right place for such a time as this? Don’t run. Your voice is needed and necessary. No need to put yourself before Black women if they choose to address her.

Finally, before you get incensed and tell me “but she’s a public figure…she must be held accountable…she’s done this before”…first I’ll refer you back up to thought #1 above…and when you are willing to set outrage down, please note that I did not say to not hold her accountable.

I am very much for public accountability for white folks who live their lives in public view…and particularly for those who gain public attention for modeling a journey to shake ourselves loose from the system of white dominance (myself included).

And I don’t believe that accountability is at its best when it’s paired with isolation.

We are made for relationship and, so far, I’m convinced that innovation and change happens most substantially when we do it together. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times we must quarantine a leader for a time (thank you Adrienne Maree Brown for this learning). But even while they are away from the spotlight and the microphone – inroads can be made or utilized that can work to help that person internalize an understanding of what went wrong, heal, and choose a new way to behave.

The white community needs to establish a standard operating procedure for this that doesn’t hook us right back into our own internalized superiority (thank you Resmaa Menakem for this learning).

As we aim to abolish a system that has hundreds of years of practice I think we are gonna have to get increasingly better at expecting to see patterned behavior, asking where those patterns were installed, heal those entry points, and commit to new ways of behaving (thank you Nanci Luna Jimenez for this learning).

Trying to thread the needle of doing what’s most just while not picking up old weapons is where I’m aiming.

We don’t yet have a lot of practice or credibility in this but I believe we can and must succeed.
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Rebecca Greenidge (she/her)

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