Sunday, February 12, 2017

It’s not about race. It’s about power. [Because history]

Originally published on Medium.

If you feel like “everything is (made to be) about race,” regardless of what angle you’re coming from (living it, sick of it, disagree with it), know that you are right and it is by design. It is not partisan, it is political.

That last sentence: it is not about democrats or republicans, liberals or conservatives, it is about rule, control and strategy. Getting caught in the “this side vs that side” of it is part of the strategy. It creates circular arguments and circular energy because a quick browse through history shows all political parties in this country have always used the tool of race to control resources and power.

Race is also not a black-white binary. That is false. That is also part of the strategy. Another false loop for us to get caught in and to distract our energy. A quick browse through history shows that the tool of race has been used to make policy to extract, re-direct or gain resources from most non-white groups. Not just two or three times. Consistently. One will also find legal battles of people from many races (ethnicities) seeking to be legally white, in order to have access to resources and rights reserved for those who attain that label.

It is also not a pure binary of white and non-white. That is another loop and distraction. Some people who were not white 200 years ago would be white today. People who are white are not immune from the impact of racism. This is another falsehood that keeps us chasing our tails and fighting each other instead of for an equitable society.

It is a tool to reinforce a binary that has little to do with race and everything to do with power and control of resources. This of course has huge implications for outcomes along the lines of race, but is not, at the core, about race. It’s about power and control of resources be all means necessary. Race being a consistently successful tool. Impacting everyone who is not at the center of that power and control of resources. White, non-white or otherwise. I know that’s a fine nuance. I continue to grapple with how to articulate it well.

Race has always been, in this country, a political and economic tool to control power, resources and “social order.” That is how we are where we are today. Immigration bans are not new. They have always been one of the racial tools we use to control power and resources here in the United States.

We are 500+ years into this practice. That leaves us in a place where we are left with some pretty real and devastating results. Entire groups of people who at varying intervals, through various different sets of tools, had cumulative wealth interrupted and re-distributed, suffered cultural setbacks through rhetoric reinforced by courts and law, were victims of government sectioned extermination, were unprotected from targeting by other groups, etc., all impacting the ability to access the American Dream.

This leaves us in a place where generations of people of all backgrounds do not know this long history, are unaware of this pattern and do not understand this construct, only that life looks different for them than it does for others. This is how we end up blaming each other, having little tolerance for each other, blaming ourselves.

This means that even if we started treating everyone equally today, if we treated “race” as the false, malleable construct it is, equity would continue to elude us. The use of the tool of race continues to serve its purpose, the desired results continue to roll out. It is working. It’s on auto-pilot. Pretending it never happened and we’re blind to it will not correct our course. Understanding deeply the playbook and how we have been impacted by it is the only way to a correct diagnosis. A collective and accurate diagnosis is our only hope for a true shift and real evolution.

We are in luck because what we are experiencing right now is impossible to miss or to ignore. The actions are textbook, pre-written, well studied historically.

We also have the opportunity to educate ourselves and each other in a way that has never before been possible (re: modern technology). To learn deeply how these patterns have shaped our individual and cultural group realities. To heal individually, within and across-groups. To bear witness to realities that look nothing like ours. All work necessary to work together against the real force that keeps most of us on this hamster wheel of infighting, blame and disempowerment. This work happens offline, but our online present offers entry-points and expanded exposure that has not previously been part of this historical pattern.

Please do not hear me as saying race does not matter. My point is to get to the root of how it has been used and why it matters, and that understanding how all that correlates to the outcomes so many movements are pushing against is critical to truly turning the tide for good and for real. Understanding it also makes the parallels between movements clear, and movements working together is also critical.

Please also do not hear me saying that other isms do not matter. Gender, sexuality, ablism, mental health, etc have all also been used as tools to control power and resources. No doubt. Of them all, the race construct — because it is made up and therefore fluid and malleable — is the one where the cracks show up the most clearly and is therefore the most stark lens through which to understand the construct. That we feel such a tension between groups and across groups is part of what keeps us putting our energy in the wrong places and keeps the machine going.

Please also do not hear me saying that the pain and hurt of racism and other isms is not real. The realness of that pain drives the search for blame and reason. The cause is all there in our history — and now clear in our present.

I am hopeful that the clarity of today intersected with the information at our fingertips can lead to a long overdue true evolution toward equity.

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