By Jonny Teklit || Contributing Writer and Alum ‘20
Hello, everyone. Jonny here with another installment of me whittling down my rage into something that resembles language so I can say something that is, I think, a necessary message for our lovely PWI. What I have to say is not new. People before me have said it and said it better, but it is worth underscoring nonetheless.
What we saw unfold at the capitol building in D.C. and the surrounding D.C. area, where my friends, family, and I live, on January 6th filled me with anger so potent I could have powered the entire eastern seaboard, drawn my blood, and found a jet of whistling steam. I’m not going to waste time expounding on why. We’ve read the tweets, seen the viral Instagram posts, felt the inescapable gravitational pull of the news updates. No, what had me really stewing was a thought that my brain kept playing on a loop like a vicious song: Whiteness is insatiable.
Sonya Renee Taylor, a renowned writer and speaker, shared a video to her Instagram (@sonyareneetaylor) in November about how “whiteness is a death cult that white people need to get out of,” and that video stuck with me for the way it addressed the lengths whiteness will go to retain its power. That’s the thought I found myself returning to on January 6th, as thousands of white, MAGA-toting insurrectionists stormed the capitol. Consumed with maintaining the illusion of superiority, whiteness will claim everything as its own and kill everything that defies it. Some of its methods are overt, some more subtle, but make no mistake: they are in operation everywhere. The murder of Black people in the streets, in their cars, in their homes, in stores, and in places of worship is the hand of whiteness at work. Mass and unmitigated exploitation of the earth for its resources at the expense of the nations and peoples of the global south is the hand of whiteness at work. The sheer concept of people as illegal or aliens is the hand of whiteness at work. The grip fraternities have on college campuses, along with the rampant and innumerable examples of sexual assault, abuse, possessiveness, and entitlement that all Greek Life perpetrates or willingly endorses is the hand of whiteness at work. The idea of knowledge being a commodity that can be given to some and restricted to others is the hand of whiteness at work. Police are the hand of whiteness. Prisons are the hand of whiteness. Imperialism, colonialism, the supplanting—and consequent erasure—of other religions to advance the Christian evangelical mission is the hand of whiteness at work. There is nothing, nothing, that can satisfy the bottomless hunger of whiteness.
After all, the only goal of whiteness, in the end, is to uphold the illusion of its own power, its own superiority. It is willing to destroy anything that challenges that illusion, even if that means destroying itself in the process; it is like a snake devouring its own tail. The death cult of whiteness and white supremacy would rather give its own members the sweet red drink laced with poison than reveal itself as a lie. This is what Taylor warns white people of in her video. If you, white people, don’t wake yourself up from the illusion, you’ll find yourself strapped to the sinking ship, misguidedly believing that the world is your enemy, that the world has stolen something from you—like your jobs or your homes or your land or an election—until your misplaced rage and paranoia annihilates you and takes all of us down with you.
If you are white and reading this and you find yourself overcome with white guilt, I must admit I don’t have many words for you. Get over it. Your guilt is not productive nor is it even the point of all of this. You are not responsible for the sins of your forebears, only your own. You mustn’t allow your guilt to stymie you or force your head into the sand. Push beyond it. Interrogate who you are, what you’re left with when the illusion of power is lifted from you. You owe it to yourself and the other white people in your life who you are primed to assist.
That act of interrogating, of internal reckoning, brings me to the words of the titan Toni Morrison. In a 1993 PBS interview, Morrison said the following:
“I take your race away, and there you are, all strung out. And all you got is your little self, and what is that? What are you without your racism? Are you any good? Are you still strong? Are you still smart? Do you still like yourself? These are the questions.”
Ask yourself the questions, white people. Ask them as your life depends on it. Because it does.
Jonny Teklit is an alum of F&M ‘20. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.