My disbelief and astonishment at Kavanaugh’s advancement seems silly now. It’s clear now that my perspective before Kavanaugh was directly tied to my whiteness. It’s the whiteness that gave me privilege—and blinders.
I say this as a white woman who has already done a fair amount of work on understanding white privilege—as someone who has studied history and actively worked on grassroots engagement and advocacy on issues including environmental racism, racial justice, and immigration and detention. As white people go, I’m more woke than most. But still…the blinders were real.
The Kavanaugh episode showed me that the people in power in our government—people who are mostly white and mostly men and mostly wealthy—are not just indifferent to me and the issues and the people I care about. They don’t just have different starting perspectives about what’s best for our country, and they aren’t just swayed or blinded by connections with political party, big money, and corporations.
No. The mostly white, mostly male, and mostly wealthy people in power are actively opposed to me and the issues and the people I care about.They are intentional in their disregard and dismissal. They hear us but have chosen to sideline, belittle, and mock. We are not the people they are there to represent. For them, “we the people” means white, wealthy men (and sometimes the white women who are attached to white, wealthy men).
The past couple of weeks for me have been a journey of broken pain and howling rage, culminating in a mourning experience of sackcloth and ashes proportions. But I can’t stay there. As angry and exhausted as I am, I see that I am not safe—and I fear for our future.
As painful as this awakening has been, I am glad to know where I really stand. And standing here now, I see more clearly the people who have been standing here all along: black Americans, Latinx Americans, and Native Americans. As much as white women might feel on the outs right now, communities of color have known all along that our government is not for them—that, in fact, it is actively opposed to them.
If we white people would listen—really listen—we could learn a lot from our brothers and sisters of color. They’ve been fighting this fight their whole lives, for generations—for as long as white people have been in this land.
If you are trying to transform a brutalized society into one where people can live in dignity and hope, you begin with the empowering of the most powerless. You build from the ground up. –Adrienne Rich
For me, the way forward is clear. We’re in the fight of our lives, and we need to be in it together: white and black, Latinx and Native American, Muslim and Jew, LGBTQ and immigrant. The forces in power are too strong and entrenched for any one group to fight alone. But working together, we can make this land more free and more just for us all.
That said, it’s gonna be hard, y’all. It’s going to take everything we’ve got. And the progress? It will be slow and hard to see, most of the time. If there’s any good news, it’s this: we have the opportunity now to learn, stretch, and grow—and build a multi-faceted beloved community such as the world has never seen. There’s real hope in that.