The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

You can’t get there from here.

You can’t listen to them.

You can’t take their word for it. You can’t stroll into that midwest diner, ask them what’s up, expect them to know their own souls.

They’re not going to be honest with you. They’re not being honest with themselves. They don’t know how. They don’t have to be. They weren’t raised that way. It’s not the world they were handed.

A world of their unquestioned dominance. A world theirs by birth. Born alpha dog. Born apex predator.

A world that doesn’t exist.

That’s the problem: The world they live in isn’t there. Never has been. Yet they need it to be, so they make up stories about it, about the world that doesn’t exist, and their central place in it.

It’s mass psychosis. The psychosis of a fairy tale. The psychosis of what must be true, even though it manifestly is not. Something’s gotta give when the world you live in isn’t the world that exists. Usually it’s reality that gives. For awhile, anyway. Until it’s too late.

It must have been the Iran hostages when we first understood this, some form of it, anyway, that the world we were living in wasn’t the world really out there. It was played up stateside as an attack on America — America Held Hostage, in Ted Koppel’s despicable phrasing — and maybe it was. An attack on the America that had overthrown Iran’s government and installed the Shah in its place, an attack on the country whose puppet had had his boots on their throats for a generation, since before we were born.

The world we had grown up in was a lie, a lie of freedom and bounty, where the cheap gasoline in our cars was the product of fair trade, and not vicious conquest. If we weren’t understanding why desperate students had stormed our embassy, it was because we preferred not to. It didn’t fit the story, the story in our heads, the story we tell ourselves about our goodness and righteousness.

We were the bad guys. Surprise!

You start down that path, the path of seeing the world for what it is and not what you want it to be, no telling where it will take you. Certainly away from your tribe, that’s for sure.

You can’t listen to them, the white folks in those actual and metaphorical diners, because they don’t see this. They don’t see any of this. Many don’t see anything at all, totally blind to the world they live in, the world around them. All they can do is spin their fantasies, the lies they prefer to the truth.

That’s the psychosis of it. We had a friend in college whose dad was a psychologist who had worked in Chicago with Bruno Bettelheim, who in turn worked with autistic children. They too were withdrawn from reality, withdrawn into themselves, in ways generally recognized, generally understandable. “The Empty Fortress”, Bettelheim called it. Bettelheim’s solution was to play it as it lays, to enter the children’s worlds, greet them inside, draw them out. Our friend’s dad was a frontline psychologist in this approach. You had to abandon everything you knew to meet the children on their own terms, radical empathy as we would understand it now.

The psychologists had their own psychologists. They needed a tether back to reality.

That’s the psychosis of being white in this world, of being untethered from reality because they don’t have to be. Everybody else, they have to deal with us. We’re inescapable. We’re the reality they can’t avoid, day in and out. We have the privilege of pretending otherwise. We have the privilege, should we need it, of pretending they don’t exist at all. Certainly not as our equals, our equivalents. Certainly not as fellow human beings.

We perversely have Donald Trump to thank for bringing all this out into the open, for showing us what’s been obvious to everyone else all along, for bringing white psychosis into high relief. It’s not that we haven’t thought about any of this before, haven’t been thinking about this our entire adult life, but his acid trip of a presidency has made us focus on it with an intensity we’ve never mustered before, to get at the root of it, the reality of the psychosis itself. This is what it is. This is what it comes to. This is the lie that 74,223,744 Americans prefer to the truth.

Trump himself will pass, will fade into our infernal history, but not this. Not until we’re outnumbered on our own soil, anyway, not until other voices break through the ones in our heads. And that’s still a generation off.

8 Comments

The saddest part is that these morons will do anything to keep their power including treason.

See idiot who stole a computer from Pelosi’s office and tried to sell it to the Russians.

<blockquote>You start down that path, the path of seeing the world for what it is and not what you want it to be, no telling where it will take you.</blockquote>

I’m not sure why this sentence makes me uneasy. I used to tell my daughter to “recognize the world as it is and to work towards how you want it to be.” I told her this many times, especially when we had The Talk.

The Talk is when you explain to your child that there are people in this world who will see your brown skin and be certain they know who you are, and they are dangerous.

Ugh – I guess I listen to the last time this president speaks

@JNOV: What you told Junior is the other half: You have to see the world for what it is in order to take it somewhere else. This is a tad different from buying into the fantasy and staying there.

Oh, and the longest I’ve listened to Trump since the 2016 convention is his recent remark bashing Known Asshole Mike Lee.

The supreme irony is that if we actually were a democracy, none of this would’ve happened. Republinazis have ruined the 21st century.
If the Republinazi Supreme Court hadn’t stolen the 2000 election and installed CaliguBush…
If the (s)Electoral College hadn’t stolen the 2016 election and installed Prezinazi AntiChrist…
Imagine how completely different our history would’ve been with competent, sane people in charge.
What sane democracy installs the loser of the election? Both of those catastrophic “presidencies” have brought this country to its knees.
That’s the power of white trash supremacy, and it must be eradicated forever.

@nojo: Yes.

@¡Andrew!: Welp. I think our Republinazi Rep. won’t be running again, and that scares me a bit.

Wow, this is the best and most coherent indictment of whiteness I’ve read in . . . . a while.

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