August 29, 2014   |   Alissa Kokkins
Alissa Kokkins | The Anti-Media
I am a racist. Not a white hood and robe wearing KKK racist. Nor a shaved head, swastika loving, Dr. Martens with red laces, neo-Nazi racist. I am a woman who walks through this world living the white experience of power/privilege plus prejudice, racist.
Confronting the internalized racism embedded in my soul as a mostly white American has not been easy, comfortable or enjoyable. It has been a long arduous road filled with denial, pain, disappointment, self-critique, education, self-hatred, shame, deconstruction and growth. To this day, oppressive language and actions stumble out my being no matter how hard I try or aware I believe I am. It is the unavoidable reality of the white experience in a white supremacist society. Even in this very piece, there will undoubtedly be something overlooked, phrased wrong, over simplified and so on – that reveals the racism that comes with bearing the preferred skin pigmentation of our empire. This is one of many symptoms of my individual racism and white privilege.
Whether I like it or not (which I don’t), I have to accept the fact that I am racist if I want to end racism. All white people do. Racism being bred into us via our environment, media and culture is not right and will never be. But it is the reality of the white supremacist society we were born into. And for those who don’t want another Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford III or any of the too many names to list people of color murdered, to die, you too have to accept this. Because the only society where their murders would be deemed unacceptable by the people at large is a not post-racial, but a post-racism America.
The deconstruction of structural racism and white privilege is a never-ending onion that forever peels back to reveal itself. Even now as I write this a few miles from Ferguson, MO, I am still discovering racism embedded in me. A couple of weeks ago when I was asked to help organize a hands up march in Los Angeles for Ezell Ford, Omar Abrego, Mike Brown and all victims of killer cops, I almost said no. Why? I generally avoided organizing against racist, killer cops. Not just because the gravity of dealing with senseless death hurts my heart in ways that cannot be verbalized, but also because my white skin is the exception, not the rule, in this struggle. Instead, I primarily left organizers of color to do the tough job that I did not want to take on.
Another layer of the onion unravels; I was not doing what I could do because I did not have to. Or so I thought. Although I nor anyone in my blood family lives in fear of being shot while unarmed like Ezell, Omar and Mike, the reality is, white people and especially white allies are an important component in the struggle to end racism. It is through our actions, silence, apathy, cognitive dissonance and complacency that white supremacy is upheld.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is white people who slowly kill people of color every time we do not call out racist actions, comments, jokes, and microaggressions. Especially, when there is a chance to do so in the place they are most prevalent: all white spaces. A space that actually presents an opportunity for real talk with fellow white people about the racism we individually and collectively perpetrate. With flaws and bizarre questions on display, this is the safest space for white people to get uncomfortable and confront racism in without causing further harm to those who experience racism every day. Not to be confused with denying racism when the subject of racism is brought up in non-all white spaces; that behavior is racist. But by calling out and discussing racism, the only place white people can go in that moment is one step closer to the vaccine that will forever rid this world of the racist disease permeating out of our white bodies.
Seemingly a small thing, this is where racism starts. It is how racism slowly etched itself into our culture and first became ingrained into once untainted white beings. And when you stack the thousands of racist incidents happening this very moment, they are like an army of needles pricking the skin of people of color. Each prick dehumanizing entire races. In ten minutes, a thousand more pricks. By the end of the month, a million small holes are inflicted. Until, that little prick you silently let pass by adds up to so much pain that tear gas is flying down the burning streets of Ferguson and cries to put an end to racism in America are sounding around the world.
The ongoing stereotyping and dehumanization of people of color that structural racism perpetrates is what informs institutional racism. The deadly combination of which is what allowed Ezell Ford, Mike Brown and Omar Abrego to die not once but twice. After being physically murdered, the three mens’ characters were then assassinated by police and the mainstream media. Ferguson police portrayed Mike Brown as a cigar thief despite the store never calling the police while many media outlets still continue to explore if Brown has gang affiliations. As if any of this justifies his murder.
Police claim that the coroner’s report says that Omar Abrego, who died after being beaten by police for ten minutes as seen in this video, was “combative and confused with acute cocaine intoxication” and driving an Amtrak truck even though “he did not work there.” After Ezell Ford was shot in the back three times while unarmed, LAPD released a statement after the killing, stating: “It is unknown if the suspect has any gang affiliations.” If it is unknown, then why is this included in LAPD’s statement? It is unknown if Ford liked cheese on a burger, but I don’t see that mentioned.
Atop that, when Ford’s mourning cousin, Ceebo Tha Rapper put out a music video titled “Fuck tha Police” to honor and call for justice for Ezell, LAPD put out a citywide alert that accused the rapper of using the video to call for revenge and made accusations of gang affiliations. In the wake of his cousin’s death, Ceebo was then paraded and shamed by the press. The music video is seemingly mild compared to the songs white artists, such as MDC’s Millions of Dead Cops, have made without causing citywide alerts or public shaming. Hear more about this from Ceebo himself in this exclusive interview.
With claims that all three men are guilty, police then proceeded to withhold the autopsy reports and names of the officers who killed not one, but all three men. To this day, the autopsy reports and names of the killers of Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego have not been released. However, last night, Jasmine Cannick, one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, leaked the names of the two cops who she claims killed Ezell Ford. Unarmed killings, withholding of evidence, and desecration of the dead, inflicted on the THREE families whose loved ones were killed by police, would never, EVER, be accepted in this country if these men had been white. Never. Let alone all occurring within the same two weeks. Travesties all made possible by racism.
“We need to come together and stop fighting each other because you’re African American, or Latino. Police are doing this to Latinos and African Americans, they aren’t doing this to white people.”
– Yanelly Abrego, Sister of Omar Abrego
Does this mean you need to organize a hands up rally to end racism? No. Even I am still critiquing and deconstructing my own position on playing the roll of organizer. Especially, since I, like many white people there, put my hands up and chanted: “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” Ignoring a quiet voice in my head that said, “White people should be screaming ‘hands up’, while people of color put their hands up and chant back ‘don’t shoot’.” Which is a more accurate representation of the dynamics of our society. Similar to #IAmNotTrayvonMartin, various critiques and social media posts are now emerging about how uncomfortable people are seeing white people put their hands up, chanting the final words of Michael Brown. Why? Because white people are not and have never been Michael Brown.
Time and time again, I have heard from people in St. Louis that what is most needed and desired from white allies is not the organization of rallies (although attendance is appreciated), but for white people to confront racism in their selves, families, and communities. Of course, this is uncomfortable and takes courage. But it is not half as frightening as the realities portrayed in the video below that people of color must live as an “other” in America.
Compared to experiencing racism, confronting racism is a walk on the beach with a slight chill and hazy sunset. A walk that gets easier the more you do it and with the more company you have along the way.
White people have allowed white supremacy to reign supreme in America; and it is our job to smash racism. Not the duty of people of color who suffer the consequences of our individual and collective negligence. Racism in America begins and ends with white people. An ending white people have owed to those who suffer from the epidemic that is racism for four hundred plus years.
A better world eagerly waits for the final dawn of this racist society; a beautiful world where freedom and liberation are not just words, but a tangible reality for every single humyn being we walk amongst. But to walk upon her untainted surface, white people must embark together on a fight that requires many small steps. Small steps that will become jumps and leaps the more we confront personal and collective racism.
White people have an opportunity to stand on the right side of history. If we do it now, forty years from now our children will be able to live in a post-racism America. A society that I cannot fabricate in my mind because this one is so mired with oppression that the public execution of men of color without consequence has become the new normal. Like an addict fighting for sobriety, the first step to ending racism is admitting there is a problem. If you are ready to do it, pull up your bootstraps and let’s get uncomfortable, white people. Ready? Say it with me, “Hi, my name is ___________ and I am a racist.”
See? That wasn’t so bad. Now go out and change the world.
To find out more about you can do to end racism, please continue to educate yourself and your white peers about racism and the true history of society. If you would like to show monetary love, please donate to the memorial fund for Ezell Ford.