This post is sure to offend some, but this post certainly needed to be written. In the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, and as President Obama’s term winds down, we see many people working to push for their desired candidate, from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump. I don’t share my political views on here, and I don’t see myself doing so in the immediate future, but I will take the time to share my views on something that terrifies me: progressive white liberals. No, I am not talking about all progressive white liberals, as I do understand completely the complications of generalizing. But I do hope to help you understand that not everything progressive is necessarily helping to better our country.
When I speak of my fears, I speak as a young, black woman, but take note that I do not speak for all black people, nor will I claim to speak for everyone. With this presidential campaign being the first one that I can legally vote for, I find myself immersed in casual talks of politics, on campus, online, with friends, family, and acquaintances. At this rate, I could probably get credit for an intro class to formal politics. I do try to stay aware, so I keep track of some news networks, but I do my best to distance myself emotionally from the idiocy of most of these candidates. That does not mean that I will refuse to listen to views that contradict my own. On the contrary, actually, I tend to listen to those who oppose my views a little bit more, mainly to laugh and pick apart what they are actually saying. So going to Duke, where most students are center-right or center-left, I find myself very concerned about the beliefs of some of my peers. These concerns I hold aren’t meant necessarily to primarily offend others, but I hope to provide my perspective on things.
When we talk of conservativism versus liberalism, many people in our society hold misconceptions about it. Usually, conservativism is inherently racist, and liberalism means anti-racist. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but that isn’t necessarily true. While it makes it easier for our minds to categorize the people who fit into our labels, it doesn’t account for the various views within those groups, and assumes that there is no nuance to these terms. In actuality, despite the desire for our minds to put people into neat little boxes, it isn’t as easy as that. What I want to focus on is the progressive side of this situation, as we hear so much about the conservative side from the media, as they tend to lean more to the right.
Liberalism defined by Wikipedia (so you can take it or leave it), is “a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.” There’s so much more information online if you want to go into the depths of that, but liberalism tends to represent the changing views to encompass more equality. There’s not just one type of liberalism; it is a spectrum and people fall on all parts of it. When people hear liberalism, they assume that they must be the saving grace of oppressed people, and to be a liberal means that you cannot practice any type of racism and are therefore exempt from having race conversations. This is far from correct. While the idea of liberalism is positive and geared toward inclusive change, in practice, it lends itself to a political party, which is inherently corrupt, and this causes some nuance. You cannot truly help an oppressed people when you support the oppressor, no matter how passive that support is. That saying “if you aren’t part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem?” That’s very applicable today.
Another part of this is the conditional allyship of this liberals, and the conscious passive aggressiveness of their behaviors. When discussing race, these people tend to lean toward creating a world in which we don’t see race. But when they say that, it’s never about the white race, because they have internalized that they are the norm, and that they benefit from being the norm. Instead, it’s about the people of color, and having to address their history, and the problems that lie within the histories. Many allies talk about being part of the movement and going to marches, but when it comes to micro-aggressions or calling out their white peers, they don’t want to, and then allows for the system to continue uninterrupted. You cannot be a true ally and say you’re there for someone while allowing others to continue spreading misinformation about that group without being held accountable. And going to some marches back in the day is nice, but there is always something you can do for someone and being a decent human being isn’t just something you do to put on your resume, but an everyday job, day in and out.
These white liberals are likely to shut down people who have deemed as “militant,” telling them to wait their turn. This is very toxic, and it shows that they have the privilege to put aside these issues with very little care.
I think one solution would be to provide better education in the classrooms, but we all know that school learning only gets you so far. A better solution would be to stop closing your mind to things you have yet to understand, and maybe you’ll learn something new, which will allow you to react with information backing you up.