• Jocelyn Ryder

Ending White Supremacy: Why You Should Definitely Take It Personally

White supremacist doctrine teaches the need to separate from lived experience and humanity as much as possible: “Don't be so sensitive, don't get emotional.” We refer to ourselves as objects, like "it", and are encouraged to do so by others. "How does IT feel?" "IT feels wrong/gross/fine/OK." In essence, this is the inculcation into the white-supremacist ideal that people are resources and not living, breathing, feeling, thinking beings. This philosophy tells us to ignore our lived experience, to deny our reality and, therefore, our own agency. This is how we are taught to invalidate and gaslight ourselves. In doing so, we ignore the vital tools we naturally possess to evaluate our lived experience: emotions. Emotions are personal, and yet we vilify and deride them as something to be avoided. We’re told that “getting emotional” means becoming violent, when in fact the opposite is true. Shared emotional experience builds empathy and intimacy, something every person and organization needs to be truly successful.

White supremacy says that the most important thing we can do is be "productive members of society." We must produce, perform, and present to be worthwhile. Since capitalism is white supremacy's ideal result, dehumanization is the goal. We are trained to ignore our authentic human selves. Instead, we are relegated to the constant confusion of our body’s information, and white supremacy’s fiction of servitude as satisfaction.

When a worker is paying too much attention to their humanity, needs and wants—like taking “too much” sick or vacation time or even asking for help—they are at risk of throwing off the well-oiled capitalist machine. Then the people who are exploiting the worker (anyone who pays a salary that "the market will bear" instead of a salary that is moral and ethical for the reality of the living environment) as a resource decide to scapegoat, bully, admonish, and ridicule the worker. This leads to the traumatized belief that noticing and being in one’s body is to be avoided. The body becomes a place that is not safe to inhabit because it is stressed, shaking, weak, and dis-eased; and all of this authentic experience is rejected with the advice of not “taking it personally” or being “emotional.” The worker is then cast out in one way or another, sometimes fired or laid off, or presented with such a hostile environment that to remain is an intolerable, creativity-killing obligation.

Consider recent discriminatory court rulings that prevent even the expression of humanity in the workplace. Black people can be told how to wear their hair, or risk losing employment. Women must cope with the reality that some companies don’t believe in women’s inalienable right to do with their bodies as they wish. Therefore, birth control is not always a covered medical expense, while cis-gendered men’s erectile-dysfunction medicine is covered.

So, yes: Take things personally. You are giving yourself the knowledge capitalism and white supremacy would keep from you: that your body is giving you vital information when something is weird, off, or confusing. And the next time someone asks you, “How does it feel?” you can tell them: “I am (insert emotion or physical experience here).”

When you do this, you are claiming your right to your own humanity, and taking yourself out of white supremacy’s ever-crumbling wall.

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