poetry

Facing the Shadow of White Supremacy. {poetry}

 

White supremacy is an uncomfortable subject for white people. It evokes strong feelings of defence, shame, guilt, retaliation, calls of “I’m not a racist.”

I am a white, middle-class, cis-gender woman. I have benefited from being white. My education has led me into places that are closed to others. Of course I have faced sexism — I am a woman in a patriarchal society, so this goes without saying. I have also had to deal with mental health issues, but then show me someone who hasn’t in this insane society in which we live.

What I haven’t had to deal with though is the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, religion, class, and ability as so many others do in our society. What is generally spoken about inside academic circles, specialized blogs, or specific groups is something that is only just being discussed on a wider platform.

I am not an academic. I don’t know the right terminology. I haven’t read all the right books. I am painfully ignorant as to the true struggles that black indigenous people of color (BIPOC) face. But I have read some stuff that has made me go Whoa! Seen my privilege for what it is. Seen the things that I have taken for granted, while others face everyday horrors, making my struggles pale into insignificance.

So this poem is the beginning of me trying to make sense of this. It is by no means perfect — I will have left out huge chunks of important stuff. But this is a conversation we have to have, as white people, if we are to heal the wounds of colonial rule and slavery that continue to be played out on the world stage. It is uncomfortable facing the sins of our fathers. But face them we must.

***

White Supremacist

I am not a white supremacist
I don’t wave national flags
Or read racist mags
Bemoaning the state of the country
‘Cause of all them foreigners
Crossing our borders
But I have said
So where are you from… originally?

I am not a white supremacist
My best friend is black
So don’t call me a racist
But my existential crisis
Of Who Am I
Is white luxury compared
To the cold bare fight
For survival in a world
Stacked against you

I am not a white supremacist
But I have held my bag
Closer to me
When a group of young men
Of a certain color
Walk towards me
Then wallow in shame and disgust
At this knee-jerk reaction
Steeped in media-saturation
Of mass-produced fear

I am not a white supremacist
I’ve never hissed
Xenophobic anti-Semitic fits
In a racist tryst
But maybe I’ve breezed in
With an air of entitlement
Without a thought
That I might not be welcome
Or worse, glared at or spat on
Or beaten or shot

I am not a white supremacist
But I’ve not been mistaken
For the nanny or cleaner
When I’m the poet who’s worked
Three jobs while bringing up kids
To be proud, fierce and kind
In a cage aux poules
Robed in inflammable cladding
So the rich get a better view

I am not a white supremacist
But I’ve not had to raise my fist
Every time the fight of my ancestors
Is deleted or appropriated by
Corn-row-bearing white pop-stars
Who think it is cool
To be down with the kids
In the ‘hood

I am not a white supremacist
But my ex used to say
You whitey spoilt
Middle-class brat
She was French-Arabic
So was probably right
About that
Though it felt like abuse
At the time

I am not a white supremacist
But I’ve had four years off work
And the system supported me
They didn’t deport me
Gave me medicine not punishment
They said, poor bipolar girl
She can’t help it
So I didn’t land in a cell
Being sat on
Until I couldn’t breathe

I am not a white supremacist
But my silence makes me so
Perhaps these words will start
To dismantle the master’s house
Built on the blood of slaves
Shipped over on death-boats
For cups of tea with sugar
On laced cotton

I am not a white supremacist
But I have benefited
From my whiteness
I am humbled by your
Righteous rage
After centuries of oppression
By my ancestors

I am not a white supremacist,
Or am I?

***

Xaverine M A Bates is an artist, writer and collaborator. Living in Hastings, UK, she uses words to break through layers of fear, shame and rage as a contribution to the collective awakening we are experiencing on our planet right now. She writes about feminism, mental health and eco-spirituality, and seeks to bridge the gap between disciplines. You can see more of her work here.

***

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