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Verbs, not Nouns

There's a bunch of videos going around right now, of white people exercising their power in a supremacist environment to ensure and protect their supremacy, and either killing or trying to kill black people. This isn't new, by the bye. White people have been executing, or trying to execute, black people since basically 1500 or so, and Americans (and that little appellation is deserving of its own rant, at some other time) have been doing it since at least 1600. I'm not particularly interested in watching or sharing a snuff film (or an attempted-murder film) so I won't be linking them here, but there are a LOT of people up in arms about the fact that the perpetrators of this violence are suffering from the consequences of their actions including losing their jobs, which some folk seem to think is an overreaction. 'I know these people, they aren't racist!' says Yet Another White Supremacist, and here's the thing: they're probably not actually wrong. 

G. Willow Wilson captured it brilliantly in Ms. Marvel when she said "Good isn't a thing you are, good is a thing you do." The reverse is also true: evil isn't a noun; it's a verb. That includes evil acts that fall into the "racist" bucket. You don't actually have to be "a racist" to do a racist thing. Especially when you're a white person (like I am) often the racist things you do are small, and unthinking, and (this is important) still racist things. There's every reason to think that the latest Stars of Public Opinion are probably seen by their friends, family, peers, and public as "not a racist" because they don't do things like dress up in bedsheets and burn crosses on lawns (though given that one of the people currently in the Spotlight is a cop, I make no promises or predictions). But that doesn't make the actions they take any less racist, even if that wasn't their conscious intention, and it doesn't mean they don't deserve to face the consequences of their actions. I don't say that intent doesn't count for anything, but it certainly counts for less than the actual results, good or bad, of the actions we take.

Being white is always going to convey benefits, because "white" is a constructed identity that is explicitly designed to include certain types of people and exclude certain types of people, and those types are explicitly fluid within the definition. Shit, for a while there in the pre-war USA, being Catholic meant you were outside the limits of the then-current definition of whiteness. The only way to justice and equality is to dismantle the concept of whiteness, and that means deconstructing several basic features of our current culture. We will most definitely do that; it is in the nature of history that cultures rise and fall. It would be great if we could do it intelligently, instead of via the chaos of uncontrolled destruction. But make no mistake: no culture lasts forever. 


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