Thanks so much for this great article and for doing the hard emotional work it takes to get this much insight. I can feel the frustration in your words.
White people continue to dominate because, at some fundamental level, they believe they are better. White liberals might feel some guilt over this, but whatever they feel is not adequate to lead to adequate action: if it were, we wouldn’t be in this mess for centuries. After working in corporate settings for over 30 years, I can say without doubt that ANY amount of self-deception will go into white people convincing themselves that whatever plopped into their lap was earned. Over and over again, I have watched white people get promotions, awards, extra bonuses even when objective parameters dictated that a POC was more deserving. You can imagine what happens in corporations where there are no objective parameters, such as in the arts! It is like a white free-for-all. Because as a rule, white people believe that white people are superior, somehow they convert the ACTUAL mediocre performance to some sort of ‘better’ in their minds.
This is a vicious cycle, because it is their privilege that often results in the reward. Denying that privilege leads to this persistent idea: keep white elevated even in the absence of actual value.
I am repeatedly shocked at how often white people default to ‘earn’ or ‘merit’ in their perceptions when the most penetrated, common, and widespread reality is PRIVILEGE. In our group of WOC, four of us with backgrounds from four different countries ALL perceive this as bizarre. We’ve all been subjected to this and lost something or another as a result of the WHITE PRIVILEGE OF SUBSTITUTING ‘MERIT’ FOR REALITY. As the POC population grows, it is going to seem increasingly psychotic that what we view as ‘PRIVILEGE’ or ‘STEAL’ is viewed by white people as ‘earn’ or ‘work.’
Charles Mills calls this a sort of collective hallucination that all white people agree to participate in to maintain their power and financial dominance over others; he calls this agreement ‘The Racial Contract.’ This is how white people act: ultimately, with very few exceptions, when push comes to shove they segue into hallucination in order to maintain their dominance, thus promoting each other while simultaneously NOT acknowledging the lack of morality in that choice. This is a profound form of denial.
In the past, it was much clearer to me that white women were also discriminated against. In the corporate settings where I’ve worked, in the last 10 years or so, I have witnessed EXACTLY the same behavior from white women as from white men: they promote each other. Gender seems to have MUCH less relevance in a white supremacist society than does ‘whiteness,’ at least if the last few years are an example, and white women seem to be capitalizing on this despite opposing it just a few decades ago. I have watched this happen again and again: gender and race aren’t equivalent intersections. Ask a white woman if she’d rather be herself or a black man, and her expression will tell you the truth. However, this fact is somehow conveniently disregarded. When it comes to white men and women, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.
The refusal of white women to admit this advantage AND act on it has caused an obvious rift that it seems white women ignore in favor of emphasizing gender: look at the Women’s March, for example: less than 5 years ago, 2–3Million women got involved; this year, the attendance was about 5–10% of that! WOC like Tamika Mallory have made it clear why they can’t participate in women’s marches that are all about white women.
Here is a free PDF: Mills calls it like it is, like you do — -just in case you don’t know him already: