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What the hell is a Scalawag?

A letter from Scalawag's Executive Director-Publisher:

White supremacy is the reason that six Asian women and two others were murdered in Atlanta this week. It is the reason that Flint and Jackson don't have clean water. It is the reason Texas was without power during a deadly winter storm. It is the reason George Floyd is dead. It is the reason we are still in a pandemic. 

The thing about white supremacy is that it would cease to exist if each of us divested from our roles in upholding it. 

When we talk about systemic oppression in the abstract, as a thing over there, we are absolving ourselves of the role we play within a white supremacist system. That absolution means we are not continuously interrogating our role in upholding white supremacy. We're rightfully horrified and angered when we wake up once again to a community in mourning because more people have been murdered at the hands of white supremacist violence. We ask ourselves how we got here, and point the finger everywhere else but our own chests. We fail to see. 

See also: White tears will never be the solution

The national media—which is a system of individual journalists, most of them white—fails to see how their past reporting on white supremacist violence enables the same violence to continue. They fail to acknowledge the reporting that Asian and Asian American outlets like NextShark have done for months on the rise in Asian hate crimes. 

The marginalization of "ethnic" media means that we don't get to decide which stories become news outside of our communities. But our communities depend on mainstream media to care—because if they care, the majority cares, and because of how power exists and persists in this system, the majority has to care in order for us to have any true hope for accountability. 

White people fail to see how their silence and inaction is in fact an action, a choice. They move quickly to distance their whiteness from the whiteness of the shooter. As Matt Hartman wrote for us in 2015, it's that imposed distance from the "wrong" white people that "allows us to mask our racism with classism."

"The true depth of [Ta- Nehisi] Coates's argument when he wrote that the Confederate flag should have come down because it is 'embarrassing to all Americans' is lost on us. We assume it's embarrassing because those other white people are embarrassing us, like a drunk uncle at a wedding. But racism is not contained in the Confederate flag, nor the n-word, nor the willingness to call the shooting in Charleston a terrorist attack. It is infused in everything we do, in every word we say."

And because white supremacy is infused in everything we do, it is consumed, absorbed, and internalized by everyone living within it.

Internalized oppression has tricked people of color into believing that we need to hate and villainize each other to attain success, fortune, generational wealth, the American dream, security for our nuclear family, or whatever we're white labeling whiteness as that day. We've been convinced that proximity to and assimilation into whiteness are the only ways to truly live, to really make it.

White supremacy is shorthand for white supremacist classist patriarchy. 

It's a mouthful, but we cannot further fail by refusing to see the additional layers of class and gender in this week's killings. The media can tell us that the women who were murdered were Asian, and that they worked in massage parlors. 

White supremacy, classism, and patriarchy tell us to interpret those facts to mean that they were sex workers—and that sex work somehow plays a role in their deaths. The assumption speaks to the ways we fail to see women—especially working class women of color—beyond the roles, tropes, and stereotypes to which we've relegated them, whether China Doll or Mammy. 

It's silence from all of us, a lack of consciousness from all of us, not enough solidarity from all of us, and a systematic investment from all of us that answers the question of how we got here.

In contrast, the white man that murdered them gets to be a son, a Christian, a quiet neighbor; he gets to be dynamic. His victims are unseen while he is seen. 

The white man who murdered eight people gets to have a "really bad day," while those eight people are dead. 

Yes, white silence is tragic silence. But it's silence from all of us, a lack of consciousness from all of us, not enough solidarity from all of us, and a systematic investment from all of us that answers the question of how we got here.

The only way to dismantle white supremacy is to decide to do something different. With mutual aid, calls for reparations and reconciliation, multicultural coalition building, some folks are lighting the path to a better way, but what remains true is that "none of us are free until all of us are free."

Cierra Hinton

Cierra Hinton has an undying love and passion for the complicated South, which she brings to her work at Scalawag. She has found community across the South, including in Tennessee and Mississippi, but calls North Carolina home. She is Scalawag's Executive Director-Publisher.