I have delayed writing this for some time. Sadly, the time to say it has never proved impertinent. I worry about saying it only because I worry about getting over-my-skis, speaking beyond my knowledge. But the fact is, a certain imperative has been rolling over and over and over in my head for the last several months. And with each tumble in my brain, the conviction becomes surer. We must dismantle the White Race.
Dismantling the White Race is not a new idea. Versions of it can be found in pamphlets and scholarly abstracts from thinkers past. But it is a dormant idea. It is especially dormant, or more likely anathema, among those who benefit from membership in the White Race. This idea needs to be coaxed out of its quiet, revolutionary corners and shouted into the mainstream. More urgently, it should become the dominant program of the Christian Church in America.
The fact that doing anything about Whiteness never occurs to us is the problem. The many inheritors of the White Race are loathe to engage in “identity politics” or “intersectionality.” The truth is these same people are happy to play identity politics so long as that identity is White and the dominance of it so thorough as to wash away all other identities. White as normal. White as habit. White as traditional values. In a vacuum, “color-blind” and “all lives” are certainly worthy ideals. In America, they are quite literally White supremacy.
The White Race is a construct. It is invented by men to subdue other men, invented to tower over other races like God. It is neither Irish, English, French nor German. It is an abominable Babel and it is long past time for it to come down. It falls to those within this barricaded estate to deconstruct it. It is the job of White people and only white people to take it down.
We must knock down the ramparts of racist gerrymandering and disenfranchisement. Must crack the bulwark of cruelty to immigrants. Must demolish the fortifications of racist laws that imprison the innocent. Must tear apart the keep and empty it of its stolen wealth. We must end the ridiculous practice of shouting down book requests from our lofty perches. This fortress must be dismantled post-haste by its occupants and we know, have always known, how to do it.
Hear me clearly. If you are, like me, a benefactor of the White Race, I am not proposing a demolition of your personhood. In America, threats to the White Race are historically perceived as threats to White persons. But the hegemony of Whiteness is also an assault on the White persons it shelters. It is an existential assault to people of color, especially Black persons. It is a spiritual assault to White persons. The White Race robs Black people of their lives. It robs White people of their souls. It demands the fealty of rooting our humanness in Whiteness. To those like me, I say your humanity does not depend on Whiteness. Dismantling the White Race will not dismantle you.
The task is urgent, but it is not simple and it cannot be completed in one generation. The suggestions I offer above are important, but I’ll concede they are either abstract or well beyond the stations most of us occupy. Yet there is one very specific task I think we can all lean into immediately and that is to eradicate all traces of respectful and celebratory treatment of the Confederacy.
Cancers come in both operable and inoperable forms. White Supremacy is endemic to the United States of America, but it is more or less obvious depending on the case. It is hard to carve out the White Supremacy of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington without also carving out the ideas of representative democracy at this nation’s heart. An inoperable or at least a very difficult cancer to treat.
The Confederacy is an operable cancer. It is a tumor with clear boundaries, serving no purpose but to celebrate a time when White people in this country treated the Image of God like a beast to be whipped and bred and sold for profit. Its flag should be a symbol of shame, treated exactly like Germany now treats the Nazi flag. Its leaders and adherents should be treated like the traitors they were. The religion must be universally derided. To those who worry its history may be forgotten, I question what they think is worthy of remembrance. In any case, no one has forgotten the rats of the Bubonic Plague; I doubt the memory of Confederates will ever fade entirely.
I am writing this on Holy Saturday and not by accident. It is the day when Christians meditate on Jesus Christ, who, having been crucified, lay in a grave. This is the day when Christ dismantled the gates of hell. The work we have ahead of us is not ours, but a continuation of the work Christ began on Holy Saturday. The road ahead is long, but it is joyful. So walk it with a song in your heart and a hammer in your hand, taking a swipe at the gates of Hell wherever you see them.