The Russian hacking scandal isn't scary because Putin has a team of super-genius technomancers inside the internet, preying on the fears of innocent steelworkers. It's because he hired twenty nerds to sit in a basement and make memes and run basic phishing scams and that's all it goddamned took. Let's face it, Trump probably would've won without Russian meddling. But let's come back to that. 

You know what I hate? Reflecting on myself and my actions in the hopes of being a better person. It's terrible! I'm not being sarcastic! It's a thoroughly unpleasant thing to do that just adds to the bubbling cauldron of anxiety I've got going all the time. I will do anything, anything, to avoid the feeling I get when I realize I've done or said something hurtful or ignorant. Then, when I realize I'm going to have to consciously adjust my behavior in the future, because I want to be the best version of myself? That shit is like running a gauntlet of mind-spiders. 

 And that feeling comes constantly now, as we live on social media in a time of social awakening. So I get why America (let's be honest, White America) is having a hard time with self-reflection. Everyone's drowning in anxiety, both real and manufactured. White liberals don't want to deal with the fact that they've never pressured their party into dealing with systemic racism and American imperialism, turning a blind eye to brutality as long as pro-choice Democrats were the cause of it. They've told themselves for generations that they're not racist by default because they're not as openly hostile as the other guys. 

We're all facing very real problems, like the unraveling American economy, the amplification of existential horror that is living under late capitalism, and the fact that there's just too many goddamn shows and at this point you're probably never gonna get around to Altered Carbon. Our national blood pressure is cranked up, our collective anxiety is raging, and the last thing we want is to have to deal with are topics that make us deeply uncomfortable.

While feeling guilty for being white is whiny and pointless, feeling horror as a white person who comes to accept the truth of institutionalized racism in America is a natural and appropriate reaction. And who wants to add that into their daily anxiety sandwich? Who among us with the privilege to opt of of racial politics really wants to face the reality that America is a horrorscape for most people of color and other marginalized groups?

But guess the fuck what? The horrorscape is real and ignoring it means people dying, suffering, stagnating. And for you, it means living a lie. But dealing with that means more horror, more anxiety. Nothing remotely like the horror and anxiety faced by marginalized groups in this country, keep in mind. But it still triggers our defense mechanisms, and we look for every possible way to excuse ourselves from dealing with it. I know I do. 

So we latch on to narratives like Russia and Cambridge Analytica and we do everything we can to absolve ourselves. It was their fault Trump won, it was their sophisticated, magical ability to manipulate people that made them vote for him. When we talk about mass shootings, we don't address the racism and misogyny at the heart of the problem because we really don't want to deal with those things. We talk almost exclusively about gun control, which is certainly important, but will be useless by itself, for the same reason: we just think it'll be too hard.

Just to be clear, as much as this post is me yelling at other white people, like, I both understand why this avoidance happens and am completely guilty of it myself.  I'm on a soap box, not a pedestal. Maybe the only reason I'm even a little comfortable talking about it is that a lifetime of depression and anxiety means the idea of an inherent problem that'll probably take a lifetime of daily work to fix is, you know, in my wheelhouse.  That and the fact that I've been trying to talk about my own privilege and racism with other white people for a few years now, and I've gotten very slightly more used to the discomfort. I don't mean to sound like I'm saying "oh it's great because I'm woke af now," because I'm definitely not, I still fuck things up and say dumb shit without meaning to. I find myself acting on unconscious biases every day. But it doesn't change the fact that we have to deal with institutional racism, and a huge part of doing that involves a level of self-reflection that white people are not used to. This is a problem that will already take generations to fix. Dragging our feet translates into human suffering. 

It's good that most people don't want to be racist, but white people get uncomfortable around this topic mostly because we think admitting that we have biases is the same as admitting that you're a bad person. That's why racists always say that being white and anti-racist means you have white guilt, because the assumption is that by saying you have some level of racist social programming, you're saying that you're a bad person, and that isn't the case.  We live in a racist society, so it's impossible to not get a big fat dose of programming when you're growing up, especially if you're white. The system is larger than you, older than you by centuries, and designed to keep you unaware of its existence. You're only a bad person if you know about it and choose to do nothing. 

Our choice is simple: deal with our own racism and privilege at the cost of our comfort, or continuing ignoring it at the cost of our souls.


Evan Burke