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These are my thoughts, yo.

Moving from Ally to Accomplice

jasmine banks

How we see racism matters. Racism is an emotional matter and yet it tends to be couched as a theoretical discussion instead of an internalized state that shapes our existence.  Racism often becomes an action that we frame as a failure to provide for non-white others because of the difference that [white] people see within the “other.” This framing of racism is problematic because it supposes that the answer to the problem is non-white inclusion and access. Institutions and systems, like corporations, are NOT PEOPLE… and so we must frame our understanding of racism to include a *definition that reflects both the individual and collective outcomes of our actions.

The other day I recorded a lecture for a group of white women who are learning more about white supremacy and resistance. I created an outline of our class notes that I thought would be useful to share here. Check it out here


The Night We Left

jasmine banks

It was dark and he had her pinned up against the wall. He pushed his face to her face, nose to nose. "There isn't anywhere you can run that I won't find you," he threatened. I believed him. She turned her head to the side and locked eyes with me. I winced and tried to ask her if she needed me to call someone. Not the police. Last time they came the beatings just got worse. I was the witness... the watcher... as he held her pinned to the wall. I was always the watcher. Even when he beat her behind closed doors I could hear her quiet pleas that he not wake up me and my brother. She was worried, even as her body was being used as a punching bag, for the tranquility of her children. "Let them rest. Let them not hear or know." Her incantations and utterances failed, because my sleep was never deep enough to ignore her, our, reality. 

 I could see her flesh turning red from his grip around her arms. That night after he left to wherever he'd go after he was finished raging, my mom shook me awake. My brother was in bed with me, our two small bodies buried under the blankets and still shaking from the fearful scene we witnessed earlier. It wasn't the first time, but my mother resolved that it would be the last. "Jasmine... pack a bag we are leaving," she whispered, and then she swept out of the room and I heard rustling in her bedroom. She was packing. We were leaving.  I knew what to do. I'd practiced it several times already in hopes that I might run away, though I never planned far enough to know where I'd run away to. I packed my things and my brothers things, making sure not to forget his E.T. doll. The fur of the doll was matted and worn down in places and the eyes were full of scratches and marks from where Isaiah dragged E.T. across the floor. I grabbed Strawberry Shortcake because she smelled like dessert and childhood and maybe a nice home with no stress about not having enough food stamps. We arrived at an nondescript building. It said "Y.W.C.A" on the outside and I had no idea what those letters even meant. My mom rang a doorbell under the florescent lit awning. A old white woman answered the door, looked around, and then ushered us in with a confusing sense of urgency. "He didn't follow?" she asked my mother, as if she knew her. "No. It is just us." That was the last night we saw him, my father, and the first night in a long string of nights to sleep in a homeless shelter. 

My mom did it. Something snapped in her and that beating was too much.  The first time he hit her I was 6 months old and in her arms. His hair trigger temper was tripped and he picked up a chair and slammed it across her back indiscriminately. She said I went fly, and thankfully landed somewhere soft, though years later her body still ached in places where the chair struck a blow. That beating wasn't enough. She stayed, stuck with a new baby, and tried to hold her marriage together. Years later after my brother was old enough to form words I remember him bravely screaming at our father to stop hitting hurt. My brother was full of courage. I was more calculating and spent my time thinking of ways I wished he would die. I don't know what was different about that night. Maybe it was how her eyes fixed on mine. Maybe it was because this time she knew I knew. I'm not sure. For whatever reason that moment was enough. Something inside welled up with bravery and she found the strength to leave. She resuced me and my brother. That was the night we left.



A Scapegoat Named Trump

jasmine banks

We are looking down the barrel of 4 years of Trump. So maybe we should talk about what he is and what he isn't. Throwing our hands up and declaring #NotMyPresident is a tempting approach. Isn't that how we got here in the first place? Donald J.esus-be-a-clue Trump is not an anomaly. He is a product of a collective ethical amnesia that leads us to believe we've made progress while we maintain the status quo, simply because we've re-branded forms of oppression.  We are so distracted by the shiny things, the progressive cookies, and the debates that political mindfulness drifts off and we are hijacked into ineffectiveness. We are responsible for the Donald Trumps of this world. 

We've glutted ourselves on systems of capitalism and anti-Black racism to keep keep white supremacy alive and well.

We've refused to stretch ourselves and wrestle down our egos in order to imagine a better world together. 

We've settled for the cheap and counterfeit intimacy that is offered in order to avoid an honest understanding of ourselves.

We've ignored the full stories of those whose lives are impacted most by systems of domination. We decided for them that what they have is good enough, they should be grateful to have something, anything, at all.

We've not trusted each other. 

We've not allowed one another the space to grow, evolve, and transform.

We've valued things over the dignity of people.

We have not been our best possible selves. So now we want to scapegoat good ole Donald Trump. "HE is the problem. HE is ludicrous. We must resist HIM." And yeah... those things aren't all wrong. Donald Trump is a trashcan fire of a human who exemplifies what happens when we forego ethical decency and guzzle down egocentric materialism (he also might be hella mentally ill). While we are resisting Trump's focus on the almighty dollar, shouldn't we also resist the ways in which we've internalized harmful systems ourselves? Doesn't the act of resistance start from a place of clarity within us? Or do we just feel better blaming Donald Trump without taking stock of the ways in which we've behaved exactly like him? 

We are not fighting people or a single person, we are fighting harmful systems that enslave us and rob us of our humanity. Donald Trump is only one person in that system. Sure sure. He is a fucking important person (I hear presidents are real important or whatever).  But are we waking up to our complicit actions? We are taking responsibility and making amends to one another.  Are we educating ourselves and dismantling the harmful systems we keep alive and in our hearts and minds? We are responsible for the Donald Trumps of this world, because we are or have been the Donald Trumps of this world.