(CNN) — When we filmed the premiere of the 5th season of «United Nuances of America“In February, we had no idea that COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd, and all the protests that followed, would make the episode of white supremacism even more important.
I know some of you reading this may wonder: what does covid-19 have to do with white supremacism or the death of George Floyd? Didn’t they already make one? That one with you and the KKK?
Yes, I had an encounter with the KKK during the first episode of Matices Unidos (thanks for refreshing my memory!). And while this episode is in many ways the sequel, we will go deeper into white supremacism in America than the Ku Kux Klan.
Those who study white supremacism would tell you to visualize it as an iceberg. The KKK, the neo-Nazis, the genocide of Native Americans in the United States, slavery, lynchings, hate groups, the things that good people would immediately identify as bad, are simply the most visible part at the tip of the iceberg.
Beneath the surface of the water is where most of the white supremacism can be found. The structures and system that exist to keep white Americans on top and all other races and ethnicities below them to protect the status quo. This includes everyday things like police brutality, the legacy of the law of Jim Crow ordering segregation, political manipulation, the continuing impact of red marking and discrimination within homes, permanent economic inequality, mass incarcerations, asking black people to explain things you could just Google and a lot, much more.
Most of these structures and institutions have been around for so long that not much needs to happen to keep them going. And if you are a white American, no matter how rich or poor you are, there are things that you benefit from just by being white. This can be as simple as feeling like an individual with individual needs, something that is reinforced by the media. ; White people who can turn on the TV and see white people at all levels of society. Most importantly, you can live in a land that is still overwhelmingly run by whites, be it in the highest political offices or the most powerful corporate offices.
But many of you don’t realize how that advantage benefits you: it’s a constant reminder that the country you live in places value on you, just like people who look like you. You are like me when I was a sophomore in high school. He was tall, over a meter 80, but the problem was that I hadn’t realized yet that he was tall.
My mom would ask a question like: Where did you put the salt? I used to say: “I left it somewhere.” My 67-foot-tall mom would look around the kitchen and finally see the salt peeking out from the top of the refrigerator and say, “How is it on the top of the refrigerator, ‘put it down’ ?, I’d say,“ for me that’s down. ”I didn’t realize that my perspective on the world was not the only perspective.
I didn’t realize that if I walked around our apartment like I was the only one who needed to reach for things, it would make it harder for my mother and her ability to live her life and reach for the salt.
Those who study white supremacism would tell you to visualize it as an iceberg. The KKK, the neo-Nazis, the genocide of Native Americans in the United States, slavery, lynchings, hate groups, the things that good people would immediately identify as bad, are simply the most visible part at the tip of the iceberg”.
Fortunately for me, my mother did not tolerate that, so I learned, and have learned from her, that if you are going to explain white supremacism, you must break it down into little pieces. Think of it this way: KKK members are white supremacists, but 44 out of 45 presidents turn out to be white in a 100% Native American land, that’s a system of white supremacism. And we are not just talking about huge power systems. Think about everything that happens right now.
In the wake of covid-19, some of you are wondering why black people have been affected by the coronavirus with a higher rate. Black communities generally have poorer air quality, despite contributing less to the air pollution problem than white Americans. This has been linked to chronic health and respiratory problems combined with less access to health care and healthy eating. Put a pandemic on top of all this, of course, it will hit you harder.
Or maybe, in the wake of protests across the country, you are a white person who finally understands why so many blacks feel it necessary to declare “Black lives matter.” And if you understand that without feeling threatened or without wanting to say “soooooodas livesaaaaas matter,” then you just got rid of one (and only one) of the shackles of white supremacism.
That’s because a lot of white supremacism is about making white people think that if the world doesn’t make sense to them, that means there is something wrong with the world and not something wrong with the lens through which they are looking. . Obviously with such an extensive subject, we could have justified filming this episode anywhere in America. But much of this episode was shot in and around Pittsburgh, precisely because most of us wouldn’t think of Pittsburgh when we think of white supremacism.
Pittsburgh is a paradox. It is on many lists for being a great place to live and for being one of the most liberal places in the United States, but it also ranks as the worst place to live for blacks.
I wouldn’t have guessed it, but it makes sense; in the couple of times I’ve been there my Black Spider Senses skyrocketed. Maybe it was all the new construction that screams gentrification, which usually means blacks were kicked out. Or maybe, it was the statue I saw of the composer Stephen Foster who has an unnamed black man at his feet. The monument was torn down in 2018, long before removing statues was cool.
Once the research is done, you see that it is worse than you thought. Pittsburgh, a city that boasts of being a tech hub, has an infant mortality rate that’s 6 times higher for black babies than for whites, and having a safety and life narrative doesn’t make Pittsburgh immune to the acts. of hate. The 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood is the deadliest attack on Jews in American history. In Pittsburgh, as in the rest of the United States, the history and structure of white supremacism has us all living in one of two totally separate realities.
This episode of “United Shades” wouldn’t be complete without sitting down with the one person who felt they could do better than my father when he appeared in season three to talk about life in Alabama: my mother, Janet Cheatham Bell. (Her response to my request to be in the episode: “FINALLY!”) As she puts it, white supremacism and racism are central to US culture but until recently they have been unacceptable as themes of a sincere public or political examination. And the fact that that’s changing gives her hope. “In fact, what’s happening now encourages me,” my mom said.
“For the first time in my life, white supremacism and the racism it generates are being discussed regularly and publicly by people who are not of black descent; we outsiders and our allies among the privileged are recognizing that if we stick together, we are a powerful force and being aware of our power is what it is all about. “
All of this work that I do comes from growing up in her home and watching her confront white supremacism every day as a single black woman in America. When I started doing monologues, I just wanted to be a funny comedian but somehow ended up back in the family business. I figured it was time they heard from her.
And because this is such a complicated subject with tentacles in every corner of American society, not to mention the whole world, when the goal is to dismantle white supremacism, it takes over an hour.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.