Donald Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech got me thinking.
Not only about the popular quote that tells us that “When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and bearing the cross,” but also about the way he touted the (quite inaccurate) fact that the U.S. was the most tolerant country in the world.
I have been guilty in the past of using the term “tolerant” to describe an open, liberal, inclusive society or mind-set, yet since I started forcing myself to examine my own white privilege, it became obvious just how insulting that idea is.
Equality is not something to be endured. Diversity is not to be suffered. People of Colour are not an annoyance.
Change will only come when those in a position of power (that’s us white people) truly embrace it, and that means we need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Or patting ourselves on the back if we come across as merely annoyed at the situation rather than outraged at the fact that “the other” is finally speaking up and questioning the authority of the status quo.
Nothing illustrates that point better than the recent shocking interview with the well-known British historian David Starkey, where he stated that “Slavery was not genocide — otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn Blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? An awful lot of them survived.”
Thankfully, much like a shamed Karen after a viral video, Starkey has since been disowned by all the prestigious institutions such as Cambridge University with which he once associated himself, as well as his publisher Harper Collins.
But to me, what’s most remarkable is the ease into which he slips into that overtly racist rant, with an overall tone that exudes annoyance.
Irritation, rather than anger, is his justification. Irritation that black people, and the white people who support the Black Lives Matter movement, should insist on “going on about it.” According to his logic, slavery is a closed chapter in our history, and nothing to apologize for. In his infinite generosity, he’s even willing to live alongside some people of colour now, presumably as long as they are grateful for that tolerance, and know their place.
Sure, tolerance is better than outright aggression and outspoken bigotry and indoctrination, but it can only be a first step in that journey, not the ultimate goal. The goal has to be for white people to truly realize the extent and depth of their privilege, and take concrete steps to eradicate the bias from our lives and from the institutions that form and govern society.
It will be an extremely uncomfortable journey for many, but our discomfort is not a hardship. It is merely an annoyance. Hardship is what black communities face every day, and that is something we should not continue to tolerate.