You know when you learn a new word and you suddenly start seeing and hearing it everywhere? Before you learned it, it’s like it wasn’t real, and then once you realize it’s a thing, it’s fucking everywhere. Through the Language Glass argued that “blue” is one glaring example of this phenomenon. Before you’re told that “blue” is a word/real thing, you don’t see anything that registers as what we commonly accept as “blue.” In other words, it’s not an actual color, but a thing we’ve ushered into social reality after the invention of artificial dye. Table that shit for a moment. It’s mostly irrelevant. You don’t need to go questioning the sky right now.
There are concepts you learn that function in the same way. Like “social construct.” That was a particular mindfuck for me in graduate school, and it became an anchor in so much of my pedagogy. This is just how learning works, I suppose. You start out as a fool, you learn something, you feel like an even bigger fool for not having seen it before, you settle into some new stability, only to realize that you were an even bigger fool than you ever were. You can imagine, or maybe you know too, how such a recursive process can be debilitating. But let’s not play “woe is me” when my biggest problem is ever-expanding ignorance. I still have the privilege of living in a cocoon. More bluntly, I still have the privilege of living. And thanks to Whiteness, living is a sad advantage I can take (mostly) for granted.
So speaking of shit that shows how profoundly ignorant I was about the extent of my white privilege: how fucking normal it is for unarmed black men to be shot by the police. In an era of constant possible surveillance, how is it possible that this craziness occurs? Are we seeing a diminished form of it? Are we witnessing what happens when a concept enters a cultural psyche and then feasts on itself in the most tragic feedback loop imaginable? Is this just how it’s always been? The tension between the law and the black community in this country is no secret (and go fuck yourself if you think “post-racial” has even a modicum of truth to it), but this straight-up reckless shooting that keeps happening, and happening, and happening…with NO real repercussions for the criminals…what…I mean…
Usually when you learn about something new, at least that thing starts to make more sense; even if it opens up paths to things that are more alarming and confusing, at least you have something to cling to while the next newness becomes less threatening. But shit. If I can’t reconcile right now, even though sadly I’m not surprised, what do I do with what’s next?
Let me say this to myself: fuck what I do next. Because my doing will probably just be writing and hiding, the White M.O. So go and hide, little White boy. These things don’t concern you. They’re intellectual exercises, not felt realities. What will you do? Who cares? Just start doing something.