August 16, 2003
I write this in response to Ayinde's "White Supremacy in Black Movements" out of my own experiences with 'Double Denial".
When I was 19 years old and first was introduced to Rastafari, I was overwhelmed on many levels. But my primary response was a sigh of relief through every cell of my body: that the Judeo-Christian revelation is fulfilled, and a ghastly history redeemed by a Black man! A Black African man! I had to laugh then and have done so many times at the perfect justice of this. Truly the divine essence of the universe always moves for balance. Now all these many years later I can see even more clearly that the Rasta movement is first and foremost about addressing the issue of justice right here on earth.
But here I was, a white girl. A white girl who, from a very young age, thought and felt deeply about the evils of racism and carried a sense of responsibility for what other white people had done to this world, and to all the people who are not white.
I was greatly relieved, and unconsciously so, for here was a way to differentiate myself from the system of white supremacy, and ally myself with the oppressed of the world, rather than the oppressors. Also unconsciously, I developed a sense of superiority over other whites who were not so aware and educated as me.
What I did not see is that my whiteness and the assumptions that go along with it are with me everywhere I go. I will never be one of the 'sufferahs', one of the victims of this system, not for all the dreadlocks and ganja and black friends in the world. Well, let me amend that: all people suffer in an unjust system, both oppressors and oppressed. Slavery is always a two-way street. I suffer with the injustice of having privileges which everyone does not have. It makes my spiritual work harder. To get to a place of reality with myself and a recognition of the world as it is has been long difficult work.
It is my observation that many whites come into Rastafari looking to blacks to confer some sort of absolution on them, to say "Hey man you are my brother. Skin color does not matter. It's all about the One Love." They are truly shocked and hurt that this is not the reception they receive most of the time. What they do not see is that here they come as privileged whites looking for privileges in a Black movement!
When I first realized this, it really took me aback, for of course no such thing was my intention. That is the point. Seeing white privilege requires bringing inborn assumptions and ways of being in the world to one's consciousness.
Here is the 'double denial': first we fail to see all the ways that our white skin gets us all the goodies, and then we come to Black people thinking to dictate to them what Rastafari is and how the movement should proceed. This is wicked. And unconsciousness is no excuse anymore.
Whites can never assume leadership or eldership in Rastafari-NEVER. To come to Blacks with our dreadlocks and other trappings of our difference from other whites and say 'Hey me too! Me too! I'm not like the rest I am one of you!' is ridiculous. Although it is positive that we are not comfortable just to be an 'average white', that we are looking for a way to voice our resistance to an evil system of white supremacy, that is just the beginning of a very long journey.
The journey involves the realization that, short of dying our skin, there is no way to rid ourselves of this whiteness, and not even then. We must own it and move from there. Logically, this journey would lead us to efforts at educating other whites, since it is to other whites that we can legitimately speak of our experiences and help them bring their own privilege into consciousness. And it is whites who are the problem, whether they want to be or not.
We can benefit from the spiritual foundation of Rastafari and grow much in it, but our growth remains incomplete if we do not then take action in our own lives to bring white supremacy down. This is the only 'power' we can have in Rastafari.
Male privilege and male assumption makes it irresistible for many whites in Rastafari to avoid trying to make power grabs or to claim authority and eldership. It is another level of the 'double denial,' not to see that male privilege and white privilege taken together account for the disastrous events taking place in the world. Unconsciousness of these motivating factors is at this point wicked, and perpetuates more and more wickedness in the world, whether that is one's stated intention or not. 'I didn't know' is simply not an excuse. It is our responsibility to know.
We cannot dictate the future of the Rastafari movement to blacks. We are not here as 'the great white hope'. We are here to learn, to support, to help when asked. This is unbearable to those who remain unconsciously motivated by their privilege. I see very ugly shows of white arrogance all the time by those who feel the need to push their way into the gates of Rasta.
Because I write about European history in its reality, I am sometimes accused of being ashamed to be white. I lost all shame when I started seeing and telling and being the truth. The ones locked in shame are the ones who loudly, through speech, dress, and the outside trappings of 'righteousness', come trying to deny the reality of their white skin and what it buys them, and seeking the same privileges in a black movement that they take for granted in the white world.
Until 'righteousness covers the earth as the waters cover the sea', whites cannot claim equality with blacks in Rasta, not in the material realm until the injustices in the material realm are addressed.