Our democracy is crumbling
It feels like our democracy is crumbling around us. What we see instead is militant white supremacy and attempts at dictatorial rule. This may seem shocking and surprising to white Americans who grew up hearing about the American Dream of democracy and freedom. And grew up learning about the heroes of this American Dream who made it happen. But what we didn't learn in our white-washed version of America was that it was always built on white supremacy values. It was built on conquest, a Doctrine of Discovery, and blatant genocide and assimilation. It was never an American Dream for all, never a true democracy except for white men. Should it surprise us that white men are trying to reclaim that?
This is a pivotal moment in our country's history. The crumbling of democratic values can be our country's undoing - or it can be an opportunity to let white supremacy laced "democracy" crumble, and in its place create a new democracy, that is actually for all people.
A New American Dream
The current American Dream is a mirage of white supremacy values. We need a new dream, a new vision for our country. One inspired by and informed by people of color. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke specifically to this in his "I Have a Dream" speech so many years ago. First Nations peoples have richer, kinder, more generous ways of being that also need to be a part of our new dream. And all the voices that have been marginalized, left out, and pushed to the curb need to be the ones to lead it. It is their chance to have a dream, and to create a world that is not based on the values of conquering white men.
What is white supremacy?
White supremacy is all the limiting, toxic, marginalizing values we are all swimming in. Perfectionism, toxic masculinity, sense of urgency, bigger is better, fear of open conflict, etc. The only way to do life successfully is to live up to these standards. Even those who have the right skin color and economic status to do so can feel buried under the weight of these standards. They lead to isolation and burnout. Fear of not being enough. The need to maintain a certain image and reputation.
Even people who have succeeded by white supremacy values/standards are feeling the weight of the burden of upholding their position. The perfectionism, toxic masculinity, sense of urgency leads to burnout, numbness, and anxiety. It is not good for the disenfranchised and it is not good for those who have it all. If white people need a reason to abandon white supremacy culture, this is it. It is not good for you either.
If it feels this bad to all the white people reading this, imagine how it feels to those marginalized and vilified by those standards: exhaustion, never being seen for who they are past their token representations, being constantly othered, being expected to live up to standards that the system won’t let them have, not being given adequate medical treatment, being excluded and then blamed for it, have a greater likelihood of poverty and marginalization, valid fears of being targeted and unfairly treated by law enforcement, and the list goes on.
This is not good for anyone! Mainstream white people, it’s time to abandon these toxic, rigid values. It’s also time to de-center white voices and values and re-center marginalized voices and values. I’ve been learning about Blackfoot Siksika values and it boggles my mind that these were called savage and uncivilized, when they appear to me to be our only hope for a sustainable future. Watch a short synopsis about it here: Rethinking Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or read in-depth about it here: Could the Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow Guide Us Now? | Medium.
We need a values shift, a worldview shift, and a perspective shift, from top-down structures built on domination, individualism, exclusivism, and extraction to ones that are built on collectivism, generosity, and inclusivism. It is time for truth-telling, reconciliation, honoring the voices that have been silenced, and new leadership. Not token leaders of color, but system-wide reform led by people of color. The voices that we have killed and silenced, demonized and criminalized are our hope in finding a new way. We need to step aside and let them lead us. We need to listen, listen, and listen some more. They know the way.
p.s. to read more about White Supremacy, start here: American White Supremacy Values
To read more about updating the American Dream, read: How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong
I have many more resources on my resources page for a deeper dive.