Editorial: I Don't Want to be Equal to White People by Ashley Thomas
I’ve been taught hierarchy through a colonized lens that suggests there is a top that is supreme; whereas every”thing” underneath is lesser. This perspective of a totem is the basis of the invention of “White” as a culture. We know our history now, and understand that Europeans created White as an ideology, which they called “race”, in order to morally, physically, and spiritually loot, torture, and enslave fellow humans around the world as a means for their survival. To be clear on something we have not been taught outright, it is true that in every facet, culture is a means of survival. Tradition is part of its glue.
According to the psychology of whiteness, I am considered a Demi-Human on this totem. The bottom is me, a Black woman, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. It doesn’t matter how many of my relatives kept white babies alive on their breasts or how much you want my butt and full lips now to a point of injecting them. Or how representation is apparently a thing to celebrate as a victory for sale because it mostly makes money for everyone else. It doesn’t change the systemic horrors and identity politics of the reality underneath our reflections.
White cannot exist without black culture as its diet. Being three-fifths of a human being might have transmuted in law, but not by practice. It is a psalm to this day to violate our black bodies as ritual, therapy, and economy while we simultaneously get to be Ariel as a new aged scrap to our senses.
I don’t want to be equal to White people. I don’t want to believe I have dominion over all living beings as a way of ownership. I don’t want to have to live in competition to feel worthy. Does equality look like the same amount of money, housing, material goods in this predatory capitalistic and corrupt American Dream? Does it look like choosing other bodies to inconcentrate in droves? Does it look like forcing the world to bow at your feet while you destroy it?
It is not my goal to strive to sit in the same room or table, have the same doors, and be “given” chances that can be taken away. I don’t aspire to have the ability to smile and pose for a photograph in front of a hanged black body set on fire as my background while the fragrance of burning flesh and bones adds that spark in my eyes. I don’t want legal and Christian forgiveness when I chase down, harass and execute a black man for daring to have a jog. Assimilation and equality are one and the same in my mind. I want neither. I am tired of the emulation of White culture and values being the ironic poster child for success.
When I hear “for the culture” my first thought is whose culture? Because Black culture was violently forged to maintain the survival of Whites. Through all our laughter, creativity, ingenuity, intelligence, power, love, and unity in generational trauma at least, our popular culture is not geared for us to thrive. We consider “making it” to live as far away from each other as possible, in communities that call the police on us for living in our own homes, and thinking that individualism is somehow empowering for us when no one else works that way.
Our success has nothing to do with the lifestyle we've been tricked to believe is our purpose in life. Who we are to the creator of creation is something that has been stolen from our vision of purpose. The fight is not to matter to Whiteness. The fight is to understand who we really are as human beings, way beyond being black, paying bills, and dying.
An indigenous woman said that Europeans understood totem all wrong. It is what is at the bottom that is most powerful because it holds every being up. I don’t want to be equal to white people. I want something that only exists in a decolonized mind and society: harmony, reciprocity, and companionship with nature, our own, and each other. I want our differences to be complementary instead of defiance that is necessary to feel real. I know it sounds idealistic, utopic, and most likely silly to think we can be better than this. However, the closer you get to your human nature, against the lies you’ve been sold as your life, you realize that the rules have been made and that we can break them every day in a multitude of ways. We have to. I want to be love embodied to the fullest extent. I want us to love not because we are the same or equal, but because we are one another. I want to be human instead of remnants of my true nature. My culture will not be defined by upholding survival alone. My culture will be lead by my divine purpose, which can only be found in shaking who I’ve been taught I am to God, you, and myself, and starting from scratch. As scary and lonely as that might sound, I know that it will inevitably bring fullness to my existence I can currently only imagine.
In elementary school, I chose a random country in Africa every year for our family history presentations, because I never knew where I was from. Black kids in the United States who attended mostly white schools can attest to this tone-deaf exercise and story. It’s a discomfort I’ve never forgotten. As a true gift at 37 years old, I found out that I am a descendant of the Tikar people of Cameroon. I cannot explain how powerful it was for my soul to suddenly have a country; music, food, art, tradition, language, and ancestors I had no idea were in my blood. My blackness has always been socially associated with however white I appeared like it is for all of us. Never Africa as my roots. I was sadly taught that mostly anything African was downtrodden or the devil anyway, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
I felt like I had stepped closer to the kingdom of heaven inside of me when I sat down in atonement of my ignorance to research the beautiful faces, stories, and knowledge of my people and home. My almost painfully, big smile collapsed when it was quickly obvious that to rightfully know what life was like before the erosion of colonization, was futile. My history, finally at my reach, MY ground, had, of course, been whitewashed as well on top of being stolen from me in the first place. It hurts at this moment to even have to write that down.
I don’t want to be equal to White people. I want us all to realize we have to learn to be more human, and that we can get there together.