My fellow white people: Let’s talk about our feelings for a minute

Note: This will be brief and inarticulate. I’ve had little sleep and the world is on fire. But it’s fine because this isn’t journalism or any kind of writing that needs to be beautiful. This is more of a perfunctory internal memo. 

Hi, white people. Let’s all agree on a few things before we go out in the world today and try to interact with non-white people. OK: Everything is awful and we all have reasons to be sad and pissed and scared today. That’s true regardless of who you are. But if you’re white (+1 male, +1 cisgender, +1 straight), you are automatically less endangered than all people of color and immigrants — I mean physically, economically, and in every other way, in real danger — by the America that’s just been ratified by its white people. This is the most important thing for us, the white folks, to keep in mind today.

I’m not saying not to have your feelings (I have mine for sure), but just this once, let’s try to have them on our own and with each other. Let’s try to keep them in their correct perspective. Because not all “Trump is going to be president and I feel horrible about it” feelings are created equal.

Are you online or around real humans and there are people of color talking about how they’re feeling about all of this? Try listening. Try not countering their comments with statements that imply you are experiencing anything remotely near what they are experiencing today. Don’t look to your PoC friends for comfort today, even if you need comfort, which you might and that’s fair. But people of color in America have just had the vast bulk of their safety and personhood violently stripped from them in ways that will only become harsher and more violent as things move forward — do not ask more of them by asking them to comfort you. Do not belittle what their current experience and future prospects are by positioning your own as equal.

Because here’s the thing: The discomfort of having a rapist as president is STILL NOT AS BAD as, say, being literally lynched or rounded up and deported. It’s not as bad as living in a country full of millions of white people whose longstanding supremacy has just become exponentially more dangerous and potent by the ultimate institutional validation of their actual murderous hatred for anyone who doesn’t look like them, and not looking like them. It’s not as bad as losing Roe v. Wade, or marriage equality, or losing a chance at a sweet “yay we have a lady president!” party, or losing the ability to lie to ourselves about how many of us are more filled with hate and fear than anything else. These are all upsetting things to varying degrees — but they will not kill us.

And I know what you’re thinking: sexism. Totally! But all the dehumanizing, dangerous, unfair, regressive, sexist bullshit that will undoubtedly come down the line for all women will still be markedly and disproportionately more survivable for white women. Our whiteness makes us infinitely advantaged even in the worst cases. Our inroads to safety are marked and ready if we need them, even if we hate ourselves and everyone around us as we walk them. People of color do. not. have. this. option.

Again, I’m not saying white people should feel obligated to shut down their feelings, or feel less entitled to feel devastated today. I feel fucking devastated today. What I am saying is that even if you didn’t choose Trump, and even if you don’t claim him and his followers as your own people, they would still happily accept you as their own and that makes you extremely safe. That’s the point. Our happiness as white people is definitely on the line and we are allowed to not be pleased about that. But our safety, in general, is not in question. Let’s allow space for the central feelings being tended to today belong to the people for whom the implications of Trump’s election very well could kill them. And the rest of us can deal with our relatively smaller fear and sadness and disappointment on our own.