How White Supremacy is like Addiction

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  1. Admitting you have a problem may be the hardest step.
  2. Admitting you can’t fix it individually, on your own, is the next hardest step.
  3. Addicts often promise to change, and then don’t. Many won’t until they hit rock bottom.
  4. Everybody is afraid of “making a fearless moral inventory,” but when they do, it’s actually quite liberating. As a culture, most white folks still haven’t done this.
  5. Making amends or reparations is even scarier and more complicated, but necessary to move forward.
  6. Addicts have a hard time listening to folks who aren’t addicts. It’s hard for anyone else to call out their BS.
  7. Wallowing in guilt and shame is actually counterproductive. Addicts use self-pity as an excuse to stay stuck.
  8. White supremacy, like addiction, is a social disease. It may not be your fault, but it’s still your responsibility.
  9. There are vested interests in maintaining addiction for power and profit. Some people want you to relapse.
  10. White supremacy, like addiction, thrives in toxic family and social systems.
  11. The folks who have been abused cannot be obligated to stay in those toxic relationships with addicts. Forgiveness does not mean going back to business as usual.

Like any metaphor, it’s imperfect. In our panel discussion last night, I said psychoanalyzing white culture is not what this is about, since that puts whiteness at the center of the story. But because it’s so hard for white folks to hear about their disease without getting defensive, we need multiple ways of talking about it.

Ultimately, I believe, the goal should be to dismantle the very concept of race. But until we do the 12 steps, talking about its social construction with racists is like giving whiskey to an alcoholic.