Currently, almost everyone in the U.S. has been feeling the resonances of the white nationalist marches in Charlottesville, VA. In Introduction to Ethnic Studies, my students have been feeling them too. Many of my students were shocked, angry, and struggling to process why such a hateful event would take place within our borders. However, as a queer person of color with a working-class background, I had to tell them that I myself was not surprised.
As a person raised within the backdrop of multicultural education and colorblindness—where children are taught that the color of a person’s skin does not matter and that not seeing race ensures seeing each other as humans instead—I can see why many cannot fathom how our current moment of white nationalist revival came to be. We have been taught to view each other as equals. We have been taught that everyone living in the U.S. has the chance to succeed despite their difficult backgrounds and struggles early in life. We are continuously reminded that the U.S. is a democratic nation that values freedom, liberty, and justice. But we are not taught that this democracy was built on the backs of racialized and subjugated others—the racial chattel slavery of Africans, the genocide of Native Americans, U.S. colonization of the Philippines, the exclusion of Chinese and Japanese immigrants, and the exploitation of Mexican labor. And now, with Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-blackness, and Zionism peaking, we should not be surprised with the election (and retention) of Donald Trump and the (now) visible white supremacists in our midst. Continue reading