White people on the left are coping with the realization that America is racist. I’ve been doing that Indian thing where I disassociate and make jokes until I can commit to life again or resign completely. White tears taste like champagne. I wonder what our tears tasted like all these years?
Aren’t we all tempted, when we see white people in tears over their disenfranchisement, to say, “Now you know.”
It’s small of me to feel that way. But these white people have been bold. White people are asking other white people how they can fix this problem. Lord Jesus. Didn’t they know mass deportation? Standing Rock, stop and frisk, and police brutality were already prevalent issues? Didn’t they feel their world was falling apart before this?
They’re new to despair, but eventually they’ll learn to laugh at the absurdity and get to their cars safely, and stay on the right side of the street, or know when to walk straight ahead without averting their eyes, or how to comply, or how to distrust authorities, doctors, and institutions.
Some people trust their white allies to make the world a better place. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe allies should retain the power of a movement that was only actualized by people of color and the LGBTQ community. It should be business as usual because, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that sometimes our issues are a fad, and the popularity usually doesn’t impact our outcomes. Eventually the enthusiasm for our livelihood disappears because who wants to lose their job for us? Their friends? Their freedom?
I would trust white liberals more if they stopped trying to posture themselves as white saviors every opportunity they get. Congratulating yourself for not being racist is an ineffective way to convince people you’re not tokenizing minorities in your communities. We aren’t a prop to make you look better or feel good.
Trump’s the president. It’s horrible. But my people have had worse chiefs. We've had worse chief and council members. They disenfranchised their own people and kicked elders out of homes and betrayed their own families. We lived through that and felt worse for it, but we lived. And I know we lost our familiarity with our own languages, or our cultural affinities, but I don’t feel like I’m less of an Indian woman because I’m dispossessed. The elders in my life have told me, with a smile, that had the white man never came, we’d still have an ever-changing and adaptive culture. I see the beauty and the pain.
I think for Indigenous people, we were already scared and angry. There were reports that Native people were killed by police at a rate higher than any other group in the United States. Native women have been subject to exploitation and violence at alarming rates. I can’t get into it right now because I’m barely functioning. I’d rather stick to my pettiness, the jokes, and those tears. I feel unready to commiserate with white people. But I don’t think I have much use for their tears. It isn’t doing it for me anymore.
The thing about enjoying white tears is that it’s poison. Personal vengeance isn’t good for the heart. We need our allies, so I’ve taken to letting them in. I still make my biting remarks about white tears, the white savior complex, and their incessant need to apologize to me, and confess how white they are and how they mean well. It’s just funny. They’re talking about wearing safety pins to signify they’re our allies, and that they want to help. I told them that, if I see anyone with a pin on, I’m asking for ten dollars to send to Standing Rock, or to help someone retain an immigration lawyer. I can’t deal with these shenanigans without pointing them out. I retain my humor and my distance, but when they cry, I tell them I’m here. When I break down, I hope they’ll be there for me.
Terese Mailhot is Saturday Editor at The Rumpus. Her work has been featured in The Offing and Yellow Medicine Review.