In a brilliant Saturday Night Live skit, “The Bubble,” political progressives who are frightened after the presidential election build a literal bubble around their community so they don’t have to deal with the outside world. The main requirement for living in the Bubble is unquestioned alignment with white progressive viewpoints and cultural norms.
Instead of engaging with anyone who disagrees with their enlightened positions, progressives tend to dismiss them as being unaware, and therefore kick them outside of their bubble, never to consider their opinions again.
I watched this happen during the presidential campaign when many white progressives told people of color, poor white people, Bernie Sanders supporters, and Millennials they just “didn’t get it” if they weren’t excited about voting for Hillary Clinton. A segment of white progressives assumed their alleged foresight would inform the electorate and decide the election.
We all know how that went.
Post election, white progressives have spent more time telling people why they should care about their safety pins than strategizing around protecting the most vulnerable during a Trump presidency. Thousands of Facebook groups emerge as white progressives, mainly white women, talk about their new fears of living in a country they now feel hates them, as if no one else ever felt that way.
White progressives have to learn how to talk beyond their bubbles if they want to effectively resist the hatred perpetuated by Trump’s campaign and victory. The white progressive’s ability to achieve real resistance to white supremacist norms is a matter of life and death, in a time when someone deemed too racist to be a federal judge can be tapped to be attorney general.
We can’t afford for white progressives to stay in their echo chambers. Our lives are literally at stake.
And yes, progressive white folks in the mainline church, this goes for you too.
White progressive folks in the church share superficially edgy Facebook statuses and think getting likes from other white progressives fulfills the requirement of denouncing privilege. They put on safety pins, yet never seem to hear us when black, brown, and queer folks say that’s not going to stop us from getting hate crimed and killed at disproportional rates. They choose to focus on themselves, writing endless think pieces centered in white panic and hypothetical danger instead of sharing first-person thoughts from people who could actually be victims of the surging hate crimes in the U.S. or whose videotaped murders likely wouldn’t result in a guilty verdict.
True allyship requires amplifying the voices of those of us who have been yelling “Black Lives Matter”; asking to use the restroom of our choice; saying “Mni Wiconi” to the Black Snake; demanding water that isn’t poisonous; and saying our loved ones belong here even if they weren’t born here. Oppressed people have been crying out to white progressives for amplification as a means to liberation, and now that we need it more than ever, white progressives—who have the least to lose—are ignoring us and obsessively talking to each other about their grief.
Meanwhile, folks like me have been grieving our oppression since its inception. This grief thing ain’t nothing new; white progressives are just choosing to honor its validity because they’re finally getting a taste of the fear associated with it.
Hey white progressives: It’s time to move beyond self-congratulatory activism.
Do the work with your racist relatives. Don’t run from that difficult family dinner or Facebook fight. Engage where others don’t feel safe. It’s not my job, or the job of any person of color, to engage with people about racism politely, or at all, when we aren’t perpetuators of it. White progressives not engaging with racists must realize the fact that they can even choose to engage without real risk is a privilege. Don’t confuse the inconvenience of engaging racists with the real danger people of color face when doing the same engagement.
Do the work within yourself to ask why you’ll write Facebook posts advocating for neighborhoods that you won’t drive through until they’re gentrified. Ask yourself why you’re comfortable crying and marching now that white women are in danger but were nowhere to be found during the original Million Woman March, when the organizers and marchers were black women.
I will hold Trump supporters and the Trump administration accountable in the next four years, but I will do the same for white progressives. Just because you’re not part of the most dangerous problem, doesn’t mean you’re not a problem at all.
If you’re a white progressive and your first thought is now, “Not all white progressives,” try popping your bubble and giving this another read.
Marchaé Grair is many things. A Netflix addict, puppy enthusiast, songbird, Millennial dreamer, and God lover, to name a few. She is the editor of New Sacred and Digital Content Manager for the United Church of Christ. Twitter: @MarchaeGrair