Culture and Society
Ijeoma Oluo On Privilege, Power, And Race
White supremacy is not just Nazis marching in the street. In the U.S. it’s always been a part of the economic and social system.
I learned a history not then written in books but one passed from generation to generation on the steps of moonlit porches and beside dying fires in one-room houses, a history of great-grandparents and of slavery and of the days following slavery; of those who lived still not free, yet who would not let their spirits be enslaved.
This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidate — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
As Lee immersed himself in these families’ daily lives, he witnessed tender interactions that ran counter to stereotypes of black men as indifferent or absent fathers. Despite challenging financial and personal circumstances, the men Lee encountered were “loving, present, and responsible fathers,” he says, who worked hard to provide for and nurture their children.
This strange country of cancer, it turns out, is the true democracy — one more real than the nation that lies outside these walls and more authentic than the lofty statements of politicians; a democracy more incontrovertible than platitudes or aspiration.
In the country of cancer everyone is simultaneously a have and a have-not. In this land no citizens are protected by property, job description, prestige, and pretensions; they are not even protected by their prejudices. Neither money nor education, greed nor ambition, can alter the facts. You are all simply cancer citizens, bargaining for more life.