Every time I see the trailer for Kill the Messenger I have to stop myself from thinking, “Nobody listened when black folks told this truth in Panther back in 1995” (that truth being that the CIA aided in the flood of drugs that destabilized our country in the 1980s, and black communities especially). Seeing as how the film only made $6 million, it’s hard to get too riled up about that observation since no one saw it anyway.
Watching an interview with the producer of The Whiteness Project – which on the surface seems like the most unnecessary use of money, social bandwidth and white people ever conceived – I had to stop myself from reflecting too long on the fact that its hours of footage essentially substantiate everything black people have been saying about white privilege for the last 200 years, and that while the producer clearly gets the meta-ness of it all, he’s really managed to codify white privilege in a way that only they will accept: from other white people. White folks done Columbused themselves.
I don’t stop myself from thinking these things because they’re untrue, but because they’re ultimately just really unfair footnotes. A lot of people get hung up on the unfairness of the footnotes and not the larger themes. It’s a lot like worrying about what makes good social allies instead of what it takes to defeat actual legislation or institutional behaviors.
I don’t search for allies. I search for truths. Allies are good when they present themselves, but I’ll take a substantiated truth over a well-intentioned individual any day of the week because truth is ammunition. Make no mistake: we are, all of us, at war in our respective cultural camps and beliefs and agendas. It rarely feels like war, but that’s because there are no discernible uniforms, ranks or battlefields. The reality is that the uniforms are our genders/race/class, our ranks are whoever has the most likes and shares, and the battlefield is pretty much anywhere people are. Like physical wars, there are conspiracies and codes and propaganda and stormtroopers and front lines and mass-effective weaponry. Like real wars there are deaths and killings and executions. Sometimes there are respites and cease fires and parlays. Always there are consequences.
Through it all, truth is a necessary (if often poorly wielded) commodity, and the two examples above can be fairly useful resources if one can work through the pride-dump of receiving it from an outside source. Ultimately, truth has no outside. “By any means necessary” doesn’t just mean pick up a gun; it also means gather the truth at all costs. Acknowledge the footnotes, but focus on the theme.