The concept of microaggressions first hit global consciousness with the release of the now-classic cinema masterpiece Dear White People. A lot of progress has been made since then in educating white America about how the white things they previously thought were acceptable are often doing folks of color dirty.
Unsurprisingly, while many white people have acknowledged their role and promised “to do better,” there are still no white people sincerely offering any sort of financial compensation for the psychic damage they passively inflict on people of color through extraction of emotional labor.
Yes, we’ve seen the occasional performative donations to BLM during moments when the sheer awfulness of white folks has been put in the spotlight. But nobody is paying up for the Olympian emotional labor we as colored folks are expected and forced to do on the daily.
This makes no sense, and it’s not fair. We have a word for free labor, whether it’s physical or emotional. That word is slavery.
Expecting something in return for our emotional labor isn’t a stretch, or in any way entitled. Awarding compensation for emotional damages and reputational damages is not uncommon in American courts, and white people have been on trial by folks of color across America. The verdict is in: it’s time for white America to pay up.
Whiteness is emotionally draining and harming folks of color
Let’s be clear: this isn’t about racist white kids calling Black folks the n-word, or even being targeted by the police for deadly vigilante justice. Yes, those are huge issues and whites must pay dearly for them. But if you’re a person of color and none of that stuff happened to you personally, you are still the victim of whiteness just by simply existing in America.
And that is precisely the point. Folks be tired, on God.
To folks of color, even just visually perceiving white people is an all-out, cortisol-raising attack on all senses. This is the result of a scientifically studied phenomenon called generational trauma. The American Psychological Association describes the phenomenon as such:
A phenomenon in which the descendants of a person who has experienced a terrifying event show adverse emotional and behavioral reactions to the event that are similar to those of the person himself or herself
To put it another way, white people are colonizing the senses of marginalized folks by exerting their ancestral colonizer presence on the spirits of the ancestors of living marginalized folks. White people can “crack the whip” to Black folks just by staring at them, or deliberately performing white “politeness” rituals that conflict with non-white cultures.
White people can do this without necessarily being consciously aware of it, for example by drinking coffee; bumping into us without apologizing in the store; trying to touch our hair or pet our dogs (there are no white women alive who don’t know by now how we perceive that), and just generally being a white-centered white person in public.
An important aspect to highlight here is that any hostile reactions from folks of color to whites is an “adverse emotional and behavioral” reaction, according to the science. This means that beyond “just” being physically tolling (look up what chronically raised cortisol levels can do to your health), it’s racist to try to hold marginalized folks “accountable” for lashing back against white colonization. Outbreaks of anti-colonial backlash, in the medical view, is literally self-defense.
Rejecting white capitalism to form an ethical, Black-led intersectional global commune
So how exactly should white people compensate folks of color for the emotional labor of dealing with them, you ask?
Obviously, white people should pay people of color. But a better future is one in which there are intersectional global systems in place for all white people to equitably and sustainably compensate all marginalized folks. Nothing will change until we have these systems set up and white capitalism as we know it is replaced by Black-owned and PoC-centered engineering processes.
Let’s not think small here. After all, Black folks created the world’s greatest ancient civilizations (like ancient Egypt), and the beautiful Wakanda is less science fiction and more a vision of what Africa would have been by now had white folks not stolen all the resources and technology out of the continent.
We need to study and revise every racist aspect of the current white capitalist regime — and change it to fit the vision of an ethical intersectional global commune full of afrofuturist elements and modernized, inclusive conveniences.
Afrofuturist equity technology
It is well known by now that the practice of tipping at restaurants was deliberately set up to dehumanize and stigmatize Black folks, who have less money to go around, so let’s start there. An ethical future must and will break free from the racist shackles of tipping, and one solution elegantly ties in with the rest of the project.
Which solution? In the future, white people can still own restaurants, but in this bold reimagining they will exist for the purposes of making racist white women sit at a table of people of color and hear our grievances, #Race2Dinner-style.
The meals in these new restaurants should be complimentary, and the “tips” are paid to people of color who are gracious enough to attend the dinners and educate white folks. As well, since tipping in cash is antiquated and reminiscent of the old regime, the entire process can happen seamlessly through bank account-linked QR codes automatically issued to each white person along with their birth certificates. Citizen educators of color can then use their phones (or whatever Star Trek-type gadget they would use in an afrofuturist future) to scan white folks’ QR codes. An AI then employs various data feeds to calculate how much emotional labor has been provided to the white person.
Afrofuturist equity technology will of course not be limited to dining. Bold legislation can entice white folks to make their QR codes presentable at all times when in public — similar to a car’s license plates. This innovation would open exciting possibilities, such as the ability to conveniently accept a tip from the offender whenever a white person commits a microaggression.
It will take some time, but we will eventually right the wrongs of the past. We will end white supremacy and systemic racism one step at a time, and any lingering fears of a Black planet will be squelched. The necessary first step is to get white people to start acknowledging the chronic emotional damage they are inflicting on folks of color — and start paying for it. Anything else is free labor. And free labor is slavery.
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