Being a Religious Studies major, I engage with a variety of different religious beliefs and attempt to understand them. Yet, I am as atheist as they come, described by my sister on more than one occasion as an “anti-theist.” I study religion because it does not make a lot of sense to me as an individual; to combat this lack of understanding I try to comprehend it by looking at the traditions and trying to understand why the people who follow them do so and what impact this has on their lives and the lives of those around them.
The most interesting conversation I have ever had on this topic was a discussion about the possibility of the existence of God, specifically in the Christian context. Discussing with a friend (a Philosophy major who thinks about things in entirely different ways than I do), he mentioned that there were only two real possibilities to thinking about God. It is fallacious to describe God as “not real;” the only options are to describe God as real or to deny the possibility of the existence of God. At this point, you may be confused, as I know I was, but essentially this comes down to the fact that by saying God does not exist, the concept of God is being validated and created to exist; but by saying there is no possibility of the existence of God, for whatever reasons you may believe this as such, the claim against God being real is made.
This conversation is the only thing I could think of when reading the article “White People Have No Place in Black Liberation” by Kevin Rigby Jr. and Hari Ziyad. The entire article was a discussion of whiteness, and how the existence of whiteness hinders any potential for a truly equal society. The part of the argument that stuck with me the most was the bolded notion that “white people cannot exist as white and do anything to address racism, because whiteness in action is racism.”
This brings me back to the initial conversation. From a logical standpoint, this means that either whiteness exists, or there is no possibility for the existence of whiteness (because this would mean a genuine post-racial society). For someone to deny their whiteness to work as a white ally is not possible, because to do so is to confirm the idea of whiteness and to therefore further the structures of racism that come with whiteness. This may seem very convoluted, but essentially, the argument that Rigby Jr. and Ziyad are making is the logical one by all philosophical standards of logical reasoning.
When reading this article, as someone who spends a lot of time attempting to be a white ally, I was devastated. It seemed as though the black community was telling me that they did not want my help. However, after I thought about it for a second, it made me realize the painful truth– this issue is in no way about me. I cannot be upset that my help is not what is going to further the movement for racial justice, because to do so would be using my privilege. And while this can help to some extent, eventually there will come a point where the only way I can help is to vanquish my own whiteness and the whiteness of everyone around me. And honestly, this is not something I have any way of doing. As much as I hate to admit it, I have no way of being able to help, and I have no way of getting rid of my whiteness. Yet, I cannot dispute the argument, because logically, it is the only thing that makes sense.