Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
One of the dirty little secrets of integration of public schools and forced busing was the very much unspoken notion that if children were all learning together they would develop into a homogeneous culture, that black children and white children would grow up to be not black Americans and white Americans, but simply Americans, with a cultural identity which would overwhelm any kinds of racial differences. It wouldn’t be so much that we wouldn’t care about racial differences as not even notice them. It was a great idea, and one certainly worth trying, but things haven’t worked out that way.
The choices of free Americans have still resulted in mostly segregated housing patterns. The government could force public school children together, frequently using forced, long-distance busing plans, to insure that there were both black children and white children in the same schools, the same classrooms, but federal bureaucrats and federal judges couldn’t tell you where you had to live, could not assign people certain neighborhoods. Some things were done, making ‘redlining‘ illegal and invalidation of restrictive covenants and the like.¹
And thus we come to Saira Sameera Rao. Mrs Rao first came to my attention through Twitter, as she ran an account, a blue-checked verified account that I first thought had to be a parody. That it has turned out not to be a parody account is the greater shame.
Mrs Rao, after what she called “the catastrophic November 2016 election,” decided that she would run for Congress, trying to upset current Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO 1st District) in the Democratic primary; Mrs Rao lost in a landslide, 91,102 (68.2%) to 42,398 (31.8%).
Mrs Rao has led a rather privileged life:
Saira has emerged as one of the country’s strongest voices for social justice, equity, and inclusion. A graduate of the University of Virginia and New York University School of Law, Saira clerked on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia before landing a coveted position on Wall Street.
The University of Virginia is not an easy college into which to be admitted; to matriculate there is quite the privilege. NYU School of Law? If you have the LSAT and grades required, you are still facing a 33.1% acceptance rate; getting in is a privilege.² But that privileged life wasn’t satisfying enough:
After Lila and Dar were born, Saira quickly realized that children’s books didn’t have protagonists that looked like them. Recalling how isolating it was to grow up as a first-generation Indian-American, she set out to change the script for American youth.With her college friend, Saira co-founded In This Together Media, securing initial funding with a successful Kickstarter campaign. Six years later, Saira and her team have launched a slew of young adult and children’s books that feature black, brown, LGBTQ, and immigrant kids as central characters.
Today, In This Together Media authors include former NBA star and the league’s first openly gay player Jason Collins; former WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings; disabled model Jillian Mercado; teen trans activist Gavin Grimm; Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors; and child author Jesselyn Silva.
Essentially, Mrs Rao refused to recognize her own privilege, because she was so very upset by ‘white privilege.’ She leads a well-to-do lifestyle, but that just isn’t good enough. The following is a condensed version of a Twitter thread she posted on August 23, 2019.³
Quite a few Black and brown women have recently asked me how they can help their white women friends understand white privilege, in the hopes that they’ll start their anti-racism journey. In the hopes that their white women friends can become trustworthy.
Here’s what I’ve learned: whiteness is the most powerful drug on the planet. And if you, yourself, don’t want to wean yourself off of whiteness, it can’t and won’t happen.
You have to not just want to wean yourself, you have to *desperately* want to wean yourself.
I was a white feminist until 2016. I was deeply self-loathing and internally oppressed. Nearly all my closest friends were white women. These women were in my wedding, and I in theirs. They cradled me when I wept for my dead mother. They would have done anything for me.
EXCEPT GIVE UP WHITENESS.
I spent one full year meeting them for coffee, drinks, lunch, dinner. I sent them articles. I wrote articles. I sent them those. Rather than show an interest in awakening, nearly ALL of them, dumped me.
Dumping has involved a pinch of ghosting, a dash of “I’m really worried about you, WE are really worried about you.” It’s involved leaving me and my family out of group plans – and pretending it was an accident.
It’s involved leaving me out of group plans – and not pretending it was an accident. Some of these women weren’t really even friends before, but have bonded over their mutual disdain for me and my “craziness.”
They’ve bonded around WHITENESS.
This is no different than the KKK. Instead of robes, they coalesce around brunch, weddings, spin classes.
I no longer harbor anger towards them. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me sad from time to time, because it does.
But the overarching feelings I have are (a) UNDERSTANDING. Understanding how they are all just reading from their Whiteness Script. A script they received before they were born and (b) FEAR.
Fear that if the intense love they had for me and my family wasn’t enough to reflect on their own white supremacy, what hope do we have.
Those who love us still love whiteness more. By a long shot.
The most powerful drug on the planet.
As for that advice: save your time, save your energy, save your heart. Until and unless they themselves want to eradicate the toxic whiteness embedded in their DNA, it’ll never happen and you’ll be crushed trying.
From Mrs Rao’s own description of her relationships with her friends, she was completely welcomed into their lives, supporting her emotionally when she was depressed, comforting her when her mother died, including her in their weddings, everything you would expect a group of female friends to do.
But for some reason, Mrs Rao resented, resented! the fact that her friends were mostly white. Their behavior toward her, at least as she described it, showed no indication that they harbored any racist views toward her. She was, to use the correct word, integrated into their group.
Until she started attacking their “whiteness.” They (apparently) completely accepted her, but Mrs Rao just could not accept them. They treated her just like they’d treat anyone else, but she could not help but treat them as white, as somehow the other. She spent “one full year” sending them articles, writing articles, lecturing them about their whiteness, but rather than falling in line with Mrs Rao’s thinking, they apparently saw it as an attack on themselves by their fast-becoming-former friend.
And so, her friends did exactly what you’d expect: they started withdrawing away from her. She was becoming unpleasant to be around, a scold. Would you invite people to your house and your parties if they came in and pissed on the carpets? And their drawing away from her after she pissed on their carpets was, to Mrs Rao, “no different than the KKK.”
Mrs Rao seems to have never understood her friends. “Instead of robes, they coalesce around brunch, weddings, spin classes,” she wrote, and that’s important; though she probably doesn’t realize it, her former friends were simply not interested very much in politics — or at least not her politics. Are weddings the place to discuss racism? Do spin classes provide the proper venue for trashing ‘white privilege’?
I have been married for 40 years, three months and five days to a liberal Democrat. My wife has cancelled out my vote in every presidential election since 1980, when she was first old enough to vote. With very few exceptions, she has voted for the Democratic nominee in every partisan state and local election for as long as I have known her. Yet somehow, some way, we’ve managed to stay together for all of these years because politics is not all there is to life. That is something that Saira Sameera Rao simply cannot understand.
“The First District,” Mrs Rao said on her campaign website, “is an incredible mix of urban and suburban. It’s dynamic, diverse, progressive, and I can’t think of a better place to live.” Yet for all of her commitment to ‘diversity,’ Mrs Rao could not see that her white friends, who had treated her the same as anyone else in the group, deserved to be treated with friendship and respect. Mrs Rao couldn’t get past her friends being white, which means that it was Mrs Rao who did not respect diversity. Mrs Rao’s friends apparently did not care that she isn’t white, but she cared so very, very much that they are.
Wasn’t it the point of integration to create a society in which people didn’t really care about other people’s race or ethnicity? Wasn’t it the point of integration to create an American culture in which race didn’t matter? Mrs Rao’s friends were, from what we can tell from her own description of them, completely fine with that integrated culture, seemingly didn’t care about what race she was or from where her parents and grandparents came.
Yet it all came to nought, because Mrs Rao just couldn’t go along with that. It was Mrs Rao, not her friends, who rejected integration. It was Mrs Rao, not her friends, who was the racist.
Saira Rao has led a life of privilege. She wasn’t shunted into some ghetto, nor was she discriminated against in her life choices. She won admission into the prestigious University of Virginia, and the sixth ranked law school in the country at New York University. She clerked for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then landed “a coveted position on Wall Street.” All that integration promised in our country, Mrs Rao secured. But with all of that, she has the same insecurities as the fictional Indian, Rajesh Ramayan Koothrappali. She cannot accept her privileges in life without trashing the successes of others, because she credits those successes to being white.
At least Raj is funny; Mrs Rao is only bitter.
¹ – My mother’s house had a restrictive covenant, banning the sale of the property to blacks, which had been in the property deed for many years. It was no longer enforceable when she bought the house, in 1967, but it would have cost money to an attorney to have the deed restriction removed, so it languished there, as a dead letter.
² – According to Tipping the Scales, “just 38.8% of students receive grants to cover the school’s prohibitive $59,330 annual tuition -– with Manhattan’s stomach-churning cost of living ($23,000 a year minimum according to the school) acting as another drawback.” It seems that Mrs Rao was quite privileged to not only have been accepted there, but been able to pay for it and live in New York City.
³ – The embedded link is to the original first post; the rest are chained down. I have condensed this into one long quote rather than post the many individual tweets. No changes at all have been made to Mrs Rao’s text.
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