The death rattles of the Trump presidency have been as violent and obscene as his time in office. Wednesday’s storming of the US capitol building by his White supremacist supporters would be too far-fetched for a movie, the fact the events actually occurred tell us how thin the line between nightmare and reality is. Politicians, commentators and the general public have struggled to explain the scenes because they are incomprehensible. A US president being suspended from social media because he tweeted support for a racist mob invading the US capitol building whilst congress was in session. There is no part of that sentence that can be rationally understood. Forget Trump and the mob for a second, the simple fact that a handful of thugs got into parliament when politicians were working should be unimaginable. People have been right to draw a stark contrast with the over-policing that occurs anytime a group of Black people suggest they may be at the nation’s capital. It should terrify everyone to know that white privilege extends to angry mobs looking for insurrection. In order to understand these events, we have to stop looking for a rational explanation because there is none. Whiteness is a psychosis, which places the state in a delirium that defies all reason and logic. Only by accepting this can we begin to address the issue of racism.
Accepting Whiteness as a psychosis is very different from saying that all White people are psychotic. This is not an issue of individual bad apples that need to be prevented from storming the gates. Even in the midst of the Whitest of White supremacy, there was still a handful of Black people providing token diversity. So we are not dealing with an individual issue and Whiteness is not an illness that infects only those with white skin. Whiteness is the way of seeing and organising the world necessary to maintain global White supremacy.
The central governing principle of the West remains the hierarchy with White at the top, Black at the bottom and everyone else on various steps between. It is the great chain of being that justifies building economic wealth on brutally extracting labour and mineral resources from the darkest peoples of the world for the benefit of those with the lightest skin. The fact that there are some crazy rich Asians, or wealthy Africans doesn’t change the racist logic of the system. It is this hierarchy of White supremacy that explains why it is necessary to chant that Black Lives Matter, because the uncomfortable truth is we simply do not hold the same value. Mass incarceration, police brutality and poverty in the West are caused by the same process that leads to a child dying every ten seconds in the underdeveloped world because of a racist global order.
Whiteness exists to defend the indefensible, to convince us (yes, all of us who benefit from this system) that our prosperity is not based on racial violence. Were we to notice the blood on our hands we would have to change, it is only through the psychosis of Whiteness that we can ignore the brutal reality. The history of genocide, slavery and colonialism that built the West is viewed through a hall of mirrors that presents the West as the saviour, dutifully fulfilling the White man’s burden. Enslavers and murderers like Colston, Columbus and Washington become heroes to be celebrated with monuments. Racist thinkers like Kant, Voltaire and Hume become revered for their intellectual contribution to human freedom. We decry global poverty, sending a text for Red Nose Day from our mobile phone we can only afford because of mineral wealth robbery of Africa. We do all this whilst sitting in our clothes made from Asian sweatshop labour and enjoying the fruits of products farmed in similar conditions, and receiving similar pay to the colonial era.
The smug sneering at Trump and the actions of his supporters is just as steeped in the psychosis of Whiteness as the mob itself. There is nothing surprising about the election of Trump or the racism that put him into office. The scenes at the US Capitol are simply the chickens coming home to roost. One of the most damaging legacies of the Trump presidency is that his extremism makes others look like moderates. Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Boris “picaninny” Johnson are not your friends, they are just as extreme and more dangerous because they are actually competent politicians. When Joe Biden is presented as the saviour it should be clear that something has gone terribly wrong. We are right to condemn the scenes in the US capitol building, but they are a symptom of a problem that goes to the heart of what makes America, and the West, great. When Trump is finally carted out of the White House it won’t mark a moment of progress, just a change to a different vision distorted through the psychosis of Whiteness.