White Space

This July 4th, the Administration of the United States deemed it appropriate to make a veritable show of force on sacred Indigenous land–in the middle of the most palpable uprising in the nation’s history. While the Oglala were standing their ground and invoking the authority of the Treaty at Fort Laramie, guards marched aggressively forward while onlookers were telling the Oglala to “go home.” The Administration chose to move ahead with its plans for fireworks, along with an offensive speech that negated the genocide which initiated the Treaty. The message being sent to the Oglala was this: “Even if you think you have a right to any space, your autonomy is invalid under the authority of White supremacy.”

In a land of “law and order,” the tacit understanding in the United States is that all space is White space. Regardless of whether people made immense efforts to create and maintain their own communities, the dominant narrative has been sure to encroach upon that space to enforce its dominance. Despite the Indigenous genocide leading to the reservation system, the government felt entitled to extract any resources “discovered,” whether it was gold, uranium, or oil. When Black people developed freedom colonies that allowed them to live–having been emancipated with no resources for the amusement of their former slavers–the federal government enacted the Standard City Planning Enabling Act and the Standard Zoning Enabling Act, which gave cities the right to redline, not just banks. The concept of urban renewal continues to give the dominant narrative the right to expel populations of color for the sake of “cleaning up a community.”

Throughout this entire dominance, populations of color have worked to create stability within their spaces, attempting to adapt to a culture that views them as inherently less than people with resources. University systems, churches, grocery stores, and neighborhoods were developed with few resources, and most of the people within those independent systems did their level best to avoid enraging or engaging the dominant narrative. Josefina Lopez’s “Real Women Have Curves” was compelling not because of the conditions of the garment workers, but because of their insistence upon their humanity. The exploitation of the body of Henrietta Lacks is so atrocious because Lacks herself would never have been accepted in all of the spaces her body has been. Because of marginalization, the world may never know all the history and stories that could have been told about the cultures within the culture of the United States.

Parallel cultures existed because of the dominant narrative’s need for segregation, and the demand for White space has distorted the humanity of so much of the population in the United States. The solution to the problem of White space is this: people need to stop looking at communities where they do not live and making decisions for people who do live there. The world is not a palette for the dominant narrative, and continuing to displace and gentrify communities is a violation of the autonomy of established communities. In the year 2020, public and private entities need to start controlling their impulses to destroy other residents’ homes based on their “visions” of the spaces without those residents.

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