From “All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep: Hope – And Hard Pills to Swallow – About Making Black Lives Matter” By Andre Henry
There’s a term to describe how the white world tries to keep us from perceiving the racism that pervades the Western World: gaslighting. Gaslighting is such a buzzword that I wish I knew a better term for what I’m describing. I don’t. It comes from a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton called Gas Light in which a man meddles with his wife’s gas-powered lights and tells her they’re only flickering in her head. The point of gaslighting is to get the target to doubt their own perceptions of reality and accept the gaslighter’s interpretation.
That’s what the white world is trying to do to us: on the systemic level by hiding history (like how Stone Mountain Park hid its Klan ties) and on the interpersonal level by telling Black people we’re just being too sensitive or paranoid about racism being a serious problem. The white world wants us to repeat the big lie after them: raacism iiizzz nooot a prooooblem heerrrre. Learning to call bullshit on the white world’s racial gaslighting was my first apocalyptic lesson – a lesson we must all learn to move racial progress forward. For me, learning to call bullshit began as a slow process of learning to see through the lies.