Pulitzer Prize-winning author: White supremacy exists in all of us

Junot Diaz

By Somi Jun, Correspondent
More than 400 people travelled from as far as Philadelphia to hear Pulitzer Prize-winning author and MacArthur “genius” award recipient Junot Díaz call for compassion toward people of color who have internalized racism., “We can take every white folk on the planet, put them in a spaceship, fly them out to space, and white supremacy wouldn’t miss a beat,” Díaz said during a talk at Princeton University Feb. 24. “Because we are all its agents, we are all its participants.”, Díaz said the most important activist work is deliberation about one’s internalized oppression. According to Díaz, the very people who are oppressed by racism, sexism, or economic inequality internalize their experiences. As a result, people of color, or those who are not predominantly Caucasian, often learn to “love whiteness” more than they love themselves, a phenomenon that Díaz called the “love law” of white supremacy., “If you’re a person who lays outside of this love law, you understand what it means to wake up every day and to fight yourself from hating yourself,” Diaz said. “To stop yourself from looking at your skin and wishing you could look different.”, Díaz, who is Dominican American and of African descent, spoke on the “white supremacy that is inside of white academic institutions.” He drew from his time as an undergraduate at Rutgers University and a graduate student at Cornell to talk about what it takes for a person of color to get into an institution like Princeton and survive the experience., “If you’re a person of color, you didn’t get into this space because you were nice to yourself. You’re up in here because if you’re anything, you’re exceptionally cruel to yourself. Your lack of self-generosity is perhaps only matched by your willingness and ability to endure psychic pain,” Díaz said. “Because what we do not have in social and cultural capital, we have in superhuman ability to push ourselves.”, This “superhuman ability” can only go so far, Díaz said, and so students need to build ways to counter internalized oppression together. Díaz said to extend this compassion to the communities of color that students call home., “I’ve been home, my friends were racist, my friends were homophobic, my friends who were black were anti-black,” Díaz said. “It’s the product of colonization, of internalized self-hatred.”, According to Díaz, judgment of friends and family only furthers oppression, because young people who find paths to higher education often become isolated from their communities. He called upon students of color to embrace an “ethos of compassion” for themselves and those around them, in order to build healthy communities that are not ruled by the love law of white supremacy.

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