The Matrix and White Supremacy with Christine Leone

The Matrix and White Supremacy

No Soy De Aquí nor from there

A series centering on the search for belonging, healing, and fumbling towards liberation!

By Christine Leone 

Send questions about the self, healing from racial trauma, and liberation to [email protected]. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters may be edited. 

The Matrix and White Supremacy

Q. Hi, Christine- Are we really living in The Matrix? I’ve heard people talk about that idea with anti-racism, but I need clarification on what that means. I’d love to know your take on The Matrix comparison and how it can help me understand systemic racism. -Curious in Chicago

Answer: This is an idea I have been hearing more and more of on social media, and it has resonated with me. The way I understand it is that the use of The Matrix in this context is a heuristic for what Sonya Renee Taylor calls the delusion of white supremacy – or the delusion that there indeed exists a hierarchy of humanity. Like in The Matrix, this delusion is only real because we collectively buy into it. We allow ourselves to be governed by this idea that there are characteristics that you and I have that make us more or less valuable than someone else. When you dig into history, it becomes clear that white people valued what entrenched their power while justifying violence against Black and Brown people.

How do we know it is a delusion? Look at all the effort put into influencing our perceptions of reality through the media. People in power are actively mining our personal data and exploiting our fears to carefully craft our perceptions of truth because it maintains the delusion. It keeps us comparing ourselves, wanting more, buying more, working more, feeling empty, getting sick, and dying. It keeps us distracted from the violence this delusion creates and the possibility of opting out.  

The pandemic and George Floyd’s murder forced truth into our collective consciousness, providing indisputable evidence that our culture’s colonial and capitalistic roots were killing us. From my perspective, the collective delusion of white supremacy had cracked under the weight of its limitations. Our collective isolation provided the time and space to question what we knew and imagine something different. At the time, I was hopeful that in the flurry of white people ordering their books by Black authors, maybe we were on the precipice of shedding the white supremacy delusion. I thought white people were seeing what Black and Indigenous folks have been saying all along. I even thought that maybe after Black women won the election for Biden, there would surely be some real change. But as we began settling into the “new normal,” I think people jumped back into the demands of capitalism, and working towards being an ‘ally’ became ‘so 2020’. While people keep clinging to the delusion of white supremacy or are silent accomplices, the empire is crumbling. What comes afterward is only limited by our imaginations.

During the pandemic and uprisings, I was forced to question what I thought was real and imagine something new. I questioned what it might be like if everyone had what they needed. How could I feel I was doing well if everyone else had enough? I wondered, does feeling good about your status require others to be worse off than you? I was rebuilding from a traumatic divorce at the time, settling into the realities of single parenting, and trying to create a comfortable home for myself and my son. I wanted to feel like I was doing well. But compared to who? And why did I need to feel that way? It was part of the white supremacy delusion that I had bought into – that my value is relative to others. And if everyone had what I had, then what? I asked; I reflected, and then I heard the words, “you’ll have to find your value in who you are .” FUCK.

You mean to change the world, I have to change myself? Yup, the only way to create an alternative to our collective white supremacy delusion is to identify and root it out from ourselves.   This has come up for me repeatedly in podcasts, conversations, songs, and contemplation and has served as both a burden and a beacon for me. If you want to feel valuable, value yourself. If you want to belong, connect with yourself. If you want to heal the world, heal yourself. I think more people realize this and understand that it is a conscious and violent choice to dig your heels into this collective delusion or stay silent about it. It is painful and untethering to extricate yourself from the insidiousness of colonization and all its derivatives, but if you don’t, then you are benefitting from it, and that is violent. 

I don’t see DEI goals trending any longer. Disappointingly a lot of the anti-racist talk I heard in workplaces and on social media fell short of the walk. At the same time, people invested in white supremacy and are organizing and strategizing to maintain their dominance by passing legislation, censoring information, injecting disinformation, and gaslighting voices that question the delusion. They know that the more people begin to see that there is another reality – one that centers people over profit – their time will be up. That is why it is so important that we do not forget how powerful our individual and collective power is. Free yourself from the delusion, and free us all from the delusion. It makes me think about the Bad Bunny documentary video ‘El Apagón.’ In it, an activist discusses gentrification in Puerto Rico. They encourage a colleague to keep speaking out by quoting Ángel Ganivet, “cuando la gente de abajo se mueven, los de arriba se caen.” That’s truth right there.

Still curious? Stay tuned for Part 3.

Missed last week’s post? Check out Introducing No Soy De Aquí nor from there with Christine, a series centering on the search for self, healing, and fumbling towards liberation!

Christine Leone, LCSW, ICDVP

Christine Leone, LCSW, ICDVP

Hi, I'm Christine, and I'm a counselor who helps people explore healing through liberation practices. I currently offer counseling services here at Chicago Compass Counseling and specialize in EMDR, anxiety, and Race-Based Traumatic Stress. If you're interested, you can read more about me on my about page.