Sesame Street, Gaslighting & White Mediocrity

Growing up in the 90’s involved wearing many different pairs of rose colored glasses. We were conditioned to believe that being colorblind was the future, and that education would solve all of our problems. Gen-Xers spent the 90’s convincing my generation that ignoring race, being great at algebra and staying quiet would solve racism. I was recently having a conversation with someone and we were talking about how the 90’s gaslit my generation.

PBS, Sesame Street, and every show we watched taught unconditional acceptance, but didn’t teach us what to do when society fought against our individual identities.

I walked into my college years, confident that I was the same as those around me. I was confident that love and acceptance would allow people to see past the color of my skin, past my same- sex relationships. I walked into that dormitory completely blinded by the lies of an entire generation.

The 90’s media gaslit an entire generation to believe that our lack of access was due to our shortcomings rather than the barriers created by a society that never intended for us to succeed. We were taught to believe that kindness would heal the world, and as long as we were educated, we would be fine.

Education is part of the problem but it is certainly not the problem. Education remains a barrier for many communities and even when we have access to schools, they are never the ones that Twitter, Google, and VC led companies are looking for. Colleges are often broken into tiers, and the best companies want tier 1 schools. They want the Harvards, Stanfords, Yales and the schools that are not accessible to everyone, especially Black and brown folx.

Society has been designed to uplift and propel white men and women into boardrooms, CEO seats and leadership roles. This continues to be a hard lesson to internalize, it continues to be something that I fight against, because it feels unnatural. Although most Bachelor Degree programs are very similar across the board, same gen-eds and then specialized classes for your major, the only difference is how much you paid for it, and what fraternity you joined.

Even if we could solve the accessibility issue in education, it would still not solve for the systemic racism in this country. “Why?”, you ask, the answer is simple, white supremacy protects the livelihood of many. So much of diversity and inclusion work is centered around those who want to learn, change and continue to grow into people who are on the right side of history. However, we only whisper about those who are holding on to white privacy until their knuckles turn white.

White supremacy has protected white mediocrity since the beginning of this nation.

For over 400 years, Black people have been viewed than “less than” regardless of the magic we provide the world. From slavery, to segregation, to voter suppression to being murdered while sleeping in your own bed. During this time, we have also continued to praise white mediocrity, while the livelihood of white people was and continues to be built on the backs of Black and PoC folx.

Education is a great thought, it’s a start but it won’t solve any problems, especially if we continue to teach watered down versions of American history. We continue to pedal the idea of powerful white men who led a nation, when in reality they were just regular men who colonized a country that never belonged to them.

We praise Abraham Lincoln, yet Abraham wasn’t the abolitionist we learn about, he was not the white savior that is taught in our 5th grade classrooms. Lincoln fundamentally believed that slavery wasn’t a political view and politics should be centered on economics. Abraham freed the slaves because of a war, and a business decision. We write warm, fuzzy stories about a man who didn’t care about Black life, he cared about what would become capitalism.

This trend will continue for hundreds of years, mediocre white man after mediocre white man will be praised in text, the news and by the media until we believe with absolute truth that they are better.

Fast forward to 2016, we elected the world’s most mediocre man to be the head of our country. Over the next four years he would embolden a tirade of mediocre masses who believed that they were truly better than Black, Brown, LGBTQ people. The last four years were proof that mediocre people with access to power and delusions of grandeur are dangerous.

Mediocrity is a threat to the safety of this country, and those live here.

They attempted to stage a coup when they believed that their mediocrity was being threatened by a Black woman in the white house. They stormed the Capitol with nooses, guns, and rage.

Their rage has fueled the fire of mediocrity in this country.

Systems built by mediocrity will only serve mediocrity.

I was recently accused of stealing jobs from “white women” because I am Black.

People truly believe that ‘affirmative action’ is the reason Black men and women get hired, not because we are better suited for the job. It is why hiring managers will still push back against diversity and say, “I just want the best candidate”, as if their best candidate can’t also be Black or PoC.

So yes, education will help because many people want to learn, grow and change, but it will not solve for those who will spend their lives fighting to preserve white supremacy. Until we are ready to swallow the truth, that not everyone wants to be on the right side of history, we will be clawing at the back of history.

We must make hatred and racism a social crime punishable by ostracization. People must know that being a racist, homophobe, transphobe,etc is so unacceptable that it will alter the way they navigate their lives, personal and professional.

We owe a better future to the next generation, we owe a better future to ourselves, we owe a future to our ancestors.

We must exile racism from our communities, dismantle the system. If we cannot we can expect to sit on a never ending carousel of heartbreak, trauma and mediocre white men tweeting insurrections.

History has proven to repeat itself, unless you change the narrative.

We have to change the story, alter the plotline and recast the protagonist.

The protagonists are the people who this country was built on. The antagonist must be those who intentionally protect white supremacy to save themselves.

The protagonists are the Black women working 10x harder than anyone else just to prove their knowledge is valid.

The protagonists are the lgbtq community who simply want to love out loud.

Breonna Taylor is the protagonist.

George Floyd is the protagonist.

Ahmaud Arbery is the protagonist.

The protagonist looks like me, looks like us.

Madison Butler

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