We Ain’t In this Together: Rebuffing the Reconcilatory Narrative

It has been an interesting few weeks. As a budding scholar and content introvert, most of my time on earth remains vested in my thoughts and intellectual inquiries—not people. It has been quite the experience to do what I do by force, not necessarily by choice. I share this anecdotal insight as a means to illustrate my core contention.

In a seminar I attended this week, an African-adjacent attendee commented that “whether we like it or not, we are all in this together.” This statement triggered me, echoing a comment a fellow blogger left beneath a post I published last week. Though informed that this dialogue, particularly this phrase, “We’re all in this together” emerged as a caption to this “national crisis,” experiencing it for myself summoned me to a new place. The person who made this comment was a white gentrifier in a predominately black space. Thus, the comment was personally privileging to an ideology that vindicated his presence. The comment functioned as a cheap effort to make his presence seem more like an inclusion than an invasion. 

This deflection is, of course, not anything new. In fact, it embodies the reconciliatory narrative pervasive in all walks of anti-black life from media to literature. In Ernest Gaines’ novel A Lesson Before Dying, Gaines humanizes the white male prison guard, who embodies the epistemological gaze that encapsulates a young black man’s final days and final moments. The narrator, black schoolteacher Mr. Wiggins, informs readers that the white prison guard expresses a disinterest in carrying out the racist protocol expected of him. This seems less important than the reality that he does it. The ending, where this white prison guard informs Mr. Wiggins of the young black man’s final words and moments, suggests that “we’re all in this together,” despite the reality that a slain black man, robbed of all elements of his future, who now embodies a communal wound, enables the white prison guard’s livelihood as a white man in America. Yes, they were technically in the prison together, but the white man had the key, and the black male’s abjection–from his wrongful conviction to his placement in a cage–remains the key to white global functionality.

From To Kill a Mockingbird, to the recent Black Panther film, to the This Is Us series, the reconciliatory narrative surfacely posits a post-racial humanity which remains anchored in racist views vested in whiteness as savior, redeemer, and epistemological resource.

Technically, black and whites were in the domestic institution of slavery with whites. Whites, however, were not in chains, they did not lose their names, nor their native tongues.  Similarly, during this time, whites can trust in science; blacks, however, cannot afford to forget that the same science used to save white life, and validate a fictive white superiority, occurred at their expense. To say that “we are all in this together” is to overlook the glaring disparities that haunt black life even more fatally in this time of crisis. 

Poverty. Homelessness. Education.

Although these problems, like the virus, can easily be panned as universal conflicts, these problems multiply when paired with systemic oppression and racial prejudice in its many folds. 

Thus, while it seems amiable to make  a blanket statement  such as “we’re all in this together,” this statement functions as a panacea which suggests that the work that needs to be done has  been consummated, that the virus has somehow cured prior evils, or somehow made them less relevant. 

This idea, of course, proves convenient to those whose only reference a false equivalency to feel as though their achievements and life path reflect ability not systemic favor. 

Let us also consider the outage that erupted after many interpreted Trump’s timeline as placing the economy over human life. This timely outrage makes a century-long burden the black race, those descended from those who personify the imbalance between economy and humanity, must carry. Descended from those brought here in chains, blacks remain espoused to anti-blackness as a national crisis that proves generational.

Moreover, we ain’t in this together if you ain’t in it for the long haul. We ain’t in it together if you’re in the country by choice. We ain’t in it together if your hue makes you a beneficiary to the hegemony that engenders black suffering. These statements do not mean that other groups do not face harm, hardship or death—it means that they exist in a world where these things matter. For blacks, our hardship, heartbreak, and death comprise the matter that make this white supremacist world go ‘round. 

Conclusively, to return to my opening anecdote, to say that “we’re all in this together” conflates what black people endure by force with those forced to experience a fraction of black abjection in select moments in time. 

Everybody wants to share labels, but no one wants to share the struggle. 

4 thoughts on “We Ain’t In this Together: Rebuffing the Reconcilatory Narrative

  1. C.C., you hit this one out of the ballpark! Well said! Well said! These scared whites are almost rabid in their fear of this virus and its impact on what used to be their ‘insulated, white bread world of Disney adventures and cruises to island paradises’. And now that they’ve got to sit their asses down and money can’t be thrown at this virus to get it up out of their faces, all of a sudden, “We are in this together.” How the hell so when if they can, they move themselves into ‘gated communities’ to get away from us? They’ve gentrified our neighborhoods and many of us are homeless and sitting somewhere in tents trying to cure typhus and hookworm. I stated all over my blog that this day was coming, that THEIR day was coming for them to ‘enjoy’ some suffering since they have no problem dishing it out to us. Well, it is here and they’re not happy about this mess, but they’ve cared not about our plight in ALL these hundreds of years in our struggle that no one who comes over here can ever truly relate to.

    Again, I thank you for posting this C.C. and for including a pingback to my blog.

  2. C.C this is an excellent post! And right on time. I’ve been absent for a while from getting a chance to read your excellent posts, due to working full time and in a part time MBA program at the University of Houston, that feels full time. And because my time management skills are not the best and need improvement.

    That being said, White people are Master Deceivers and I have noticed this narrative from Whites “We Are All In This Together” during other crisis, like the flood that took place in Houston as a result of Hurricane Harvey, where Racist Whites were the saviors.

    I think what is happening here is White people (Racists) are playing every side of the coin, as they usually do. Whites never miss an opportunity to confuse people classified as black.

    On one hand 🤚🏻 I think the Whites are saying this to further confused 🤷🏿‍♂️ black people. The average black person that does not have your high Counter-Racist I.Q will be extremely confused by this “we are all in this together” rhetoric.

    While simultaneously on the other hand 🤚🏻 Whites are speaking in Code directly to other Whites, that “We Whites” are in this together. Speaking directly to other White people, White business owners, etc. We Whites will get through this together, while letting non whites believe they are a part of the “We.”

    I could be incorrect. But I have seen Whites and they seem to be making more eye contact and trying to speak more than previously, extra friendly all of a sudden. White people also seem to be really gleeful about this pandemic, really jubilant, just an observation I have made from the White people I am encountering here in Texas.

    Great post! It’s great you are calling this out and bringing attention to this deceptive Racist strategy.

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