“Social-political narcolepsy – a condition of uncontrollable sleeping”

White noise keeps us dismally unaware in a racialized world that marks life outcomes and templates of belonging according to the meaning invested in the color of skin. It provides cheap passes and comfortable distractions from the messes we have inherited and the others we have created. It keeps us in a moral infancy, stunting our growth as people poised to abolish racism. White noise condemns us to naivete, helplessness, and immaturity but without the innocence that typically accompanies these traits.

White noise encompasses much more than what we say or refrain from saying about our nation’s founding ethical-spiritual dilemma, which continues to scar our souls. Coming to terms with our racist continuum means accepting that racist ideas produce racist policy and practices, and that racist policy and practices produce racist ideas. White noise fashions us into certain types of actors in the world. Our behaviors, attitudes, policies, institutions, and relationships are remarkably affected by white noise’s impact on individuals and communities. These racialized sounds – discursive power – stipulate how we act and stall on questions of race, just as our actions and inactions communicate white. Even when we are unaware and not ill-intentioned, our conduct speaks a racial grammar of complicity or contestation. 

Everything around us tells us to avoid the destabilizing despair behind race talk and racial justice advocacy as we sleepwalk toward destruction. As a nation and as individuals, we suffer from what Walter Earl Fluker calls “social-political narcolepsy – a condition of uncontrollable sleeping.” So much of what we take in deadens our moral imagination and renders us dear to the struggle for racial equity and repair. We all hear white noise differently, as it sends contradictory messages. It tells some that racism does not exist, others that racism exists but is not solvable. White noise convinces us to define White supremacy as police-involved killings of unarmed Black people; hooded marches through the old South, bolstered by the advocacy of White Citizens’ Councils; or MAGA insurrections at the US Capitol – an already shaky civic temple of global democratic power.

From “Silencing White Noise: Six Practices to Overcome Our Inaction on Race” by Willie Dwayne Francois III Brazos Press