For the last year, I’ve used my Instagram to engage in conversations about whiteness within a Latinx context. The hope is that more white Latinx like myself can take responsibility for our whiteness to engage more effectively in the fight for Black liberation. This has included being in the business of providing tools for non-Black Latinx to better inspect our proximity to whiteness. This has included engaging in the problematic history of how Latinidad became racialized within the U.S. and what role that racialization of ethnicity plays in the erasure of Black and Indigenous lives.
My goal? To challenge the premise of Latinidad in order to get to a more nuanced understanding of who we are and, in doing so, become sustainable accomplices in the fight for liberation.
Needless to say, these are messy, rigorous, and murky dialogues with no real end to them. But for me, one thing remains true and constant: Taking responsibility for my white skin is a lot like taking responsibility for my addiction. The very muscle required to accept that I am an addict (how I choose to identity) is the same muscle that renders me capable of diving deeply into these conversations and not shy away.
I got sober at twenty-five. While I hit an emotional rock-bottom, my life seemed otherwise intact. The people closest to me knew to support me in my sobriety but, as for my community at large, the fact that I had a problem at all came as a surprise.
Most of my drunkenness was often dismissed as a marker of my twenties. As a result, getting sober at twenty-five felt so unfair. Like I was taking on a premature adulthood that only failures have to succumb to. I had a stereotype of addiction in my head and, as such, my brain couldn’t reconcile how I might have a drinking problem. I felt both like a failed adult and a child, all at the same time.
Having to get sober at twenty-five, felt like a surrender of my youth, as well as the acknowledgment that I was an untrustworthy adult; always to be supervised around alcohol. How could that be? And yet, emotionally, I was a carcass. My drinking had taken from me my creativity and my drive, the very fundamentals of my life. I knew that if I kept drinking, it would strip me of any ability to accomplish my dreams as a writer; that I would wake up in ten years not having accomplished anything I’d set out to do with my time on earth. And that, I know, would eventually take my life. So I got sober.
I had a stereotype of addiction in my head and, as such, my brain couldn’t reconcile how I might have a drinking problem.
Awakening to my own racism was very similar to that process. Just like alcohol use disorder is led by big companies who profit off addicted consumers, racism is a sort of addiction led by the people whose implications it benefits the most. For those of us who benefit from our proximity to whiteness, racism, and the narratives that surround it keep us convinced of lies that seem to make us more comfortable. Or drunker, if you will.
We’re fed a lie that racism is only perpetuated by certain “failed adults.” White supremacy makes us believe that racism happens in extreme circumstances and not in our own progressive, everyday lives. And yet, we know addiction is killing us — whether that addiction manifests itself across substances or platforms.
So no matter how much I wanted to stay in a fantasy world where my drinking wasn’t a problem, if I wanted to make it out of my twenties alive, I had to take responsibility for my addiction. Same goes for this process: If I want true liberation, I must take responsibility for my white skin. By not acknowledging my addiction, I made others assume responsibility for my drinking. By not taking responsibility for my white skin, I further burden Black and Indigenous folx with the debris of my denial. A denial that, in the end, will take me down, too.
In a world where keeping us addicted to alcohol feeds a billion-dollar industry, getting sober is a revolutionary act. It requires us to hold multiple, very complicated truths at once.
For my part, I am made up of many vivacious aspects — only one of them is that I am an addict. I accept the implications of my addiction in order to experience the most liberated version of myself. And that’s a sober Priscila.
While the alcohol industry sells us joy, our sobriety disproves the lie and reveals life in the full breadth of what it can be. Anti-racism works the same way — in a way, this is all a process of getting sober from racism; getting sober from anti-Blackness. Getting sober from the lies built to keep this world unequal.
Just like taking responsibility for my addiction makes me better able to challenge faulty narratives about what it means to live a full life, taking responsibility for my white skin means I can better challenge the narratives that perpetuate a white supremacist agenda, and do so sustainably.
In other words, the tools of my sobriety are the tools of my ultimate Liberation. My sobriety is part of my revolution.