As I sit down to write this I am sad, angry and utterly bewildered. In the wake of the Charlottesville Riot, I'm not shocked (I've been living in this racialized black body far too long for that). But, I am appalled. What is shocking is how many white folks, including friends and supposed healers, are still unknowingly caught up in trying to distance themselves from the problem instead of being part of the solution.
In the past 48 hours I've had a lot of real and raw convos. I am tired. I can't say everything I need to say, nor will I say it as profoundly as I'd like. Still, if we're to have a hope in hell of turning this ship around, something needs to be said. If my children are ever to have a chance of being judged solely on their merit rather than the colour of their skin, it has to be said. So here it goes.
Dear white folks...
Yes, all of you. Unfortunately, I've already lost many of ya because I've lumped an entire race of peeps into one category, and y'all really hate that shit. Guess what! So does every other race, and yet it happens to us every damn day.
I get it: I don't like grouping people into categories, either, but in this case I believe it has to be done. Because the thing is, y'all keep getting up to the same antiquated antics. The "No, not me," "But shit is getting better," "We're not all racist," "I'm angry, too," "How am I privileged?" bullshit that you spew out to your racialized friends, co-workers or café baristas. And we, as in the human race, simply don't have time for that shit.
I can imagine the urge to resist or rationalize.
When a racialized person exerts the immense emotional, mental, spiritual and physical energy to share some of her experience and perspective. To bare some of his immense grief. To subject herself to an inevitable barrage of white fragility in the form of defence mechanisms, hole-poking and dismissal. Please. Just. Listen.
I can imagine the urge to resist or rationalize. To create a divide between yourself and "them," and help cope with the shame, guilt and deep embarrassment caused by those fools waving flaming tiki torches (I guess they also hate mosquitos?).
I don't know what that's like, but I can imagine. Just like you don't know what it's like to be constantly reminded — through images, speech, law and policy — that your body is disposable because of its hue and your voice dismissible because of its tone. To live in a perpetual and unequivocal state of loss and grief. And that, my light-skinned loves, is because of your white privilege.
If ya don't know, now ya know.
There are many examples of how white privilege plays out in daily life. It is insidious, ingrained and incredibly challenging to overcome, particularly because white folks have such a hard time actually acknowledging it exists. But here's the thing: "If you don't think white privilege exists — congratulations, you're enjoying the benefits of it." Ain't that a bitch?
Listen, my sweet blanc babies, all of this must make your skin crawl and I have mad compassion for that. I do. Still, I want you to take all the heartbreak, anger, confusion etc. that you're feeling and multiply it by 1,000,000. Then multiply that by 33 years. Now take all of that sustained sorrow and try to imagine having to constantly explain to those with the most power and privilege (a.k.a. you) exactly how it is they benefit from people and systems who seek to uphold their right to that power and privilege.
Head 'bout ready to explode? Cuz mine sure AF is. But this is my experience as a racialized person, and I will continue to be asked, and expected, to do exactly this. Why? You guessed it... white fuckin' privilege.
Yes, it must suck to feel that violent, ignorant assholes somehow represent and reflect a system that you benefit from. Like, ew. What also sucks, and in a far worse way, is to be subject to the ceaseless outward and internalized hate, fear and trauma because I fall on the shit end of the privilege stick. We're all in grief, but it ain't the same.
So... what the eff can we do?
There are so many ways you can help and your participation is essential. Below are a few suggestions:
1. Own your privilege
Stopping asking "if" you're part of the problem and start asking "how." Then feel all the feels. Cry. Scream. Do what you gotta do so you can get the fuck to work.
2. Educate yourself
Not by asking racialized people to do it for you. Educate your own damn self. Google "white privilege" and "white fragility," bring up the issue to white folks, then ask if your racialized friends have the time or energy to engage in the topic (where your job is to simply listen).
This fight is ongoing. It is every. Damn. Day. It's everywhere, all the time.
3. Commit to daily anti-racist practice
I've had so many white folks tell me how upset they are but when I ask them what they're doing about it, I get blank stares.
Here's the thing, if you are really and truly outraged, you have no choice but to act. Racialized folks are called into action because it is our lives and livelihoods on the line. If you aren't actually doing something — you don't actually care (and, once again, you only have the option of not caring because of your privilege). If you ain't part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
4. Check in
Ask your racialized brothers and sisters how their hearts are and find out how you can best support them as people, not as a representative of an entire race.
5. Speak up
Silence is no longer an option. And please don't pat yourself on the back just because you posted something on Instagram, or called someone out on their racist rhetoric that one time. This fight is ongoing. It is every. Damn. Day. It's everywhere, all the time. What is required here is a total paradigm shift. A complete and utter overhaul of the white patriarchal system we all operate within, know and understand (despite it being completely fucked).
The truth is that shit ain't really gonna change unless and until white folks are also willing to truly do the work. I believe in y'all and I am hopeful that together, love (and action) will prevail.
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