In the last few days, I’ve cycled through a wide range of emotions and dwelled on some thoughts about how to approach something weighing heavily on my soul. I’ve gone back and forth on even writing about the cause of this stress because of fear of what other people would think. Would people think I spoke too quickly before getting all the facts? Would people think I’m trying to placate certain people? And probably the biggest question to myself out of a place of pride, would people think I’m just an angry Black woman? Honestly, angry seems like a nice word, I am raging inside. Racism in America, at this point, is ridiculous. If you’re not angry about the current state of things, my guy, you just are not paying attention.
Recent events not brought me to lament and reflect about the current climate surrounding race. At one point I had to turn everything off and do something with all the feelings to silence the noise and not think about the risk being Black holds in America. Suddenly the anxieties stemming from COVID-19 ceased and dread fill space formerly occupied by pandemic thoughts. I forgot that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic.
My thoughts have been consumed by the dangers of being Black in America. People post on social media the problems with racism and being racist is bad, and that’s fine but you need to do more than throw up a hashtag. Be an active participant and learn about how you can address your behaviors that reinforce systemic racism. Don’t rely on your Black friends to walk you through the ins and outs of not being a racist. It is not the responsibility of Black folks (or any minority) to educate white people on how to not be racist. Resources exist, use the internet or read a book, then if you have questions, come back so we can dialogue. Sincere questions – not “why can’t I use the n-word,” Google it – benefit both parties in the learning and growing process. Don’t get me wrong, I welcome a dialogue with my white colleagues and peers to address race issues in America, I just am not here to be a guide for navigating racism. Understanding that as a white person, one will never fully grasp what being Black in America is like, but still seeking to listen and learn is honestly quite helpful.Embed from Getty Images
The constant reminder of unequal power dynamics in this country are regularly thrown in my face through microaggressions – you speak so well, you don’t act Black, you would be so much prettier if you were white, you know that Black people can be racist to white people – and the way people seem to struggle with interacting with Black people. I can’t speak for all Black folks, but sometimes I just grin and power through the cringe-worthy situation with people because sometimes I’m honestly tired of having to have the same conversations that don’t move the needle. It’s emotionally and mentally taxing to have to fight in an everyday situation to ultimately say “hey, I’m a human too, please treat me with the decency and respect you would treat someone white.” Perhaps I am wrong in not feeling obligated to educate every white person who says something low-key racist on how to be better, and I’ll accept that fault. I understand the implications of systemic racism and how it’s ingrained into American culture, so of course I should be able to explain it to others. Here’s the thing, trying to explain systems of oppression to folks who actively choose not to understand is like punching a concrete wall. You really want to get through, but probably won’t and you will likely be harmed repeatedly in the process, but I digress.
White Americans cannot act as if systemic racism isn’t a problem until a Black person is murdered. We cannot dismantle the system if you’re only unhappy within the week of this crime and then remain silent when your friends say racist things. You cannot remain silent when you are in a position to call out covert and overt racism because you don’t want to rock the boat. You cannot tell me you’re with me today because it’s the “cool” thing to do, but sit by idly when one of your friends silences a Black person and pulls some “all lives matter” or “reverse racism” garbage. You tell me you’re with me and this community, you want to support, do better. You say “I just don’t know what to say” thank goodness thousands of words exist, I’m sure you can string a few together, if you really want.
You say “Black lives matter,” and you love Black culture, so of course you don’t think yourself to be racist. In addition, you love Black music, you love Black athletes, you love Black art, you love Black content in general, you loved a Black president (and would have voted for him a third time if you could have), but that doesn’t mean you love Black people. If you’re scared when you see a Black person, maybe check your heart, you might not love Black people as much as you thought you did. Labeling yourself “liberal” or “not a racist” is not enough to combat a system. You know Black folks saw Get Out and laughed to themselves because the people wearing the red hats and carrying tiki torches aren’t the only racist people in this country. Plot twist, you can associate with a certain side politically and still behave in a way that keeps Black people and other minorities marginalized.
When thinking about this system that keeps the voices of people of color at the fringes, I return to the Audre Lorde quote “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”