Black people are being shot in historic churches and assaulted by police at pool parties. Black Haitians are being deported from the Dominican Republic. It literally feels like there is no safe place for people of color.
I am scared. I am sad. I am angry. I am numb.
I have been pretty open about my anger, and also very honest when discussing white supremacy and privilege. I am horrified that there is no outrage from the white community. You have the nerve to say “all lives matter” when we say “black lives matter. If all lives mattered to you, why are you so quiet? Your silence is violence, and it perpetuates anti-black racism.
An old (white) friend sent me a message yesterday, saying something along the lines of “I know that guy was racist who killed 9 people, but I’m not racist. I don’t live that life. I’m not the same as him.”
YOU’RE MISSING THE POINT.
I am calling you out to pull you in. Understanding that racism is systemic, not just an individual trait, is a huge part in grasping the core of this issue: white people are not showing up for people of color. If we want to see any change, white people need to do better. When a person of color commits an act of terror, there is always an expectation for that community to apologize and repent. Why is is not the same for the white community? I expect an apology. I expect action. I expect the community to look inwards and address the deep-seeded racism that perpetuates these acts of violence.
I shared this article with my old friend, hoping that it would help them see their own white fragility playing out, as well as their belief in individualism. Let’s just say, I don’t think she got it (and it really isn’t my job, as a person of color, to explain systemic racism to a white person—do your homework). The conversation soon turned into “I’m actually a minority where I live, so I know what it’s like” with some other white bullshit sprinkled in there. And this scared me to my bones.
How can we move forward, together, when the white population cannot even realize how much they benefit from the system that was built by white people, for white people? I am tired. It is exhausting to wake up every morning and hope that one of your people hasn’t been murdered in the night. It is exhausting to constantly have to explain to white people why black lives matter. It is exhausting to always have to educate white people about their own ignorance.
So I’m not doing it anymore. I need to do some self-preservation if I am going to continue the work I do to dismantle the oppressive system. I do not have time to explain to white people how they benefit from systemic racism, and how that has been playing out since the begining of our history. I simply do not have the energy anymore.
The conversation with my friend/not sure if we are friends anymore ended with her asking me this (in a hostile way that was not appreciated): what exactly do you want white people to do?
Look inwards. Look at your own privilege. The first step to eradicating racism is acknowledging that the entire system we live in reeks with racism and white supremacy.
Acknowledge that you, as a white person, benefit from this system in multiple ways.
Acknowledge that you have yet to go to a black lives matter protest because those issues “don’t really affect you” (which is a delusion-they do).
Acknowledge that people of color are suffering, and think about how your community can combat that. Call out racism when you see it. Don’t let your white friends get away with it. Be our ally in this fight.
Once that happens, then we can start fighting this racist system, together.
Illustration by Sarah Helene Green