To all my white friends and family who feel attacked right now, I want you to know I see you and I hear you. I don’t think it’s funny that you feel uncomfortable and I don’t think the people taunting you are always justified. I don’t expect your blind acceptance and I don’t want your black squares.
Systemic racism is a subject we are not taught in school. Very few of you have ever been asked to listen to the voice of the oppressed. To acknowledge the rampant abuse of Black people is to challenge everything you’ve ever learned in school and in many of your churches and in some of your homes. BUT that IS white supremacy at work. The fact that you’ve never been confronted with this reality doesn’t mean it’s not the truth, it means we live inside of a system designed to keep us ignorant of the pain of the marginalized.
I’ve heard some of you say things like, “The Left just want our compliance,” “there’s nothing anyone can say anymore without seeming like a racist,” etc. I understand why some of the passionate rhetoric has made you feel that way. Anti-racism work and addressing police brutality require that people take educating themselves incredibly seriously. I think the Drew Brees case is a perfect example of this. When Brees came out as being against Colin Kapernick’s protests, there was outrage from those in the Black Lives Matter movement. THAT outrage led him to speak with his Black friends, colleagues, fans and more. He reversed his opinion on the matter after speaking to the groups most affected by police brutality. He received an education from voices with life experiences he could never have collected in his white skin.
THAT is what is being asked of those of us with the privilege inherit in whiteness. Because of the fact that we are the leading voices in our government, in our media, in our films, and all of the other places where people form their world view and determine the haves and have nots, we can go our entire lives without speaking to the people oppressed by our systems. Owning our white privilege means that we never make a decision without speaking to all groups who will be affected. The reason Brees was held accountable for his words was because as a white man, especially as person of influence, he owes Black people his commitment to listen to their voice before he forms an opinion and influences other people toward his way of thinking. If he fails to do so, his opinion is an echo of the white lens he most likely experienced in his neighborhood, in his school and especially in how he is treated as a celebrity.
This is one of the reasons why we can’t be colorblind. We have to notice when a room where important decisions are made and important opinions are formed is filled with only one skin color. Black lives matter is not a political statement, it is a crying out to a majority (white people) who has not made sure the minority’s (BiPOC) voice was heard. The result has been the needless death of Black people. What higher stakes could there be than protecting the sanctity of human life?
If you feel attacked, ask yourself if you are equating racism with being a good person. As I’ve said before, racism does not require that you aren’t nice; systemic racism is a legacy handed down to us, built as a way to keep Black people from advancing. If you feel like your opinion isn’t being heard – question if you’ve ever before this TRIED to listen to Black people’s lived experience. It may feel crowded adding a new voice to your life, but spending more time listening doesn’t mean you’re being oppressed. It means you are being informed.
I have so much love for the white people in my life and I think that so many of us are capable of changing our hearts and minds. If at this time you are not ready to give up the power we’ve hoarded or spend the time educating yourself, acknowledge that and disengage. No amount of talking can make you want to do the work.