***DEAR WHITE FAMILY,***
My heart is very full after days and dozens of conversations and I have to address a growing elephant in the room, across all demographics of fellow white folks and across all areas and incomes and geographic locations.
PLEASE ***STOP*** USING THE FOLLOWING TWO LINES WITH ME ABOUT OUR BLACK FRIENDS:
1. “Well, YOU JUST CAN’T PLAY THE VICTIM IN LIFE.”
2. “If they just stopped calling themselves Black or African American; if they just called themselves unhyphenated Americans, all the problems would stop. I’M SO SICK OF THEM JUST WANTING TO BE SPECIAL.”
3. IMPLICATION: The racism and lynchings are somehow the fault not of the perpetrators or an enabling society but of the victims.
I hear way too much of this, especially from my beloved holistic New-Agey community and from well-intentioned white people and family from various walks.
The way I see it, Black people never asked to be treated like a totally different species or type of person. It was white slavers who kicked that off, along with the white theologians who built the ideology to justify it (Sin of Ham and the like).
And when Black people sought after Abolition to be called and treated as UNHYPHENATED HUMANS AND AMERICANS, white society did EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to form klans and to form lynch mobs and to build confederate statues and to hang confederate flags and to call them N____’s *TO THIS DAY*.
Not one single Black friend or acquaintance but has multiple stories of harassment from the public or police, often life-endangering ones in the latter.
NOT ONE asked to walk into a store and instantly everyone turns to stare and nice white ladies clutch purses and store managers call police if they take “too long” in browsing or trying on clothes (as happened to world famous speaker Shawn Stevenson recently). TERRY CREWS and countless Black celebrities have recently opened up about similar experiences in the wake of the recent atrocities. The horrible day a Black woman I was seeing woke up and started CRYING because some white boy at work or school got her number to send anonymous racial harassment, the same pattern prevails.
To this day, despite my best efforts, when in a predominately Black setting my childhood training kicks in and I start to TENSE UP because the “nice white adults” in my childhood pounded it into me to be TERRIFIED of the OTHER and to call the cops at the slightest whim and to lock the car doors and to look over my shoulder and to clutch my groceries or wallet tighter.
NO, loved ones, that is NOT the kind of “special” any human being wants. Black people have worked HARDER than most of us EVER will, simply to be accepted as human beings. They have BEEN POLITE, and gone to church, and dressed “nicely,” and avoided shopping or simply BEING in the “wrong” spaces, while changing their hair and their speech and body language and done ALL THE THINGS that NICE WHITE PEOPLE promised would confer that coveted status of being a NON-HYPHENATED HUMAN AND AMERICAN.
And what is the prize? Continued murder by militarized police. Mass incarceration. Food deserts. An openly White Supremacist president who calls Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” for the literal exact peaceful action WE TOLD HIM TO TAKE, and then calls the NeoNazis who murdered Heather Heyer at Charlottesville “very fine people.”
So don’t come to me with a condescending sniff and say “oh these Black people just want to be victims. They just want to be special. The daily brutalization and dehumanization is actually their fault because they aren’t doing things MY WAY.”
Can you SEE the problems with this statement? Can you see the lack of self and situational awareness? Can you see that THEY ARE AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN DOING THINGS YOUR WAY, and it just isn’t fixing it? Can you see they want so very badly to just be seen as human and American (or better yet at this point, dear GOD, even just IGNORED?)
But our society and our power structure gleefully, daily, in a thousand ways, jars them and shakes them and reminds them: “You are Black. And that’s a BAD thing. You are the OTHER.”
And can we please, in public and in private my dear loved white family and friends, can we stop callously pontificating on how this level of inhumanity IN 2020 is somehow the fault of our Black friends for not following our lofty (insulated) white wisdom? THIS AIN’T ABOUT US.
Lastly, for my large new-agey white family spread all over the country. PLEASE stop recycling the toxic victim blaming bullshit mantras that were created and popularized by 1970’s white male leaders who profited vastly by tailoring their messages to the wealthy and powerful (predominately white male) people who paid mega bucks for their books, seminars, and events. Some of these leaders, btw, were also highly suspect for sexual conduct, and whose tradition runs straight on down to a famously tall and litigious life coach’s infamous denouncement of the MeToo movement.
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY is only one facet of spirituality. Another facet of that diamond is JUSTICE. And we privileged spiritual seekers have for TOO LONG ignored the latter.
White family and friends, I love you and I love myself, but I’m mad at you and I’m mad at myself right now. We have work to do. We need to learn when to start speaking up but also when to SHUT UP AND LISTEN to our friends who are going through a trauma. Please join me: