In my last post I made an appeal to forgive Paula Deenfor her use of the word “nigger” because I was feeling a sense of charity given that my general attitude toward her was already one of low expectations. I glossed over key points also due, in part, to generate a post with brevity and levity. The mild sense of sympathy I felt, however, was countered by a generalized snark and outright cynicism that comes from living as an African American woman living in the South and being a frequent observer (and occasional target) of some individuals behaving like rude, misanthropes all up, in, and through the public sphere. Granted, Southerners are generally very polite people — profusely so, in fact. Southern hospitality is an ethos that most strive to uphold. Though let us not forget, by its very definition, hospitality is a…
I make this post, intended specifically for my white FB friends, at the risk of disturbing your restful summer weekend. But there’s a message that’s been weighing heavily on my mind.
I want to let you know how I appreciate your empathy during these tumultuous times.
However, I must also tell you, your empathy is not enough because without action, your posts, likes and retweets are empty sentiment, based on your imagining what life would be like had you not been born with the privilege of your whiteness. For us black folk, though, notions about “race relations” and institutional bias are REAL—far more than the imagination.
If you’re on Facebook, you can now know that we haven’t been making up stories about giving our kids “the talk” on what to do when they encounter law enforcement. No longer can you simply turn away, pretending that police discrimination is anecdotal, a persistent urban legend, a series of isolated incidents, or mere theatre in the racially paranoid mind of a criminal underclass. What you are witnessing is the everyday reality of living (and dying) while black in America.
What we ask from you now are your actions, not just your “Likes” because we are tired of being the only ones who are forced to engage blatant racial politics so we can simply stay alive.
The same way you can rescue a dog, you can also act humanely on behalf of POC by lending your power and energy to the cause for more justice and peace. Join your local movement, take part in a Black Lives Matter demonstration, push for civilian review boards to hold your city or town police departments accountable. Be present as citizen observers during police stops. Speak out when your white colleagues and neighbors seek to enforce covert displays of racially coded etiquette. Believe your black and brown friends when they tell you about their experiences of racial profiling and overt discrimination.
Put your careers, your social and cultural capital, your financial resources, (and yes!) your ACTUAL bodies on the line. This is no different than what I’m forced to do—whether I want to or not.
What can you do? Use your privilege of white skin for the one sure thing upon which it can always be relied: a human shield in times of social and political crisis. (Consider it an asset for a positive social good for someone else besides yourself, if you will). And then keep on doing it. Every. Single. Day.
And yup! Stay woke because what we saw last week, happened again this week (even if it wasn’t a live viral video). And guess what? It will happen again next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, and the week after that… Until a critical mass of you, my white friends and allies, begin sharing some of the dirty work of honestly addressing racism and recognize your collective investment in whiteness as but a small sacrifice, “all lives” will never matter.
THAT is what you can do.