***Warning: This post does discuss racism towards blacks. IF you are highly offended by the mere mentioning of racism to where it angers you to the point of shouting the “N-” word or preaching how racism is dead, please. Stop now.
You have been warned.***
For the longest time, I have avoided talking about race and racial relations between blacks and whites because there’s so much controversy and underlying anger that I feel like I wouldn’t be able to do any of it justice. I would probably go off on tangents and never be able to fully reel in my thoughts and experiences and form them into a single, simple, nice, and neat package of understanding. That’s always been the problem when talking about race. It’s a topic that’s hardly ever simple, nice, or neat. Plus, I’m awful with staying on top of my thoughts, which is why I’ve always felt that every other racial equality activist can speak on race better than me. AND, in my opinion, they have. I have read numerous articles, watched hundreds of videos, and gazed upon various works of art, and to me, I could not have expressed myself better than they did. They were eloquent, firm, respectable, thorough, and resourceful,… and each and every time, a non-person of color (or hundreds) felt the need to leave a meaningless, hazardous, and/or even threatening comment that added no real substance to the discussion at hand. They would call the reporting person the “N-” word, or tell them to shut up, or they would “play Devil’s advocate,” which, in the overall conversation of racial inequalities, doesn’t exist. There is no logical way to “play the other side” because the other side literally doesn’t exist. We’re not going to wake up one day and suddenly, magically, whites are being oppressed with higher interest rates, being offered lower wages than their person of color counterparts, and their children are targeted and shot in the streets. That’s never going to happen, so Devil’s advocate can kiss my ass. So while these activists continue to explain and preach until their faces turned blue, or their fingers have fallen off from the ferocity at which they are typing on their keyboards; it’s really aggravating and disheartening that as soon as they mention race (and the social inequalities often associated with race), the original poster is verbally attacked, deemed a “race-baiter,”and instantly has their experiences, knowledge, and just their overall being invalidated. All because people can’t stand the thought that racism is alive and well. Not only that, but they are doing nothing to help their fellow human beings, and that should make them feel shitty about themselves, but they don’t, so instead, they’ll just get mad and rage.
They are mad because they are unable to relate/ associate any aspect of their lives to negative affects of racism, so it just doesn’t exist to them. So, anyone who says otherwise is just trying to start shit or stir the pot. Which would be some sound reasoning, if EVERY other person of color didn’t say otherwise. This train of thought doesn’t make sense. If racism didn’t exist anymore, why would large groups of persons of color make a strong effort/ spend most of their time/ work endless hours to fight something “that doesn’t exist anymore?” Why would they risk their lives, their safety, and the comfort of their own homes, to try and stir up trouble? Why would they gather together, share their experiences and research, and produce various written, drawn, or other visual works that emphasize every point they are trying to make if there was nothing to deal with in the first place?
See, white people (#notallwhitepeople) like to think that people of color love the drama and attention that they get when something bad happens to other people of color. They think that we protest because we’re bored. They think we create online safe-havens and private forums because we’re conspiring against them to prove just how horrible white people (and some other people of color) can be. NOT because we don’t feel safe or protected or respected in public spaces, BUT because we are conspiring to try to bring them down to “horrible people” status (HA! If only).
THEN they lash out for being left out.
Left out, targeted, and attacked because they are white.
The problem with this response is that it’s completely counter-intuitive. Instead of listening and removing themselves from their feelings; by being loud and angry and condescending and dismissive of what others are saying, they are proving almost every persons’ of color point. They refuse to listen because they are either a) offended that their feelings aren’t being considered, b) offended that their opinions on the situation don’t matter, or c) refuse to acknowledge that there are others out there who have experienced shittier situations than their own, and because they are unable to experience it, they don’t have to acknowledge it. Such is the curse of white privilege.
Now, I’m not going to go into every single little detail about the harmful issues surrounding white privilege (there are plenty of articles, studies, and books that can provide more information on that topic; I have listed a few below), and I don’t want to. That’s not what this post is about. This post is about how white people, as a group, can support their fellow people of color in this seemingly never-ending struggle for equality. Everything on this list should be easy to remember, since being an ally is really simple, and doesn’t even require leaving you house. It just takes some personal insight and an upkeep with current events. Two things you can easily get from your computer.
Yes, all of these can be accomplished from the comfort of your own homes. So pull up a chair, put on those reading glasses (yes, the ones with the crystal chain), and take a gander on how to be a better person when it comes to racial relations with the people of color in your life. And even if you are already an ally in the fight against racism, take this time to review your role and see if you can make any improvements.
1: Don’t “Speak Up”/ Try To Educate Blacks (or any Person of Color) About Their Struggles
Matt Damon really comes to mind as I type this out. Matt Damon… Remember when Matt Damon tried to preach to a very successful black, female director about racial diversity in film, and basically shut her down before she could even fully express her concerns? Ya? I do. And so does almost every black person who has ever scoured the internet for anything outside of cats and bacon. People were shocked. How could a white dude understand the importance of diversity in film when the film in question had cast it’s only black female as a prostitute that got slapped around by a pimp? In response to the only black, female in the room (and in front of everyone else who happened to be white, JUST LIKE HIM), he basically says there’s no need for diversity behind the scenes as long as they have a few people of color casted ON the screen. Well, now, isn’t that some shit. Lets just forget the fact that he basically just wrote off black directors and producers and anyone other person of color who happen to want to work behind the scenes in the film industry. No, lets just focus on what he is saying and doing. Here we have a white person basically saying that white people and non-blacks can write and direct black characters without devaluing the character or turning them into a black stereotype; even though that’s ALL they’ve been doing ever since the beginning of film. Blacks (and other people of color) have always been reduced to stereotypes, and because that’s all white Hollywood knows, it continues to perpetuate those stereotypes, basically eliminating every other aspect of a black person’s humanity. Logically speaking, only blacks can write and direct other blacks that will create a well-rounded character. Which is exactly what you are doing when you hire a diverse crew of, not just actors, but also directors, editors, and what not. You are allowing the different aspects of each race to fully permeate a project, giving it depth and authenticity. People of color have learned and internalized this and have been trying to make diversity a real thing in the film industry. When a white person (who is male, nonetheless) completely shuts down a black person who is in the film industry, a black person who has seen the importance and the improvements that comes with diversity, and tells them that it doesn’t matter, he/ she is completely invalidating that black person and his or her experiences. It’s like asking, “How could a black person know how important diversity is in film?” when the only people who get complete representation on the big screen are those who are white, Caucasian, often of European decent. Now, this is just one situation, but it happens everyday to people of color. They try to speak up about the injustices they’ve experienced, and white people swoop on in and turn the tables, thinking they have the right to explain anything having to do with the social inequalities associated with race. No. Now is not the time for you to talk. Now is the time to nod and listen. Black people are well versed and educated in race and racism that they can speak for themselves. All you have to do, as an ally, is listen, and if someone needs your help, they’ll ask. You don’t just jump in, thinking it’s your time to shine on the topic of racial inequalities, and shut down what any person of color is saying. And if it’s between 2 or more people of color, you still don’t say anything. You don’t get to explain anything because what you want to say isn’t valid in the conversation (see 4).
2: Stop Acting Like Your Opinion Matters
It doesn’t. Sorry. If you are not a person of color, your lack of personal experiences with racial injustices is not relevant. You are an ally. Take a back seat and enjoy your supporting role.
3: Stop Tone Policing
Okay, you try saying the same thing for over 100+ years and you tell me how calm you would be. I mean, I know people who get pissy when they have to tell their spouses or significant others to do something around the house more than three times. No one wants to repeat themselves over and over again only to have what they’re saying fall on deaf ears. It gets tiring, and rage inducing, to always have to say the same things over and over again. In fact, it makes you question why you’re with the person in the first place because it expresses their complete and utter lack of respect for you and your needs in the relationship. The same goes for every person of color who has ever spoken out about racial inequality. They might’ve started out nice, but because they had to keep repeating themselves over and over again, they are probably mad at the blatant disrespect (also, being aggressively called the “N-” word doesn’t help either). And since we can’t just separate ourselves from white people (seriously, they’re everywhere), the only thing we can do is repeat ourselves until it finally clicks. So, yeah, you’re probably going to run into some angry people of color, but it’s probably just because no one’s listening, no matter how many times they’ve said, “pretty please” in the past.
4: Remember: It’s Not About You
It’s not. So, please put your feelings aside and let those who are having the problems, voice their own issues. THEN, when they are done, you still don’t speak. Sorry. You, as a person, literally have no place in the conversation. You can speak up and talk all you want around other white people who are having trouble comprehending some of the basics, but it’s not your place to insert yourself into the conversation between people of color. For example, it’s like when a person who doesn’t drink nor gets uncontrollably drunk nor is going through the difficult process of getting clean, attends an AA meeting and gets pissed when they aren’t allowed to talk about their non-drinking habits and lack of ragers. You’re probably thinking that clean, sober person is crazy. Why would they go to an AA meeting? The same goes for every conversation about race between minorities. If you’re not living it, you can’t be a part of it and as an ally, it is your responsibility to respect that. It’s the same reason why every AA attendee’s family member and friend sits at home (and not in at the meetings), waiting to play support. This is why non-people of color can never be a part of the conversation. It might suck because no one likes not being heard, but white people have been heard all throughout history. It’s about time they took a step back.
5: We Know It’s #NotAllWhitePeople, but a Majority of White People Need to be Reminded It’s #NotAllBlackFolks Thanks to the News. You Need to be That Reminder and Break Those Generalized Beliefs… To OTHER White People
Now, I feel like this is pretty self explanatory, but lets go over it. A lot of white people have an uncomfortable problem of being associated with racists, or ignorant white people who don’t see their own privilege. So much so that when a piece comes out and talks about white people as a whole, they feel the need to be the first ones to type #notallwhitepeople (or similarly, #alllivesmatter). This does nothing for the conversation. In fact, you are taking away from the conversation at hand to bring yourself into it, which is where you don’t belong (see 4). Black people (or any person of color) know that it’s TECHNICALLY not all white people. We know that all lives matter, but all lives aren’t being targeted and disposed of equally. We know that it might not be you, as an individual person, specifically. That would be stupid and ignorant for us to think that, and we can’t afford to be stupid and ignorant right now when we’re busy trying to prove that we’re just as smart, hardworking, accepting, responsible, and deserving of our lives as white people believe themselves to be. The problem comes from when the roles are reversed. That’s when people seem to forgot that it’s also #notallblackfolks. The general population tends to believe that blacks are loud mouthed criminals who have zero sense. This can be seen with the disproportionately higher rates at which blacks are pulled over (by the police), harassed on the street (by the police), targeted and gunned down in public (and now in their homes (by the police)), detained (by the police), mysteriously murdered (by the police), and incarcerated (by the judicial system). The odds are stacked against us, and the fear is perpetuated by the never-ending news stories that frame black folks as harden thugs or volatile women, thus erasing their humanity. This, in turn, makes it easier for people to justify the violence and anger towards black people. The dangers of this mindset is so great that it even extends to youths of the black community, making it just as easy to justify the current violence towards them. When a black child gets gunned down or attacked, people are quick to blame the child’s actions, his or her clothing, any objects that child might have been carrying at the time, or any combination of the three, no matter the age of the victim. People see blacks as dangerous thugs first, human beings second. Take the situation in South Carolina where the young black teen girl was thrown out of her desk by the deputy assigned to the school. People were quick to jump in and blame her actions, while completely ignoring that she was an orphan who had just lost her mother or just an everyday teenager. They were saying that she shouldn’t have spoken back to the cop or she should have just listened to the teacher in the first place and avoided the whole ordeal. On the other hand, when a white boy named Jeff Bliss stood up, blatantly interrupted class, disrespected his teacher by telling her how to do her job and then walked out, the internet exploded with endless praise for this brave, young man calling out the system. No cops were brought in, he wasn’t attacked; in fact, he gained national coverage as an outspoken hero to a messed up educational system. Similar cases, different results. Another example is when Tamir Rice, a 12-year old black boy, was gunned down by a cop because people had phoned into the police, reporting a “male, black, sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people.” Not realizing it was a toy gun at initial glance, the cops decided to go with the “shoot first, THEN figure out if it was harmless” technique. Tamir Rice wasn’t the only black child gunned down under this “Forget being a decent, levelheaded human being” belief. The long list includes, but is not limited to Michael Brown, Cameron Tillman, Cedric Chatman, Andre Green, and Laquan McDonald. These unhealthy relations with the police don’t stop at the shooting of youths in the black community. The reality is that anytime the police are called, situations tend to escalate further than what would’ve been and the violence often breaks out AFTER the police arrive on the scene. Remember the pool party in McKinney, TX? The one where black people were in their swimsuits and having some wholesome, not violent fun until the cops got called in? Yeah, remember when one of the cops felt the need to get rough with a teenage party goer and slammed her face into the ground while shouting at her, “On your face!”? Then he was quick to blame everyone else at the party for how HE reacted to her? How often do you hear about that happening to white people on the news? The fact is, you don’t. Even as I type this, Ammon Bundy and his crew of around 150 white terrorists took up arms and broke into a federal government building 2 DAYS AGO, threatening violence towards anyone who tries to take them down or kick them out UNLESS THEIR DEMANDS ARE MET. So far, zero reports of violence, zero reports of anyone planning on storming the building, and zero people shot/ proclaimed dead. Instead, the media calls them protesters and they are being praised for standing up to the government and fighting for what’s right. Not one mainstream media outlet has referred to them as thugs, terrorists, radicals, or guerrillas. They are, in fact, only referred to as “protesters.” If these people were any other race besides than white,… Hold on. I’m rambling, and that deserves a whole ‘nother post on its own. That is not the point I’m trying to make here (Yay! Tangents!). My point is that blacks are often depicted as sub-human, if not violent, angry, and ungrateful. Due to this portrayed image, a lot of people are quick to justify any overt racism that occurs towards them. As an ally, you need to act as a bullshit buffer, both online and in real life. If you hear a fellow white person start going on about how “blacks did this to themselves” or “if only they didn’t break the law, they wouldn’t be in this mess” or “if only he stood there with his hands up” or “I’ve had to struggle too. You don’t see me asking for handouts” or anything else that completely disassociates other people’s roles and blames the victim, you need to hold up your hand, press the pause buttom, and be prepared to take them to “Racism 201.” It’s 201 because they already know the basics, but now it’s time to delve deeper into the causality and actuality of modern day racism. That’s what the role of an ally is. It’s not about being in the main conversation. It’s about listening, learning, and passing it down to those who have yet grasp the concept of modern day racism and how it is still at large. Someone talking about being tired of those lazy, black people asking for handouts? Tell them that it’s mostly whites on government assistant programs. Tell them that it’s big corporations run by white people with all of their tax breaks that getting the biggest handouts. There’s so much that you can do OUTSIDE of the conversation.
I think that’s pretty much it from me.
Until next time!
White Privilege Readings:
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack by Peggy McIntosh(book)
- Here’s a shorthand list of simple bullet points made in the book. https://www.deanza.edu/faculty/lewisjulie/White%20Priviledge%20Unpacking%20the%20Invisible%20Knapsack.pdf
- White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism by Paula S. Rothenberg (book)
- Understanding White Privilege by Francis E. Kendall
- When Whites Get a Free Pass by Ian Ayres (article)
- To Be Determined