First, watch this video. Warning: he says some swear words.
Now, take a minute to think about the following questions, keeping yourself, your experiences, and your actions in the center. Don’t think about how “they” are, think about how YOU are.
- Where do you see yourself in his words?
- What work will you do to change it?
The part of it that resonated with me the most when I watched it the first time was about how we’re taught to fear black people. Now, my experience was of growing up in a mostly black neighborhood, and for most of my life, if you told me I was afraid of black people, or prejudiced, I’d laugh it off at best, if not get defensive and pissy. I can see now, and think back to times in my youth (or even today still) where that manifests itself and I perpetuate that fear of the black male. It’s not a conscious thing and when I feel it rise I check myself and think it through, trying to harness it so I can wash it out.
What work will I do? I think the internal work, calling myself out anytime I feel blink reaction swelling up, is a big part of it. I think if more people did that internal work we could make some progress. Externally I try to be there to hold space for POC when I’m asked – and stay away when I’m not invited. I try to increase awareness in my fellow whites by creating or sharing provocative content that hopefully gets people thinking, and, more importantly, try to have these kinds of conversations in person with my friends and loved ones.
I never feel like I do enough – because I don’t. There’s an intersection here with my white male ego. It thinks I should be able to fix it. It doesn’t like feeling powerless. It wants to be a hero and swoop in and save the day. It doesn’t want to admit that this is bigger than me.
It is though. It’s systemic, pervasive, ingrained. I cringe when I hear people say, “Nobody’s born racist.,” because while that’s a nice sentiment if from the moment you’re born you’re told that a jolly fat man comes down the chimney once a year you believe it’s true until you don’t anymore. You stop believing it when your intellectualism starts to set in – that is, when you develop the ability to separate emotion from rationality. You think, “It’s not physically possible for one person to do all that, and then what about the flying reindeer…”
But for some reason as a culture white people are not able to exercise intellect around race. The idea that all, or most, black men are dangerous criminals is just as ridiculous as the Santa story, yet we allow ourselves to continue believing or accepting the excuses we’re given. Tamir Rice was a little boy playing with a toy in a park. Philando Castile was a beloved public school employee riding in a car with his family. Charleena Lyles was a pregnant single mom who called the police because she needed their help. All of three of them were killed for being black. There’s no other explanation. Not when we see white people resisting arrest, punching cops, brandishing knives at them, or murdering multiple people of color in a church and then get arrested peacefully and taken out for burgers.
White people, we have to say the words out loud in public: They were killed because they were black. That’s a known-known. Say it over and over to everyone whenever it comes up. We have to accept that that’s the way our society is. We can’t live in denial anymore. We have to get to work on it. No more excuses. No more “I’m not racist because I blah blah blah…” If you don’t talk about it in rational terms and accept your own complicity, then yes you VERY are racist.
I hope that you’ll answer the above questions for yourself. Journal about it. Talk about it with your partner or a friend. Start to deconstruct this for yourselves and then turn the corner and start doing the work of dismantling it on a larger scale. That can take many forms and I’m sure there are people right here in this community who will join you in the work.