Good morning, friends!
This will be a short post, but one I wanted to make outside the bubble of my private, isolated Facebook page.
To begin: an appreciation. Thank you for keeping my online world relevant, interactive, educational, and moving. I don’t have a television, and I am notoriously bad at keeping up with current events. My various newsfeeds right now are 95% outrage at the church shooting in Charleston, and only 5% babies, engagements, birthdays, weddings, and cats. I’m glad things are going well for you and your pets, but sometimes the world is exploding and your baby takes a back seat. Thank you for understanding that.
I have also been seeing a lot of angry posts about how white America has been silent, dismissing this not-so-isolated event as a singular, “unspeakable” tragedy. And, honestly, my first reaction has been very aggressive defense. MY FRIENDS ARE TALKING ABOUT IT. I READ TEN ARTICLES WHEN I WOKE UP. I’M OUTRAGED, TOO. DID YOU SEE MY STATUS UPDATE ABOUT IT YESTERDAY? I GOT 48 LIKES. MY FEMINISM IS INTERSECTIONAL, DAMMIT. NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE…
Take a deep breath.
If I wholeheartedly agree that the man (not the troubled, shy, quiet kid) who murdered peaceful worshipers at Emanuel AME perpetrated an act of terrorism–if I wholeheartedly agree that the general media is doing a terrible job covering this attack–then why do I get myself in such a tizzy when someone points out that all of white America is complicit in this ongoing extermination of Black bodies? When someone says, “White people, listen up!” and my first reaction is to shout I’M ALREADY LISTENING, then I’m not already listening. I’m sticking my thumbs in my ears and closing my eyes because I think I know best. That makes me complicit.
I have studied Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, and Ida B. Wells. I’ve read Toni Morrison, Anne Moody, Zora Neale Hurston, and Maya Angelou. I have friends, like you, that bring articles to my attention. I go to protests in my city and do my best to learn from the experience of others. I may know better than some of my peers, but I don’t know best.
At the end of the day, I am white America. In my name, to protect the delicate flower of my white femininity, Black men are punished, killed. When I see a police officer, I worry about tickets, not bullets. If I were ever murdered, raped, or harmed in any way, my story would be breaking news, and the person who trespassed against me would be prosecuted. My “normal” (read: white) name earns me jobs, respect, and an automatic soap-box before anyone even knows who I am. I am white America.
The number of articles I read doesn’t change the fact that I get to choose whether or not these events interrupt my daily life. When I hear people at work talking about police violence like it’s par for the course, I can choose to speak up, or I can choose to keep my head down and avoid alienating my coworkers. When the NAACP is bombed or a Black church is massacred, I can choose to join the anger and outrage on Facebook, or I can fret and worry over what the friends I just added will think of my politics. More often than not, I am silent, and I am sorry.
I’m making this post because I am so proud to know all of you who haven’t been afraid, who have helped to educate me and have made me a better person. I’m also making this post to urge you (and myself!) to carry that ability beyond the privacy settings of social media. You are smart, and you are capable, and you have these amazing thoughtful voices that are (unfortunately) being wasted in a bubble of people who already agree.
Posting an update or an article on social media is a good first step. For those of us who are shy or lack confidence, the likes that stream in can be validating and uplifting. But it cannot be the end. It does not make you an ally. Hold onto that passion and carry it with you. If someone you know says something that you don’t agree with, call them out. Talk to them. Do not be afraid of dissonance, because that is exactly where you are needed. Racism exists in this country because our silence allows it to exist. If we, as white America, do not wish to be complicit in white supremacist violence, then we cannot claim neutrality and we cannot remain ignorant. By doing so, we side with (and remain) the oppressors.
It’s time to wake up. It’s time to listen up. And it’s time to speak up.
For those of you who haven’t been so lucky as to have friends like mine, here are some articles written by people who are smarter than me. Click on them, bookmark them, read them when you have the time. This stuff is important.