To My So-Called Progressive White Friends During the Summer of 16

Listen, some of my best friends are white. I’m not racist against whites, I swear.

I’m not trying to say I’m the Queen of Consciousness either. My own snow blindness is as devastating to the goals of equality and justice as yours is.

But if I’ve grown in my awareness at all, it’s because of articles like Michael Eric Dyson’s Death in Black and Whiteand Sally Kohn’s This Is What White People Can Do to Support #BlackLivesMatter.  I am tempted here to just give a long reading list including but not limited to the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Jericho Brown, Saeed Jones, and the actual full texts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and letters and walk away.

I’d like to drop the conversation. Go back to business as usual. Promote my book.

Yet we aren’t helpful when we nurse our own fragility.

Hey, I’m a fragile white person too, full of good intentions, highly invested in my self-image as an ally of people of color. Perhaps knowing this, you will be able to hear me when I tell you that in the past three days in the wake of the murders of Mr. Sterling, Mr. Castile, and the police in Dallas, it’s not as helpful to the cause as you think when you:

Awaken your social media voice only after the cops in Dallas were shot.

I have more sympathy for remaining silent than I do for only speaking up after the violence in Dallas although Elie Weisel tells us that “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor.” Sometimes it’s better to understand that we don’t understand and just be quiet and listen. Yet after the police were killed in Dallas, my social media channels snapped to life in places where there had been a marked radio silence all day long. If you are only moved enough to speak about violence in our communities when it happens to police or white people, maybe examine that.

Celebrate the sniper shooting the cops in Dallas as a hero.

What happened in Dallas is never going to backlash on you and me. The murder of cops pushes black people even further into the crosshairs of racist whites, if that’s even possible. The tenets of basic human goodness aside, remarks celebrating revenge and anarchy cost us nothing to make. The fact is, in a true anarchy, the people who are already vulnerable in our society would only become more so.

Announce that you can’t take the news anymore, and so are turning away.

I’m a white woman with white children. If I want to escape thinking about race tyranny, I can shut this computer right now and go run my errands. The ability to forget about racism is a privilege of someone who doesn’t have to face a statistically greater possibility of dying or losing a child whenever I step out the front door. I’m not saying don’t do your proper self-care, but maybe don’t announce your privilege as though you don’t realize that not everyone has that luxury.

Say that you are shocked that black people are “still” being mistreated in this country.

If you are shocked that people of color face deadly racism in our country on a daily basis, then you aren’t paying attention. If we truly mean to be instruments of peace, we need to awaken ourselves to the experiences of others.

Perhaps I could direct you to the aformentioned reading list for more education.

Perhaps I could nudge you gently on the shoulder and tell you that we have to stay awake.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Yes, yes, thanks for writing this, Maureen.

    Like

  2. I think that’ll do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well stated. “Neutrality helps the oppressor” is an important reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

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