So I decided to take the weekend (mostly) off from the blog. I realize that I do need some time here and there to steady my resolve and love myself (and spend time loving my husband). And so I feel like it would be pretty reasonable for me to take weekends off as a general rule unless, of course, something absolutely catastrophic happens. I should mention, though, that my gauge for catastrophic has shifted over the last 2.5 months, but hopefully I’ve still got perspective that’s clear enough to understand when I really need to get something out to my readers.
Anyway, during my time off, I didn’t exactly rest. I am realizing that trying to educate people on why choosing Trump was an act of oppression is quite literally a full-time job. I find myself making the same points over and over. I try with clear statistics and facts. I try with emotional and human appeals. I try with personal examples. More often than not (basically all the time), this is completely pointless. I am met with the same abusive, deflective responses over and over… and sometimes it devolves even more.
I have noticed that conversations with family are particularly difficult. Reconciling that you have loved ones who chose oppression is a pretty difficult task. This is particularly difficult as a mixed-race woman. I have always known that there are members of my white family that were racist, but watching them take it and turn it into an action that would directly impact my family of color was completely obliterating. There is no recovery.
I bring all of this up to say: I had a few of these conversations this weekend and it was incredibly exhausting. I always leave the conversations feeling hurt and generally pissed off, but this weekend was something different. I realized that there are entire portions of people that I love and care about with whom I no longer feel safe or respected. I will never feel close to these people again. I will never trust them again. It is, in truth, like grieving a loss. And it sucks.
BUT as much as it sucks, I can’t let it deter me from the goal, which is to try as hard and as often as I can to encourage people to see things differently and be less hateful. I have no issues calling out hatred, bigotry, racism, etc. when I see it. I don’t care at all about the social consequences because in my mind, the need to speak out and be an active opponent of oppression is paramount. However, I do often feel like I’m doing all of the heavy lifting myself. I find myself wondering: where are all the white allies when it’s time to have the hard conversations? Why is it that the majority of the people I see confronting oppression and racism are the very same ones being victimized by it?
So… in light of all of this, I have a message I would like to relay.
Dear White Allies,
- While we appreciate your willingness to say you are ready to come to the table and do the work, we really need you to come to the table and do the work. How annoying would it be to have a group project due one day only to have one of your group-mates, who has a handout vital for helping people understand your point, just not show up? No call. No text. Just flat doesn’t show up. That would piss you off right? Yea. It would. NOW imagine that group-mate shows up right after you do the whole presentation without him/her and comes up to you saying they just got wrapped up in stuff for their own paper in another class and that they really appreciate you carrying the team. Um what? No. And this brings me to my next point…
- It is not our responsibility to do the legwork with your white friends and family. Of course, we are willing to call them on their shit when necessary, but please do not let the burden of proof and convincing fall on us. The most important thing you can do in this movement is show up and be a support. Don’t fail at your job.
- DO THE LEGWORK WITH YOUR WHITE FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Seriously. I typed that holding shift a la DJT because it is literally that important. The most important micro-level action you could EVER engage in is to confront your closest loved ones on their racist, bigoted, oppressive nonsense at every given opportunity. Don’t ask us what to say, either. We don’t know your people. You do. So please, be bold and stand up for what you are saying you believe in. We need you to do this. Because the truth of the matter is, it is going to mean more coming from you than it is from any person of color.
- If we become frustrated with the ignorance, do not ask us to be more understanding. I’m going to be frank: I do not, under any circumstance ever, have time for that. I don’t care if they grew up in a different time. I don’t care if they never knew any people of color personally. I don’t care if they don’t “realize what they’re saying.” It is not my responsibility to accept their excuses for hating and oppressing the people that I love. It is, however, your responsibility to confront them and dismantle the systems of oppression that create your privilege.
- Unless you are actively standing against oppression, you are complicit in it. So every time your racist uncle or cousin or sister’s best friend from 7th grade says something and you just shrug it off, you just perpetuated oppression. Please don’t.
- When you are at the table with your friends of color, listen. I have to do this ALL the time. I am a mixed woman living with white privilege and as I have said MANY times, I need to listen more so that I can try to understand more. As close as I am to it, I still don’t understand what it is like to experience the kind of oppression my little brothers do just because they have more melanin than I do. When they talk and share their views, it’s my job to listen and support them. As mentioned in a previous post: you do not need to be the best activist; you need to be the best supporting activist. And not every battle is yours in which to be the hero.
- Go watch “I Am Not Your Negro.” You have to. It is such a vital film in helping white people understand how race relations really work in this nation. Bring a pen. Take notes. And then leave the theater ready to learn more. It is so amazing that I would honestly argue that if you come to the table not having seen it, you are not prepared to do the work.
- Read more literature written by people of color. This list has some great options. I intend to upload a list of my own in a few weeks (that includes Assata Shakur’s autobiography and many others), but in the meantime… you should definitely get started.
- Watch 13th. Again, bring a pen. Take notes. And continue to educate yourself after you finish. This film will challenge you to the depths of your identity. It will make you cry and it will make you incredibly angry… but it is vital.
- Do not stop trying. Do not give up. Your support is pivotal if we are to ever achieve the real and necessary change we require in this nation. It is going to get hard and ugly and much, much worse. But we need you to show up every. single. time.
With tough love and encouragement,
The Off-White Girl