Dear White people,
Hello how are you today? I really want to speak about something that is on my mind and weighing heavily on my heart. I hope you won’t mind me addressing you as a group. I am aware that you are not all the same. Language can be restricting at times and I hope that stating my intention NOT to offend will be enough to soothe those of you miffed at the all encompassing address on this post. This letter is really for, “the White people who don’t want to be racist and therefore claim not to see race and that we are all the same, human.” But you see, that does get wordy, huh?
I realize that this race stuff is difficult. Trying to understand things that we don’t live is challenging. I can not intuitively imagine all of the challenges that someone in a wheelchair faces. I can sit and listen to them. I can spend time with them but even then I do not truly know what it is like to not be able to just get up and walk. I have to remember to listen when they speak. I have to remember to check my privilege and respect and acknowledge their experiences. Its not my place to tell them how to feel or how to interact with the segment of the world that does not need a wheelchair. It is not my place to speak FOR them even if I do so from a place of advocacy and support.
I use this example because I can imagine, and I’ve had white friends and family tell me how challenging it is to them to have the race conversations. I can empathize with how challenging it is to set aside privilege and accept a reality that I do not live because I have to do it too. (See above example) I know that you mean well when you say that you don’t see race. I know that your heart is bristling with empathy when you implore people to accept that we are all one race, the human race. I am respectfully asking you to stop.
Saying that we are all the same and that you do not see race invalidates MY experiences with race in this country. Saying that race doesn’t matter is a lie. I am a Black woman every single day of my life and I can tell you that racism is alive and well. I can tell you that I have experiences on a daily basis where I am not allowed to forget that I am a BLACK woman. Do I want to move past these experiences? Absolutely! But I can not until they stop happening. I can heal from or ignore one interaction. I can not heal from ongoing and systemic interactions.
I’m not going to list all the numbers here but I will tell you that non-White people are more likely to be profiled, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be incarcerated, less likely to be hired, less likely to be accepted to universities…etc etc etc. This is REAL! This is our life! These experiences cause pain. These experiences require healing. It matters what color we are. We can’t claim unity with one race, the human race when we are constantly facing the fallacy of these premises. It’s belittling to my experiences to implore me to, “stop seeing race,” or to stop identifying my experiences with racism as such. Are you following me?
Life IS different when you are not White and if you aren’t willing to accept that truth then you aren’t doing the work of dismantling racism. You are contributing to it by refusing to HEAR and ACCEPT my experiences in the world we live in. Not the world we all wished that we lived in but the world that we ACTUALLY live in.
Thank you for listening.
I’m still reeling from the verdict.
I’m still trying to figure out how to raise a hope-filled, loving, sweet, smart little brown girl in the wake of the verdict. I’m still trying to figure out what I teach her about her country and her place in it. I’m grateful she’s so little. I’m grateful that I have some time to heal and think. I have found myself, more than once, thanking God that I don’t have a son.
Sit with that.
I am grateful that I don’t have a little black boy to raise.
This is my truth.
It makes me uncomfortable
but my discomfort makes it no less true.
I live an integrated life. I always have. My family and friends span the entire spectrum of skin tones. I don’t, “hate whitey” or think that all white people can’t be trusted. That’s silly. My life has not borne that out. But I’m hurting. I’m hurting so badly and all I want is for people to TRY and understand and then TRY and make it better.
Racism won’t be legislated away. Yes we need laws to strike down the systems set in place to hold all non-white people back. Yes we need level playing fields. But racism won’t be eradicated by laws. Racism can only be totally and finally conquered by love. It can only end when we all make REAL connections with each other. Racism ends with boots on the ground loving. It ends with us SEEING each other, and LISTENING to each other, and LOVING each other. It ends when the non-black people who love me can hear my pain, not as an indictment of them but as MY truth. It ends when they can hear my pain and see ME, as a person who is hurting. Because THAT is what makes people stand up the next time someone makes a joke that isn’t funny. That is what makes a person outraged when someone makes a false generalization about another race.
Those interactions…those intra-racial conversations are what will change things.
I’m hurting because I want to believe in my country. I was born here. My parents were born here. This is my land. This is my home. I am proud to be American. I know we aren’t perfect but I also know that opportunity abounds here. I know that possibility is nourished here. I know that freedom is here. Even if it’s just the freedom to talk about what IS wrong here. I love America.
But this country hurts me, it wounds me, deeply and then refuses to acknowledge my heartbreak. I keep believing in our justice system because I am American and I believe that we can get it right. We can’t get it right until we can admit it’s failures. The justice system failed the family of Trayvon Martin and all of us who hunger for justice and equality.
We held our collective breaths waiting for a verdict that would equal justice. We held our breaths because we knew that Trayvon could have been our father, son, brother or friend. We held our breaths because we know too many people who have been profiled. We held our breaths because we know too many Black men who have been murdered simply because their skin tone made them scary to someone else. We held our breaths and some of us….we are still holding it. We are still waiting for someone to recognize the humanity of our Black boys and men. We are still waiting for justice from a country that we love no matter how much it disappoints us.