I am exhausted. Exhausted from seeing the final, tragic moments of my brothers’ and sisters’ lives plastered across TV screens and computer monitors around the country. Exhausted from living in a country where Black people are seen and treated as the dangerous and provoking enemy despite being on the receiving end of centuries-long genocide and murder at the hands of white people. Exhausted from having to explain to my white friends and colleagues why I seem to “always be talking about race.” Exhausted from carrying the burden of systemic racism on my back, knowing that it will rear its ugly head at some point in my day. Exhausted from the incessant reminders that Black lives should be feared and ended, rather than valued and understood. Exhausted from seeing white people go on about their merry lives while I struggle to feel safe in my skin. Exhausted from living within the confines of an inherently racist country, knowing that there are limitations to my freedom. Exhausted from having to explain why my life matters.
Dear White Friends,
Stop acting like ‘not being racist’ is a badge of honor. Stop patting yourselves on the back for acknowledging the fact that you have privilege. Stop quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and revering the great Rosa Parks if you aren’t standing with Colin Kaepernick and participating in Black Lives Matter movement. Stop being ‘afraid’ to bring up race in your circles of white friends, because you’re ‘afraid’ of what people might say or think about you if you do. Stop justifying your silence and being content in your passivity. Stop making excuses for why the conversation about race doesn’t involve you or isn’t your place to participate. Stop placing the burden on People of Color to explain systemic racism to you. Stop being surprised at what you see in the news and pretending like the slaughtering of Black bodies hasn’t been happening continuously for the last 400 years in this country.
Start being anti-racist. Start challenging yourself to see the world through the lens that is not your own. Start being a critic of the status quo instead of a participant in it. Start disrupting and challenging the norms you’ve been socialized in, deliberately creating and experiencing discomfort as a result. Start reading, reflecting, and analyzing the racist systems that benefit you so you can identify injustice and speak out against it. Start acknowledging that racism is your battle to fight, as you interact with it more than any other racial group in our country by benefiting from it in every way, everyday.
Stand and speak out on behalf of with Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Christian Taylor, Natasha McKenna, and the nearly 140 other Black people who have been killed at the hands of police just this year.
‘Not being racist’ is passive. It’s the silent observer. It’s not going to ruffle anyone’s feathers or risk saying the wrong thing. It errors on the side of caution. It’s just uncomfortable enough to make you feel like you’re on the right side of the movement. Well I’m here to tell you that it’s not enough. It’s not going to change the realities and disparities that People of Color come face to face with everyday. It’s not going to save the lives of the next Black man or woman who has car trouble or has a taillight that needs to be fixed. It’s not going to protect your Black colleague from experiencing micro-aggressions in your office or being looked over for a promotion. It’s not going to the reverse the centuries of systematic exclusion from the policies that created generational wealth in the white community. It’s not going to repair the trauma that has been inflicted on Black communities and families at the hands of over-policing and mass incarceration. It’s not going to eliminate the bias and injustice that Black and brown children experience in the public schools across the country where over 80% of teachers are white. ‘Not being racist,’ quite, frankly, won’t change anything.
My white friends, I beg of you, I plead with you, to be deliberately, unapologetically, and relentlessly anti-racist. Use the power in your privilege to shift the narrative. Stop relying on People of Color to lead and fight this fight on our own. We need you to feel urgency and responsibility around building anti-racist movements in your communities and in your networks. We need you be proactive and strategic, and willing to change your own realities to transform our country into one that works on behalf of every citizen. We need you to step up to the plate, piss some people off, and rock the boat. If everyone around you is comfortable and at peace, and if no one around you thinks you’ve lost your mind, you aren’t there yet.
You have the green light. What are you going to do with it?