After the terrorist massacre at the AME church in Charleston, SC, many white people are wondering how to support their black friends. The question is “how do you offer support?” One of my black friends summed up what many people are saying and feeling right now, saying the following *:
I know that there are many of you who care deeply for me and who are also white. I know you don’t really know what to say and that you want to say something to let me know you care. I know my sadness, rage and terror frighten you and make you uncomfortable.
Right now, I need to leave you to deal with that without my acknowledgement of how hard all of this is for you. I need to wrap myself up in my own skin and texture, to gather my kin close and then even closer.
I know you’re not used to feeling shut out of my often visible process, but I can’t worry about that or you right now.
Please know that I’ll be as safe as I can be in the embraces of my people, yes even those with whom I fight for parts of my existence.
While I’m doing this healing work, take this opportunity to talk to other white people about why this is hard and what y’all can do to make it safer for me and others that you love. Hold them close and speak truth to them. Say a prayer and then get up and do something more to undo that which benefits you, but is killing me. I know you didn’t ask for it, but here it is and wishing it weren’t so doesn’t make it go away.
I don’t care for you less because I need this time to love me more. It is my hope that we can sit and share something other than trauma and responses to it in the future.
White people, we need to address and dismantle white supremacy, the system that privileges whiteness in all aspects of life! One of the many ways we can do that right now is to talk to our white friends. We need to call this massacre what it is. It is NOT an isolated incident, this is the reality that black people face in the United States and around the world. The violence comes from police, from corporations, from the health care system, from individual white people. The root is a system that privileges white skin in all aspects of our society. Black people encounter violence on the streets, in stores, when driving, when applying for jobs, at the pool, in the church. We need to stand up and say NO. We need to call this terrorism, we need to call out the hate.
Listen to your black friends, hear what they need right now. Give them space. Don’t tell your friends how to mourn. Don’t tell your black friends how to rage. Not all people process things the same way, your friends might feel differently than my friend above does. That is ok. Listen.
*Note: my friend gave me permission to post their words here with or without their name. I chose to not use their name because this sums up what so many folks are saying right now. Posting the words of people of color without their permission is NOT OK! White folks have a long history of stealing the words of people of color. In today’s world it is also not ok to share your friends personal thoughts without permission, especially if it is clear that you, the white person, are the one who ends up benefiting from sharing. Think first!