Can not talking about race can make racism worse?

Q: In discussions on race & current events like Charleston, I keep seeing conservatives accuse the media and people of color of race-baiting. I know that is not what the term originally meant, and that it’s used in this context to shut down discussion and silence talk about racism that doesn’t benefit the racist power structure, but how do I explain that to the average white conservative?

Is there any way to get it through to these people that not talking about race can make racism worse and that treating everything as colorblind can help perpetuate racism?

A: White people insist that there’s no reason to talk about race anymore because we like to believe that racism ended with the Civil Rights Movement. In the minds of many whites (and frankly, this is how our schools teach these issues), America’s race problem concluded with the Civil Rights Movement (integration and voting rights, really). So, when the topic comes up, you get accusations of “race baiting” or making “everything about race” or “playing the race card”.

Of course, this is a terrifically convenient way for white people to let ourselves off the hook (Hey, my dad handled the race problem back in the ‘60s!). It also lets us feel superior, because when we see entrenched issues like poverty and income disparity, modern “ghettos” and mass incarceration, we get to yell “Bootstraps!” and not ask the hard questions about why these issues persist.

Continue reading

Educate yourself about the Charleston massacre

There are many great resources out there for white people to learn about history. Especially for those of us who grew up in predominantly white communities in the US, we were often not taught the truth about our country, about racism, or let’s face it… we were not taught about anyone except the white colonialists, and maybe MLK.

It is our responsibility to learn. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. Below are a few resources pulled together, specifically regarding Charleston, SC. Please add more in the comments area.

Continue reading

White murderer wasn’t killed, did I say something wrong?

Q: A POC friend posted about a scumbag murdering 9 people, police knowing he murdered 9 people, police apprehend scumbag, and do not feel their lives were threatened so scumbag lives because the scumbag had “the complexion for the protection.” I know police brutality is racially biased, but its too much across the board and in this particular case the police did it right and my POC friend was coming across as resentful that this white man didn’t end up dead like he would have been much more likely to have if he had been white. So I called my POC friend out, saying I don’t see how they would have been satisfied unless this white scumbag had been hurt or killed. My POC friend called my comments foolish and then referred me to this website. What did I do wrong?

A: Seeing another incident where a white person was treated drastically different than a person of color is very painful to watch. Not only did the terrorist live, but he was not handcuffed on his way to the police car, given a bulletproof vest and come to find out later, taken to Burger King for some food. This is just another incident of white supremacy. White supremacy is a system that privileges whiteness over darker skin. Elizabeth Martínez defines it as, “White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.” The prison industrial complex, including the police, is a system based on white supremacy. Continue reading

How to support your black friends at this moment.

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!