Dear White People,
I’ve written to you many times about what it means to grow up in a racist, rural, southern area. I’ve outed my cousin for saying racist shit at Thanksgiving and another one at the Mokane Fair. I’ve written twice about why I don’t stand for the national anthem, I’ve shared my thoughts on what it means to be raising a white man, and I wrote about the unrest at Mizzou in 2015, since I worked there at the time.
I’d like to tell you that when I wrote about my cousin and his racist joke, I was sent a message from his mom which was intended to put me in my place. It essentially said: We’ve tolerated your gayness, so you must tolerate his racism.
I will not. I have not. And we have not spoken since then.
And that’s OKAY.
I know a lot of you white folks out there are struggling right now. You are fighting the good fight, but most of your family is posting shit about All Lives Matter, how rioting never solved anything, how if “they” would just protest peacefully, everything would be fine.
You know it’s bullshit. You know that when your uncle says, “I’m not racist, but…”
You. Fucking. Know.
You know because you’ve always known. Your whole upbringing was awash in racist shit. It’s seeped into every part of you, even though, at a young age, you knew it wasn’t right. You knew it didn’t make any sense that people would say those things or even feel that way when you had literally never seen anyone who didn’t look like you. How could people form opinions of others they’d never even met?
But listen. You’re not 9 years old anymore. Now if someone at the picnic says, “You can come sit over here with us white folk” you can ACTUALLY FUCKING SAY SOMETHING. Because now you have words and context to tell that family member to fuck off. Loudly. So everyone can hear.
It’s okay to call a racist a racist. Even if they’re your aunt, your cousin, your parent. Even if they protest that they aren’t. Even if they get mad.
Even if they never speak to you again.
And I know that’s what makes you hesitate. Because you know once you start doing it, fuck, you’re gonna lose a lot of your family.
But do you really want to hang around people who feel like that?
Again, I know it’s hard. Just a few weeks before my grandma died she was telling me a story about how my aunt really liked this black man but couldn’t date him because, you know, he’s black. All I said was, “Why?” And she said, “I guess you’re right. It doesn’t even matter.”
What would’ve happened if I said nothing? If I just let it slide?
1. She would’ve thought I agreed
2. She would’ve thought that’s the way things are.
Guess what? It’s okay to delete your racist relatives from social media. It’s okay to call them out. In fact, it’s your job as an ally, as a human being on this planet, as a responsible citizen of the United States of America, to do so.
Maybe you’re afraid of the repercussions. Sure. Maybe you’ll get in a huge fight. Maybe they’ll never speak to you again. But. Also. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll think long and hard about their actions. Maybe they’ll ask questions. Maybe, like you and I have had to do, they’ll admit all they’ve been taught and then work to change themselves.
And dig this: maybe there are a few more people in your family who think like you. Maybe they, too, are chickenshit to say anything for fear of losing a family member or having a hard conversation. Maybe a majority of your family feels just like you but no one says anything because of the strong personality of you know who. WHAT IF YOU ALL JUST FUCKING SAID SOMETHING INSTEAD OF JUST SITTING THERE ‘POLITELY’ ?
It is your job to educate yourself about the deep, deep roots of racism in America. It is your job to educate and argue with those family members. Yes, it’s tiring work, but you know what else?
Our black friends, neighbors, teammates, co-workers, relatives, and loved ones are fucking exhausted from doing all the hard work.
Are you tired of explaining to your mom’s best friend on facebook what white privilege means? Too fucking bad. Keep going.
Are you sick of your well-intentioned neighbor saying, “I don’t see color?” Too fucking bad. Keep going.
Do you swear to god your head’s going to explode if you one more person say “aLl lIvES MAtteR”. No one cares. Too fucking bad. Keep going.
And finally, if you’re reading this and you’re feeling even a little bit mad at anything I’ve said, ask yourself this:
- Have I said all lives matter in response to black lives matter? (If yes, you were definitely taught to be a racist, but with some reading and listening to people of color, you can learn and be helpful)
- Have I ever said, “I’m not racist but….” (If yes, you were definitely taught to be a racist, but with some reading and listening to people of color, you can learn and be helpful)
- Was I raised in a small, southern, rural town? (If yes, you were definitely taught to be a racist, but with some reading and listening to people of color, you can learn and be helpful)
- Was I born and raised in the good ‘ol USofA? (If yes, you were definitely taught to be a racist, but with some reading and listening to people of color, you can learn and be helpful)
We ALL have a lot of work to do.
Here are some resources to get us started:
NAACP – http://detroitnaacp.org
Detroit Urban League – https://www.deturbanleague.org
Black Lives Matter Detroit – https://www.alliedmedia.org/blm-detroit
The Detroit Justice Center – https://www.detroitjustice.org
Focus Hope – https://www.focushope.edu
People’s Action Detroit – https://www.thepeoplesaction.com
Stream some movies:
“When They See Us” Netflix
“Teach Us All” Netflix
“Just Mercy” Amazon Prime
“I Am Not Your Negro” Amazon Prime
“The Hate You Give” Amazon Prime
“Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise” Amazon Prime
“Whose Streets” Hulu
“Black Stories Presents: Your Attention Please” Hulu
“If Beale Street Could Talk” Hulu
“Sorry to Bother You” Hulu
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (There is a movie based on this book)
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey
Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
(this list courtesy of NAACP Detroit)