To My 27 (Yes, 27) White Friends Who Recruited Me To Fight Their Battles For Them On Facebook:
We have a problem. Part of the problem we both see already: despite repeated evidence of actions towards unarmed blacks, from Trayvon Martin to Sandra Bland (not to mention Alton Sterling, who was murdered just yesterday), there are those close to you that refuse to believe that, as my grandfather would say, “fat meat is greasy”. These are your Trump supporting, All Lives Matter shouting, Fox News watching friends who know everything about “the blacks” (which they say like they’re talking about a sports team) because Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and “insert ultra conservative black person in need of a paycheck here” told them so. But there’s an even bigger problem: although these people make your blood boil, you silently accept their actions due to your personal affiliation with them. Furthermore, instead of you risking a moment of discomfort or loss of friendships by tackling these issues head on, you opted to reach out to me–your darker hued defender of all things righteous—to say what you are afraid to. Why this was a wise decision in your mind, I do not know. But it wasn’t until you all asked me to do the exact same thing that I have to do for myself every day that it struck me like sunlight in a blind person’s eyes for the first time: Your passiveness is the new racism.
Passively living in an environment that spews racist ideologies without resisting that rhetoric makes you a part of that environment. Therefore, allowing racists to be racist in your area allows racism to thrive and makes you a de facto contributor to that racist system (which, by the way, you benefit from). This is the new racism: You didn’t start it, but you for damn sure aren’t willing to stop it. Now I know you don’t mean to be racist, especially when you feel as if you’re doing all the right things: you have more black friends than any other generation in your family, you truly believe that we all deserve the same rights, and you even occasionally post things on social media. But here’s the thing that you may not understand: equal rights is a contact sport. It requires ACTION. Most importantly, it involves standing up to those you love when you KNOW they are wrong. Author Jeanette Winterson once said, “there is no discovery without risk and what you risk reveals what you value.” What I have discovered, sadly, is that you do not value me as a black person in this country. Because of my skin color I risk becoming the next African American killed every twenty-eight hours in this country by police, and you aren’t even willing to risk an uncomfortable conversation with family and friends? How am I supposed to take that? You may empathize to an extent, but if you aren’t even willing to TYPE how you feel in defense of my betterment, I can’t take your friendship too seriously.
I can hear your response already…
“Well, it’s just their opinion. It’s not harmful.”
Really? Ask the Jewish community about what opinions can lead to.
Better yet, ask ME. Ask MY parents about how thoughts of racism growing up turned into kids trying to spit on them and calling them “nigger” on playgrounds. Ask how those thoughts transformed into them having higher auto and home loan rates than their white counterparts as adults. Ask those living before 1964, who encountered racism so often, had Facebook existed back then, Jim Crow would’ve been listed under their “People You May Know” section. Tell me how those who have racist thoughts in a position of influence (an employer, a politician, an educator, etc.) aren’t as dangerous as a lunatic with an AK-47 bought fresh after a five-minute waiting period.
It is exhausting being black in America. A major part of said exhaustion comes from not only having to clear hurdles that your privilege allows you to not even know exist, but also having to EXPLAIN to people that those hurdles actually exist. It’s crazy how black men share stories of being pulled over by police the same way veterans trade war stories. What’s even scarier is that in both instances, many feel as if they weren’t going to make it out alive. It is TIRING telling these stories to people over and over gain. I recently watched this show on Netiflix called “Sense 8”. On one episode, this character was strapped into a bed in the hospital, being told over and over again that they were crazy when they were in fact perfectly fine. After a while of being placed in restraints and being told that they weren’t well, the character began to believe what they were being told about themselves by others.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE BLACK.
EVERY. SINGLE. GOT. DAMN. DAY. IN. AMERICA.
Simply put: Facebook posts aren’t enough. I’m not asking you to grab a dashiki and start blasting Dead Prez at Sunday dinner, but if you aren’t willing to stand up to those who mean the most to you, you are just as bad, and arguably worse. You are lukewarm, and this isn’t an issue that ANY of us can afford to be lukewarm on. You don’t get to be down with the cause until it threatens your trust fund. Nepotism can no longer be a reason to excuse the behavior of the racist you know and/or love. Telling your parents, friends, or other relatives that their antiquated, blatant racist thoughts make them incapable of being tolerated in our society is YOUR responsibility, not mine.
It’s time to pick a side, my friend…not black versus white, but right versus wrong. If, however, you feel that fighting for my rights is too much for you, do both of us a favor and stay out of my inbox.