MIXED MESSAGES - BLG by Brianna Graham
Lately I've been seeing some buzz about well intentioned white people not knowing how to help the black community. With the events that have gone on over the past week, the white feelings of helplessness is overwhelming to most - believe me I understand. I am here, for once and for all, to offer help. I am kindly going to asking you to recall, if you will, the scene near the end of "The Wizard of Oz" when Glinda tells Dorothy that she had the ability to go home the entire time. Now, I am Glinda, and you are Dorothy. Put on the red slippers while I gently inform you that you have had the information with you the entire time. You have known what to do all along. Let me awaken your soul.
First let me be clear about one thing, The black community has never stopped speaking out against the racism in our government, system, and community. So, I'd like to inform anyone who may be shocked about what happened this weekend, that most of your black friends aren't. We aren't surprised in the slightest bit. Yes, we are hurt. Yes, we are angry. But surprised - nope.
So let's get into what you came here for: how can you help? There are two things that you can start doing today at this very second. Are you ready? The two things that you can do right here and right now are listen & speak.
First let's get into "listen". Remember how I said the black community wasn't shocked about what happened this weekend in Charlottesville? Well let's put it this way, if you were shocked, were you shocked when Mike Brown was murdered? Sandra Bland? Eric Garner? LaQuan McDonald? Tamir Rice? Philandro Castile? Alton Sterling? Freddie Gray? Jordan Davis? Jamar Clark? Maybe some of you reading this are old enough to remember Rodney King? Were you shocked then? My point is the black community has never stopped speaking out against racism so seeing white people openly and vigorously displaying racism in Charlottesville is hardly shocking. So my question to you is, when did you decide to listen? Was it when Donnie said the "both sides" bullshit on Tuesday? Let me ask you this: How many times have you said the both sides bullshit? When did you stop making excuses and rationalizing the justifications? Have you? Because the idea that having a rap sheet is justifiable for murder is founded in racism. The idea that smoking weed is justifiable for murder is founded in racism. The idea that wearing a hoodie or selling cigarettes illegally or "mouthing off" to an officer or playing music to loud is justifiable for death - is all founded in racism. Do not question me about this.
Bonus: the following statements listed below that have been used in race arguments are also founded in racism:
"If black people cared about their communities so much, why aren't they doing anything about the crime in Chicago."
"White people were slaves too."
"What about the black people in Africa that had slaves?"
"If I had a bowl full of skittles and I told you three skittles would kill you..."
"How can anyone be upset over a statue?"
do not question me about this. I could go on and on but I have several other points to get to...
What you can do to help the black community is to listen. The outrage that you felt this weekend is something that your black friends and family members feel on a day to day basis. We feel it so often that there is a constant rage that we have put into a box and shove into a part of our brain and later use as a way to protect ourselves. It's real friends. It's your privilege to not know what that box looks like or feels like. So listening to the oppressed when they are telling you that they are being oppressed is step one in how you can help.
Speaking of privilege...
I know some of you are sick and tired of hearing about race. You're sick of seeing it on your time line. Or maybe you're sick of hearing your one co worker bring race into "everything". You were raised not to see color so you don't understand what the world is coming to. It's just become too much for you and you're better off just not getting involved. I have a very important message that I need you to take the time to process. It is your privilege to not participate in these conversations.
I started a new paragraph because I really want you to take your time with that last sentence. Checking out of the race dialogue is a privilege that you get to have because it does not effect you. It does not effect you in the ways that it does for PoC. I think of my own personal experiences verses the way that my dad talks about his life experiences, deliberately making choices that I would have never thought to make, because he has learned the consequences of the alternative. Let me put it this way, I am hoping a few of you Christians who are familiar with this story will be able to catch on. The story of the good Samaritan is about this guy who was injured on the side of the road and helpless and crying out for someone to help him. One by one people saw him, decided not to help him and just kept walking. Finally, the good Samaritan ran up on him and saw he needed help and did. Those people who walked by the injured guy didn't help him because they didn't want to get involved. "Didn't want to get involved." Does that sound familiar? They didn't wanna help him because they really didn't have to. But everyone who knows that story knows that those guys looked like assholes and contributed to the injured mans suffering by walking away. So don't be those assholes, guys. Stop being worried that speaking out against racism will ruin your Instagram esthetic or that you will lose followers. Or that it will make someone, like your Facebook acquaintance, uncomfortable.
Which brings me to my step 2, Speak.
Sure, the conversation can be uncomfortable - but think of how uncomfortable your PoC friends feel when someone at the water cooler says a shitty joke about police brutality. Now think about how even more uncomfortable it must be for your PoC friend to be the only one to speak up and call the person out on their racism. It already sucks to be the person oppressed, but then to be the oppressed person and the only person who speaks up against it? How would you feel if every time you defended yourself someone called you an angry (black) woman or told you to calm down because "it was just a joke"? Now is not the time to ignore it. You don't understand how loud your silence speaks. It's a privilege to be able to distance yourself from this situation. Your privilege allows you to not have a "white sales person voice". Or to not have people touch your hair, unsolicited. It doesn't matter if the person saying the racist stuff is "harmless". It’s exactly that mindset that is dangerous. It's that mindset that allows statues to be built and Confederate flags to fly. It's that mindset that leads up to the riots in Charlottesville. We cannot continue to write off every word and every action as harmless.
So, speak up when you hear something. You don't need to wait for a black person to sign off on your comment or permission to shut something/someone down. If you don't know the answer, it's okay to ask! It's also okay to use the internet as a source. Stop worrying about making sure everyone knows you're a non-racist white person and start doing non-racist white people actions. I don't care if you have black friends or if you love Beyonce - that doesn't make you incapable of being a racist or doing racist things. What is gonna set you apart is your actions. Inform people what Black Lives Matter is really about. Explain to people why the statues are offensive and keep talking to them about it. Don't just give up on the first try. You have an advantage in theses conversations because you're white.
In short, use your privilege to help others. It's your job. Make yourself uncomfortable and have hard conversations. We have to do so to create change. If you don't think there is a problem then you can't change the problem so we need to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to race. We need to make sure everyone is educated and working towards progress. Do your part. Listen and Speak Up.
Now click those heels!
*this post was originally written in response to the 2017 protests in Charlottesville, VA.
I am screaming on the inside.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, Tuesday's press conference, featuring a stand out performance by Donnie, left me screaming at a higher decibel level.
While listening to Podcasts and reading the transcript of what 45 actually said, I chose to go back and forth on a Facebook thread with someone about Donald Trump and the issues of this week. I got the normal "if-black-people-cared-about-their-community-they-would-start-in-chicago" schtick along with the "that's not the right way to protest" bullshit. I had to explain why having schools named after confederate soldiers is offensive and how this person has no business telling any community what they can and cannot be offended by. The kicker was this was someone I went to high school with. I'm sitting here thinking about this conversation like "how did we go to the same school and not get the same education?"
I decided to make this a blog post but as I was writing I got completely overwhelmed with how much information I have to give/ how much I have to say so I decided to spilt this up into two sections.
Part 1. Why do I have to explain this?
Part 2. Dear White People..
Let's jump right on in.
I would love to spend the time to write out in full disclosure the way I feel about Donald Trump. I could write about the week long depression I slipped into after he won the election and the fear that I felt driving into rural parts of Minnesota that I had never felt before. But today I am going to touch on the things that he has said recently that have fueled the fire behind a lot of racist commentary I've seen online. To add a little special touch, I'm going to directly pull quotes from the conversations I've had with people I've gone to high school with and dissect why what they have said is wrong/racist. Wee!!!
"Can someone tell me why it's even a problem now after being up [the statues] for so many years? it's a problem because the news is telling you it's a problem. Where was the outburst when they were put up? Guess what there are several military bases that are named after Confederate soldiers, are we going to rip all those down to? Hey let's take George Washington off the dollar bill he was a slave owner." - Uninformed racist comment via High School Classmate
Trump making comparisons between Thomas Jefferson / George Washington to Robert E Lee is a deliberate effort to rob historical context and manipulate it into a conveniant narrative. *Genius*
Fact: Robert E Lee spent a vast majority of his military career trying to break up the United States. As a matter of fact, Lee quit the army to join the Confederates. In other words, he quit the US army to join the army that was attacking the US. The men that created the Confederate army were men that wanted to preserve an economic and social system premised on the belief in white supremacy and slavery.
Fact: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped to create and assisted in laying the ground work for the foundation of this country. Without them there might not be a United States of America.
Fact: People do and have had an issue with our founding fathers holding titles as slave owners. There are movements to take Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill. There are schools and parks being renamed because their previous titles belonged to racists/confederate army supporters. I mean people tried to erase any trace of Sally Hemings from history books. ( For those of you who don't know, Hemings was Thomas Jeffersons slave, who was repeatedly raped and gave birth to at least six of his children.) This isn't a "new thing". It's only now being brought to your attention because of what happened over the weekend. Do you see how your privilege allows you to be uninvolved because it doesn't directly effect you?
So the idea that removing these statues "erases history" is bogus. We don't need statues to remind us of historical figures impact on the country. We don't need statues of Hitler or Genghis Kahn to be reminded of the fuck shit they did. When we are demanding that the statues be removed, we aren't asking you to erase history - we're asking you to acknowledge it.
"I feel like Trump could have said he hate's nazi's and that the KKK is the scum of the earth and they [the media] would have spun it some how. My point was where was the condemnation of BLM and radical black power organizations that fueld the hate for the police?" - Uninformed racist comment via High School Classmate
For the last fucking time, Black Lives Matter is NOT a hate group. I don't know if I have the energy to explain this again, so please take the time to check out the linked article.
This person that I was speaking to pulled youtube videos of protesters chanting kill cops and referenced the BLM Philly's twitter page and tried to tell me that they (BLM) said white's aren't allowed. For the record the twitter page didn't say anything close to that. It said "If you identify as a person of the African Diaspora You can attend our meetings and become a member. If not you can support us in other ways." That's not the same as "no whites allowed".
The KKK is a group of people who's beliefs are passionate about white supremacy. They have a history of terrorizing communities, lynching and murdering innocent people because of their skin color. Black Lives Matter is a group founded in the passionate belief of equality. So the videos this person shared with me of people at a BLM protest is really disheartening to me. But I'm also intelligent enough to know that person(s) in that video don't represent the entire group and what it stands for. And I also know that this doesn't happen at every protest. Where as the KKK consistently chant about exterminating Jews, blacks and PoC. One might say that the killings of PoC is an exact ideal of what Neo-Nazi's stand for. Bottom line: The mission statement that reflects the beliefs of what Black Lives Matter stands for is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in comparison to what the KKK stands for.
So I mean, that's why there shouldn't be any condemnation of BLM.
*Also side bar: DJT said that there were good people on both sides. What good people do you know that hang with Klansmen?
"They should really just let Antifa/BLM fight it out with the Nazi groups. They are all shit bags. Just open up a football stadium and make it like a gladiator fight"
"BLM is not the modem [modern] day civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr would be ashamed ha.""
"As far as protesting to make change... That's not really how it works." -Uninformed racist comment via High School Classmate
Hmm..."they should really just fight it out with the nazi groups".....So! This actually already happened! In history we refer to it as the Civil Rights Movement. And guess what?! It actually was a series of non violent protests that eventually led to legislation change and federal laws! It was protests on bridges and athletes making a stand during sports events! So even if you in your igonrant ways don't believe that protesting makes a difference, history tells us otherwise! Yay!
"No one is hurt by the statues let's get real lol... It's like renaming lake Calhoun... Totally irrelevant nonsense."
"If people get that hurt by statues.. we cleary have too many first world problems lol. Especially when the statues are about the individual and not glorifying slavery. " - Uninformed racist comment viaHigh School Classmate
Let me keep this one really short and cute and say that just because something does not effect you directly does not mean that other people cannot be offended or hurt by it. You, no matter who you are, your race/sexual orientation/gender identity etc, do not get to minimize anyone's hurt or opression because it doesn't apply to you. Boop!
"Sacrifices... Pain... Anguish.. what ever you want to call it. Slavery isn't the worst thing a man could do to another to be honest. A history of evil people show us that. My point is it's incorrect to assume people can't rationalize something because they don't fit w.e identity politics is being played." -Uninformed racist comment via High School Classmate
First things first, this person really reduced slavery to a sacrifice. Let that sit with you.
It's confusing to me why, as American's, the Nazi flag is taken as more of an extreme symbol of terrorism than the Confederate flag. Maybe because in this country, it has been instilled in our brains not to take slavery as serious as it was. As a matter of fact, there's a great article that quotes Ta-Nehisi Coates enlightening people on why we shouldn't compare Nazi Germany to the Southern Confederacy.
People, understand this, the effects of slavery are still alive and well.
Without getting into colorisim, the history and origins of police in the USA, and mass incarceration, slavery and it's effects have been minimized and trickled down into tiny things that happen in ordinary life that you may not even realize. Telling someone they have "good hair" stems from slavery. Telling someone that they "don't act like a normal black person" stems from slavery. Are the wheels turning yet? You may not have thought about it that way, but I promise you that your black friends have. And it's hurtful.
I can't believe I actually have to explain how awful slavery was but considering history books are reducing it to free labor workers...It wasn't just working all day at a shit job and sleeping in shitty cramped rooms - that right there just describes your average twenty something New Yorker. Slavery was working against ones will in cotton fields in southern heat, being whipped for not working fast enough or not answering a question correctly. It was being raped day after day sometimes in-front of your family, if you were lucky enough to have your family around. Many slaves were separated from their family and auctioned off with barn animals holding more value than them. If you're still having a hard time understanding and find yourself questioning how horrible it was, I encourage you to read a book called, "When I was a Slave Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection". I had to tap out when I read about the whipping of a newborn.
I know that what this person said about slavery was extremely ignorant but the truth is people really do feel like this. I've been told more than once in the last few days that people need to "get over it" and "stop crying about it" but if you can do one thing for me it's this; don't let anyone ever reduce the pain of slavery and the effects that it had on this country and the people living in it.
Also, this person being unable to validate the horrors of African American slavery is exactly why it is NOT incorrect to assume that some "people can't rationalize something because they don't fit whatever identity politics is being played". You said slavery was a sacrifice bruh. You very clearly don't get it.
I really could go on and on with more excerpts from our conversation but I am going to end with this last quote.
"Trump is not responsible for the actions of someone else" -Uninformed racist comment via High School Classmate
This one right here...
The actions that led to the events in Charlottesville are a direct result of Donald Trump taking office. However, make no mistake, the feelings and beliefs of these supremacists have been around long before Donnie was elected. From the beginning of his campaign trail, he has been specific about his word choices and phrasing; leaving things that should not be left for interpretation up in the foggy air. The slogan "Make America Great Again" is the perfect example. Seeing those red hats in the sea of rioters and protesters from this weekend proved that the phrase fit the exact ideals and morals of these supremacist and terrorists. The mother of the man who drove his car into a crowd of people told reporters that she thought her son was going to a Trump rally. During his rallies and events, Trump advocated for violence against protesters several times. While the coward will never come out and directly define the difference between right and wrong, as the president of the United States part of your job is to be the moral compass for the country. DJT's moral compass reflects those of white supremacists and racists and that is why we witnessed what happened this weekend. More than enough people at the U-VA protests were doing so in the name of Donnie. Douchebag David Duke has spoken up about his interpretation of 45's words and felt empowered by our president. If you truly believe that Trump is not responsible for the actions of these riots you are sadly misinformed and buddy, you are sitting on the wrong side of history.
I'm sorry that this was so long but as you can see I had a lot of ground to cover. I will wrap this up by saying that if you have stayed with me and reached the bottom of this page thank you! And also you have the obligation to correct uninformed/misinformed ignorance. I have added links to multiple points that I have made throughout this post so really - there is absolutely no reason to allow this stupidity to continue on. Please educate each other. It is vital and extremely necessary in today's world and I promise you it is one step closer to making a change.
Next...Part 2. Dear White People…
As of late, between the repeated headlines of sexual assault allegations, to the almost daily mass shootings, to Donnie one tweet away from killing us all in a nuclear holocaust, I'm just exhausted.
And with the daily mess, it seems as if everyone (myself included) has an opinion. I suppose, I love the internet for that reason. There are point of views that I've read that I may truly have never considered and news articles that I don't think I would have ever come across. So with that being said, with every think piece, with every article, with every comment left in the comment section, there has been one very common opinion that has been offending me consistently across the board.
"Not all of us"
"These police officers aren't following the law! What they are doing to black American's is wrong! It's murder!"
"Not all of us"
"These men are sexual predators. They are gross and abusing their power. Guys are horrible!"
"Not all of us"
"White men are a problem! They commit the majority of all mass shootings! We have to do something about gun violence. "
"Not all of us"
I would love if we could stop the "not all of us" narrative. Alright, let me insert my disclaimer now. To the people who are reading this and feel their initial response to be defensive, stay with me. It is very obvious that the generalization of an entire race/group/community isn't fair. It's an irresponsible write off that adds to a problem. But I also invite you to explore this thought: If you're not a racist, do you feel the need to consistently proclaim that you aren't? If you're not against homosexuality, do you feel the need to constantly proclaim that you "have nothing against it"? Why is there always a dull hum of defensiveness in every conversation to try and draw a line of separation from the "good guys"? While I can't speak for every marginalized group, I would like to think that we all know, at some level, that we have allies in the white community. We love our white friends, our white partners, our white family members (even the ones that don't get it sometimes but they are trying). But the "not all of us" dialog is distracting to the bigger problem at hand.
So lets be honest with ourselves. Historically, it is a fact that white men exhibit dumb and deplorable behavior to maintain power. And white men reaping the benefits of these tilted scales have been embedded into our society for so long that they have trouble recognizing their privilege (which is, ironically a privilege). By numbers, cis white men are the face of mass shootings in our country. Cis white men are the face of sexual assault and abuse of power. Cis white men wear badges that allow them to shoot Black men and women out of fear. Yes, other races/genders/etc are capable of committing these crimes and I'm sure someone will take the time to send me an article about a Black cop shooting a Black man. But my point is, these stats are like the 2015 Oscars, overwhelmingly white.
So let's call a spade a spade and admit that we have a problem. We've HAD a problem. Every white man you know may not be a bad guy, but they/we are all apart of a culture that enables this behavior. It's incredible that after everything cis white men have done, they are still able to mold their own narratives and be seen as individual perpetrators (if they are even held accountable for their actions at all). Christopher Columbus, for instance, was a fraud-ass rapist who managed to "discover" his way to a national holiday. Harvey Weinstein, another example, is a disgusting sexual predator who molested his way to the top of Hollywood in a taboo environment in which he wasn't held accountable for his actions. Brock Turner was "a good kid with a promising future". Stephen Paddock was a "lone wolf". Devin Patrick Kelly had "demons". Are you noticing a theme here? All of these men are white. All of these men have been granted a storyline to help make sense of or excuse their behavior. This. Is. A. Problem.
To piggy back on my last paragraph, let me show you how this type of culture adds insult to injury for everyone else. While "not all of us" white men are allowed to commit individual offenses, the rest of us are generalized and stereotyped in ways that are untrue and offensive. Women are too "emotional" to be fit for office. Muslims are "terrorists". Black men are either athletes or thugs. Black women are "angry, loud and ghetto". Latinx people are "bad hombres" that do landscaping. Asian people speak broken english. Gay men are overly flamboyant and "act gay". Black skin is "threatening". Hijabs are "scary". Women lie about rape because "they want attention." The list goes on and on. So excuse me while I don't join in your white male "not all of us" pity party. No, you're right - It's not okay to generalize you, but we've been saying "not all of us" for a long ass time.
The irony of years and years of systemic privilege benefiting white men is the offense that cis white men have been taking for being generalized. The "Not all of Us" addition to every comment is not only shifting focus of the actual topic being discussed but it shifts victims. Instead of the sexual assault victim being the focus of attention, "not all of us"-er's take on the role of victim. The dialogue shifts from defending women, to defending "good" men. Instead of talking about police officers that do murder black civilians, the conversations shifts to defending officers who put themselves on the line daily. The redirection of the conversation is exhausting to those of us trying to stay on topic. These issues are separate and not equal.
So let me lovingly and lightly get you "Not All of Us" folks together. We know it's not all straight people. We know it's not all men. We know it's not all police officers. We know it's not all white people. But that's not the focus of the conversation. So please, stop Taylor Swifting your way into this narrative. We know there are good guys out there, but this conversation isn't about the good guys. Stop making this about you.