Part 2. Dear White People..

*this post was originally written in response to the 2017 protests in Charlottesville, VA. For further context, I encourage you to read Part 1. Why Do I Have to Explain This?

So you want to know what you can do to help?

image via twitter

image via twitter

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. 


image via google images

image via google images

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...

image via google images

image via google images

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!

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Brianna GrahamComment