Dear White People,
I’ve been reading many posts, comments, and debates surrounding the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officers. Many have taken to the streets to protest. Some have rioted. Some have looted. Some have scoffed. It is quite telling of the pre-existing polarization of this nation.
I’ve heard a little bit of everything. “ALL lives matter.” “The looting is hurting more than its helping.” “What about black-on-black crime?” “Why don’t y’all care about Black babies being aborted?” “It’s not that serious.” “Run them over!” “I’m not racist, but…”
This will by no means be an exhaustive response to every facet of this situation. Nevertheless, I’ve been collecting my thoughts surrounding this subject and the responses of my White brothers and sisters. Here is my response to you all (yes, all).
1. You’re not saying what you think you’re saying.
When your emphasis is more on how people are responding, you are perpetuating the nature of the oppressor. “How dare these people be so upset!” “How dare they not be rational or logical!” “They should be grateful to be in this country!”
These are all statements or heart postures that indicate your position is with the oppressor. Now, if you’re White and you’re reading this, you may be thinking, “I’m not the oppressor — stop being so dramatic.” I get it.
So, who or what is the oppressor? In a literal sense, Whites have been oppressors. Crack open a history book and you’ll find that out easily. In a more broad sense, Whites are oppressors in that they perpetuate a system that oppresses.
So, sure, you may not own slaves. You may have a Black friend. You may have voted for Obama. None of those things exempt you from being one who benefits from this system and therefore one who perpetuates it.
See, we keep having this conversation about racism being about the color of someone’s skin. Sure, me being Black does mean I’m likely to have more melanin magic in my skin that makes me darker than my White brothers and sisters. However, racism has very little to do with the actual color of your skin (that’s colorism — a conversation for another day).
Whites continue to neglect the error of the system that is at work that conjures up these things.
2. Racism is a system.
Racism deals with the belief of a group’s superiority and that group having the resources to enact or enforce said superiority.
It is not hate of the heart. It is not hatred of a person’s skin color. People share photos of Whites and Blacks holding hands with a charming quote about hate and/or unity. (This is an ineffective response to racism. For it’s fundamental belief is that we can ignore [or rise above] the disparities brought on by racism by being friends or refusing to hate.) It’s much deeper than that. (Heck, a lot of White people don’t really hate Black people. So, that doesn’t really do anything. Anyway…)
It is a system — a clearly devised system indicative of the hearts, culture, and nature of a people. Its evidences are economic inequality. Its evidences are perspectives that elevate one group as superior and oppresses the other. Its evidences are the legislation in place that favor a particular group. Its evidences are the clearly devised psychological conditioning to feed the narrative of one group’s superiority. Its evidences are educational inequality. Its evidences are four White Minnesota police officers taking the life of a Black man and Whites feeling inclined to justify it. Its evidences are the trauma Blacks have endured at the hands of whites.
3. What we are seeing now — the rioting — is a response to the trauma caused by the system of racism.
As people spend more time focusing on how people are responding and demonizing people who are victims (no, Blacks are not helpless. We’re our greatest help. However, victims will respond from the place of unhealed trauma), the system fails to be challenged and therefore stands. The cause of that response has continued to go unaddressed.
“Why are y’all so upset? Slavery happened so long ago. What about MLK Jr.? Why not be peaceful like him? Racism doesn’t exist today. It’s not as bad as it used to be.”
Let’s play pretend.
You are a star baseball athlete and “your arm is your money.” Someone stabs you in your arm and it’s now severely damaged. You know you will likely never use your arm the same way or to the same capacity. You still make the effort to move forward and play the game you love.
If someone punches you in that arm, it will hurt — more than a normal punch given there is a prior injury. Just when it seems to get healed, someone punches you again. You’re reminded of what was. While you never should’ve been stabbed in the first place, you were and you’ve learned to live with it. But, for someone to continue to inflict pain on that same area and downplay the effect it has on you is cruel.
Then, they expect you to play at the capacity of other players who have never sustained the same kind of injury. Other players will say things like, “All injuries matter,” when you speak of the pain you have or “Just get over it. That’s what I do when I have problems.” When you finally say enough is enough and express this isn’t fair, people will say you’re being dramatic or lazy. Time may almost completely heal that wound if it’s not continually exacerbated. However, you will likely not heal until you get the care you need. You will likely not get the care you need until and unless someone believes you need it or you figure out how to provide it for yourself.
That is a very light example of how Blacks are constantly reminded of wounds and the effects of them today.
We’ve come a long way; but, there’s still more to be done. We are not wrestling with people, but a system.
We must gain perspective that many don’t have — Blacks included. Most of the time, when we scream, “It’s the system,” people think we’re simply coming up with excuses for the conditions of the Black community. We’re not. Black people are strong, resilient, and have overcome ridiculous odds. We don’t need sympathy. We don’t need to make excuses. We don’t need you to keep saying you’re not a racist.
Firstly, many of us just want the people who benefit from the system to hear us and say, “That’s messed up and I stand with you.” We don’t even NEED apologies. We, firstly, need acknowledgement that the system was rigged from the get-go and that the problems we see today are the effects and residual of that. Scratch that. More than we need the acknowledgement, Whites NEED to acknowledge it. That’s for them.
How do we move forward from here? What should Blacks be doing? What should Whites (and others) be doing?
Blacks have been doing their part for a long time. Our responsibility is to put all of our energy into healing individually, familial(ly), and communal(ly). When Blacks unite far beyond political ideologies and religious inclinations, we are going to see change. Additionally, it is not your responsibility to champion a campaign to prove Blacks are divided. Also, if there is evidence of divide in the Black community, that should not distract from the responsibility of Whites in bringing about restitution for Blacks.
The responsibility of Whites (and others) is to actively listen. Listen. Listen and do. According to the Torah, the oppressor is responsible for making things right when they’ve oppressed someone. The offender is responsible for making things right when they’ve offended someone. This is the only way true restitution can happen. Without it, there will be a divide and the land can’t heal. So, we can stop praying for GOD to intervene. The PEOPLE have a responsibility. GOD has already laid out what must be done — in His Torah.
America and its White constituents have showed a disinterest in making things right. This is only adding to the deep wounds and traumas Blacks have lived and died through. This is why we’ve seen the response we’ve seen. It is a response to trauma.
It must be made right.
It must be made right.
It must be made right.
The system must be dismantled. Whites are going to have to acknowledge the sins of the past and the privilege it brings today and provide restitution. That’s biblical. Then, they must raise their voices louder than everyone else and say, “This isn’t right.” They must no longer allow themselves to benefit from the privilege the system provides them.
So, as a White person reading this, how can you practically move forward from here?
1. Realize we (Blacks and Whites) have and had very different experiences. There is still evidence of this today.
2. Practice empathy.
3. Have intimate conversations with Black people you do and do not know. Encourage them to express as authentically as possible.
4. Realize every Black person won’t have the same perspective about all of this. So, don’t be quick to dismiss or stop your journey of understanding because of one perspective.
5. Listen. Ask questions. Listen.
6. Open up a history book. Research the legislative history of this country and how it has affected and affects the Black community.
7. Build solid relationships with Black people. Throw out the, “I don’t see color” perspective because, we’re different. Understand what makes us us — individually and collectively.
8. Search your heart.
9. Stay away from vain displays of support that don’t really indicate support. What you do or don’t do when no one is looking will make a ton of difference.
10. Use social media to incite healthy dialogue.
Remember, the longer you stay ignorant about the system of racism and how it works, the more the problem persists. Don’t wait to be a part of the solution.
Act now. Stand now. Speak now.
One of your Black Sisters — Darveiye’