I am white. Hugely white. Grossly white. Like white on rice. Like freshly fallen snow. Like empty printer paper and the inside of a sanitarium cell. And this is a problem. It affects my outlook on life, and my experiences therein. I have to admit that I am white and privileged (in many ways). I have to admit that this makes me seeing how my black friends see and experience life. I have to admit that this isn’t fair. But the main thing is that I HAVE TO ADMIT IT.
A black friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she was angry and upset and hurt that none of her white friends had messaged or texted or emailed or called to ask how she is feeling and doing in the wake of the Charleston shootings. And she is completely right to feel that way–although she needs no validation from me on that feeling. Her calling me (us) out on this affront was a blatant slap to my stasis acceptance of how things are. And a shock of shame to my silence and acceptance is exactly what is needed right now.
I now cannot stop thinking about this. Sitting on the couch with my six year old son. Sitting on the toilet. Watching my one year old son sleep. Drinking coffee and eating last night’s left over pizza.
I am supremely privileged. And my whole family is white. The epitome of white privilege.
Here is my response to my friend’s post, which I posted on my personal Facebook profile:
“I just got a blatant reminder of how secluded I am in my privilege and whiteness. And how my not asking my black friends how they are doing and feeling right now, is a specific lack of caring and love for them. I AM BLUSHING IN SHAME HERE AT MY COMPUTER. I AM SORRY FOR MY SELFISHNESS AND UN-THINKING.I AM SORRY FOR NOT CHECKING IN WITH YOU TO ASK HOW YOU ARE DOING, AND HOW YOU ARE FEELING. It isn’t out of my awareness that the horrific racially motivated, crazy head-shaking Charleston shooting would be traumatic for my black friends, but it IS out of my awareness that you would want me to check in with you. I don’t know why it is, but it is. I am searching my soul for the answer at this moment. So far, what I have come up with is that part of me is in shock, part of me is so angry I can’t say/do anything, and part of me is scared of the reaction of my black friends–will they look at me in disgust because my whiteness links me to this sadistic racist murderer? Links me to the other white perpetrators of the continuing and escalating white-on-black violence? Will the effects of this god-awful tragedy (and the MYRIAD others that have already happened and will continue to happen–I am being realistic, unfortunately), forever stain and strain my relationship with my black friends, if I ask and acknowledge it/them (the events)? Which is exactly a huge part of the problem.
So I say here and now, specifically to my lack friends, my beloved black friends, HOW ARE YOU DOING, IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE CHARLESTON SHOOTING? HOW ARE YOU FEELING, AFTER THE TEXAS POOL INCIDENT? HOW CAN I BE HERE FOR YOU, AS BOTH A FRIEND AND A WHITE ALLY?
With much love and frustration and worry and fear and LOVE,
**I want to additionally add that I am fully aware of the fact that many, many other incidents of white-on-black violence and discrimination and heinous acts have happened and been publicized. This article gives the names and stories of only a few of them: http://www.buzzfeed.com/nicholasquah/heres-a-timeline-of-unarmed-black-men-killed-by-police-over#.uo6Yv4a58**
I have put my fingers where my post is, and send messages to my black friends, asking how they are and how they are feeling. Yes, it is in direct response to being called out. But it is also wholeheartedly meant and written.
In conclusion, I sincerely hope that this churning of my brain continues after today, and that sometime soon, in my lifetime, there really is open dialog on the atrocities happening to black men and women and children throughout the United States. (I am fully aware that these types of things happen all over the world, but I am choosing to focus on the U.S. because that is where I live, and where the things that affect my friend’s lives happen.)
**I would like to make clear that I have been sleep deprived for an entire year, and my brain isn’t at full functionality. I have tried my best to word my feelings clearly and honestly. I have more to say, but right now, after feverishly writing the above, the cogs of my tired brain have given their all.
Thank you for reading.