Earlier this week, I created a post I thought would create a space and a moment for black people to state exactly what they need right now from their white allies. We are grieving. Our mental health is being continuously shaken in the midst of trauma brought on by police misconduct, the violence of white vigilantes and suffering the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic—outside of the reality of the socioeconomic disparities affecting black Americans and a longer list of reasons to feel hopeless besides.
Some of you took advantage of this moment and this space—where I’d hope black people could offer their honest thoughts on how proclaimed white allies can indeed be allies. You used the comment section to gaslight people living in a sea of anxiety and tumult, telling them they’re not actually experiencing what the world is watching happen. These comments only show why it is imperative that we all keep screaming “black lives matter” at the top of our lungs, even when we know that those who need to hear it most—those unwilling to acknowledge their own privilege—will choose not to hear it.
As a black person, I am exhausted by a lifetime of seeing others actively dismissing our humanity. If you are white, and you are reading this, and you are willing to listen and to work to obtain a better understanding of what we need from our allies, here are the comments from yesterday’s post that can help you.
“Either you are for the inclusion and equal rights of ALL PEOPLE or you are against US. Either you are anti-racism and want to see it fully and finally eradicated, or you are racist. There is no middle ground. Saying nothing when you have the opportunity is just as bad as doing nothing.”
Rather than waste your time fighting the culture wars on social media, you will try to live your life in a way that helps the ‘others’ in your community. You’re never going to convince dear uncle Cletus on Facebook that Chauvin could have just, you know, stopped what he was doing. On the other hand, a few minutes on Google and unless you live in the middle of nowhere you can find plenty of good volunteer opportunities where you can do a lot… If you see discrimination happen in front of you, you will speak up and let your fellow white people know that they should smile because they are going to be on the internet if the situation doesn’t resolve itself amicably.”
Here’s what I have to offer:
- Don’t speak on anything you’re not fully informed about. Even when well-meaning, you do more harm than good when you’re speaking from a place of ignorance. Educate yourself about what’s really happening outside of your bubble.
- Stop thinking you’re helping by telling marginalized people about the problems of others, including yourself. Listen to people in their hurt and their trauma. If you’re incapable of holding the weight of their trauma, then be open in letting them know that.
- Gaslighting is toxic and harmful. When you tell people they are not or have not experienced what they know they have, that is a problem. You would be better off saying absolutely nothing at all. And if you feel compelled to do so, you may be the one who needs to seek help.