Absolution

"Now, then, in order to understand white supremacy we must dismiss the fallacious notion that white people can give anybody their freedom." Stokely Carmichael

"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." James A. Baldwin


I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I'm lethargic. The past few days, as if they are different than any other days of my life existing as our countries most blatantly visible "problem" (cc: W.E.B. DuBois), have run me ragged. It's not dealing with the images of fanatical vitriole dressed down in polos, khakis, and swastikas with tacky Pier One Imports-style ironic culturally appropriated tiki torches that is a poor man's (quite literally; lol at racism and xenophobia masquerading as economic anxiety) KKK copycats sans hoods. It's not the hurling of racial, homophobic, or anti-semitic slurs coupled with Nazi callbacks and desperate attempts to conflate "Southern Heritage" with a failed rebellion/secession attempt in the name of economic/advantage (aka owning literal human beings). It's not the murder of counter-protester/activist Heather Heyer by a domestic terrorist. It's not the daily microaggressions, bias incidents, and experiencing prejudice. It's the emotional labor of dealing with "good" or "well-meaning" white people who need me to approve of their half-assed "activism" and their silent but neutral counterparts. The sycophant routine is insincere and the playing both sides bit is insidious. Cut it all out. I'm not here for it. 

There are ways in which people of color, and those with marginalized identities, are made to be these omniscient quasi-deities on the issues that "impact them most." Notwithstanding that racism actually is not an issue for people of color to be combatting - it's actually an issue for white folx - we become become these all-knowing (a la the magical negro trope) figures for white people to report their good deeds to. Particularly in times where racism is explicitly overt much like the white supremacist/Neo-Nazi fascist terrorism in Charlottesville, there are moves for white people to distance themselves from those people. It's putting others at arm's length and saying those people are bad, but look at me, I'm good - for the honestly mundane fact that you don't call me the n-word or burn crosses in my yard. It's not a high standard to achieve. 

It's also a diversion tactic to not want to take responsibility for an ideological stance that one may not hold but one continues to benefit from. You are the beneficiary of alabaster white privilege. You may not outwardly advocate for it but you certainly do minimal, if anything at all, to dismantle it - and you most definitely undermine, truncate, and trivialize the plight waged upon people of color in the process.  It is also this notion of  "look at me" - I'm doing the right thing (aka barely recognizing that people of color are human beings), or I'm a social media activist because you shard an article and wrote "disgusting" in your status bar. It's this yearning to be validated and told you're doing a good job. It's this confession where you expel your sins and wait for me to absolve you of white guilt, excuse your white savior complex, and praise your shedding of white tears. Wow, you felt something for once - here's your participation trophy, move along. I'm not here for it. I'm tired of it. It's not productive.  Miss me with the need for absolution. Do your self-work and wrangle the people around you. I'm not going to thank you for recognizing the inalienable truth I have always known - that I'm a HUMAN BEING. I'm not going to be grateful for you being a decent person. I'm not going to award you for not being racist (in the random moment you're interacting with me). Why is that your baseline? Shouldn't you be expected to do more, to be more, to give more to be worthy of my bestowing the conditional title of ally upon you? Earn my trust, earn my appreciation, earn my admiration by doing more than what you're supposed to and by getting your chosen peoples to do the damn same. 

If you've been on social media you've seen some rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr or President John F. Kennedy's incendiary quotes about those who remain neutral or silent in the face of injustice. They are poignant and spot on. Neutrality is complicity. You cannot play both sides. There are not many sides. Either you are for or against the subjugation of minoritized people. Plain and simple. IN saying nothing, you have still said something, and the message is that you approve. Speak up or be spoken for. Silence makes you indistinguishable from those yelling hate. How is someone supposed to know what you believe unless you make it known? Be bold, be brave, and be real. Share - now more than even it is important to live in your truth. 

We all can't just get along because some people think that other people are not actual people. Do you see the problem there? Pretending there is validity to notions rooted in dehumanization, eugenics, and superiority complexes is a slippery slope. Protecting "free speech" over the the literal lives of people, not even taking into account not all forms of free speech are protected under the law. Stokely Carmichael said it best, "There is a law higher than the law of the government. That is the law of conscience." As always, freedom of speech does not exonerate you from the ramifications of what you say. We all must be held accountable for what we say, especially if it incites violence, invalidates others, or has no rational basis. Say what you will but be prepared to back it up with substantiated proof. There is power in explicitly naming things what they are. There is potency in calling things out. There is force in having an opinion. Apathy is the enemy of all. Call me intolerant but I refuse to accept or even entertain the idea that I am less than human. Those beliefs can and have turned into actual legislation or enforcement that has had deadly ramifications. Challenge, critique, and call into conversation - always. 


I mentioned being tired and it's because since birth I've been marching. Y'all are late to the movement. It's not new - it's just that you are. I need you to stop being surprised or shocked. I've been told you. People of color tell you daily that is our reality. You just didn't believe us. I was drafted, against my will, into the war against racism. Whether I wanted to fight or not I have to. I have to defend myself. I have to stay alive. I have to work against mindset and belief systems that would have me exterminated. There is no choice. There is no respite. There is no peace. There is JUSTICE. There is no equity/equality. And so I trek on. Race is a social construct but it also has very real ways of constructing the way people are able to live their lives. 

White people have the agency to opt in or out of conversations around race/racism whenever they want. They can retreat to the safety of pristine white sanctuary whenever they please, not think about it, and not engage with it - if they so please. This also means they are less prepared to talk about race. Well, they're being called on to saying something and share their perspectives. Not co-opted stories of the oppression their friends of color have faced or injustices they witnessed but their personal stories about becoming race aware, unlearning prejudice, or the absence of an experience because of whiteness. People of color are made to share themselves and their repeated trauma for the edification of white folx but rarely do white folx reciprocate with even a fraction of the emotional labor expended. We learn at the expense of others SJ gurus saw, but that stuff is expensive, and soon I'll be bankrupt if I keep having to give all of me to get white people to feel something, to see my truth, to acknowledge my humanity. Y'all have to deposit some hope, love, and light back in to me. Y'all have to go put yourselves on display too. Y'all have to give something as well.


Let me finish by saying that it's not on people of color to abolish racism. Like I said before, until white folx affirm that people of color are whole humans race and racism will be issues. If you don't like that sentiment - that racism is white folx issue then you probably have a lot of work to do. Reread that James A. Baldwin quote up top. It's hard and painful but the truth sets you free. It's not always right to ask people of color what to do, how to proceed, or how to help. 

  • Do your research (google topics, statistics, or concepts you don't understand); 
  • use your resources (ask other white folx, read a book, go to a community gathering, join a facebook group);
  •  and ask informed questions (show you've put teh work in and be able to contribute to a conversation; move past being afraid to make mistake and instead own up to them if you do; drop the defense/avoidance tactics - they help no one).
  •  Do you self work - that is ask yourself why you think certain things (every single time you make an assumption, have a racist thought, question your intent), 
    • where did you learn your beliefs, how has race/racism impacted you personally. 
    • Have you embraced that you have been socialized in a racially stratified society?
    •  Can you accept that you've done or said racist things? 
    • Are you able to take ownership of you "stuff" instead of expecting people of color to sort it out for you?
    •  Do you get why reverse racism doesn't exist?
    •  Do you understand how white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism have been the most successful global racial projects of all time? 
The list goes on on and on. You don't need to know everything but you do need to know some things, and more importantly be willing to learn. When you think you have arrived, you definitely have not made it. Unlearning racism is a lifelong process but one with invaluable dividends. Eradicating racism has to happen with its implosion at the hands and hearts of those who are exalted by it. X

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