Dear White Friends: It’s Not Enough To Not Be Racist

As I write this, America is on its knees. It is such a perplexing and emotional chapter in the American narrative right now, particularly for people of color. As my heart bleeds for my people—my resilient, long-suffering, beautiful people—I look to you for solidarity, advocacy, and understanding as the painful history and harsh reality of Black life is unraveled and brought to the forefront of mainstream global consciousness.

The recent killing of George Floyd, an unarmed and innocent Black man, at the hands (and knee) of a Minneapolis police officer has flipped the world on its head. The callous actions of the cop and his three associates have sparked national outrage, incited passionate protests, and led to a radical resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, a human rights campaign that I am vehemently in support of.

I need you, my friend, to step outside of the safe bounds of your white privilege and to recognize what my people have endured and why we are so tired. We’re tired of our men being slaughtered like wild animals by police officers and having to beg and plead for our due justice. We’re tired of having broken homes as a result of these cold-blooded killings.

We’re tired of being called the n-word. We’re tired of being told that our Black and Brown skin is ugly. We’re tired of our passion being mislabeled as violence. We’re tired of being followed around in stores while we shop. We’re tired of being reduced to demeaning character tropes in films and television shows. We’re tired of being fetishized for our bodies, but in the same vein, being bullied for our afrocentric features. We’re tired of people profiting off of Black talent, yet turning a blind eye to Black oppression.

We’re tired of being told to move on and forget 400 years of burning psychological trauma—the pain is deeply ingrained in our cultural DNA. We’re tired of being pressured to straighten our curls, coils, spirals, and kinks to assimilate to a eurocentric standard of beauty. We’re tired of having to work twice as hard as our white counterparts for a modicum of respect. We’re tired of being told that “we act white” if we lead an affluent or sophisticated lifestyle. We’re tired of having the police called on us for being at places where we are permitted. We’re tired of being spat on. We’re tired of being told that we’re too dark. We’re tired of being pulled over for being Black. We’re tired of being treated like we’re up to no good.

We’re tired of being asked if our hair is real. We’re tired of people locking their car doors when we walk past. We’re tired of the 45th President of the United States referring to our people as “thugs”. We’re tired of racial slurs being spewed at us. We’re tired of being the token Black employee or the token Black friend. We’re tired of white people denying the existence of systemic racism. We’re tired of our white friends being complicit amid this socio-political unrest.

White friend, if you love me, if you care about me, speak up against inhumane, racist acts that are a threat to my personhood as a Black individual. Use your platform, however big or small, to condemn the systemic racism and racial prejudice that constrict the economic, emotional, and psychological fabric of Black society. It is simply not enough to be a bystander on the sidelines of history as a social uprising dramatically unfolds right before your eyes. It is simply not enough for you to ask me questions about my Black experience without mustering up the unbridled compassion necessary to understand my perspective and the courage to dismantle your own racial bias. It is not enough to allow news outlets and their heavily-biased accounts of what’s going on to shape your views on the ever-present Black plight.

Educate yourself about Black history, past and present.

Research the harrowing stories of Emmett Till, the Scotsboro Boys, The Middle Passage, and The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. Listen to the sage words of James Baldwin , Angela Davis, and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. Learn about the horrifying history of minstrel shows, black zoos, Jim Crow laws, and the 1980s Crack Epidemic. Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Get to know Ruby Bridges, The Freedom Riders, Rosa Parks, Marsha P. Johnson, Colin Kaepernick, and Richard and Mildred Loving. Discover the true mission of the Black Panthers and Planned Parenthood in relation to the Black community. Watch 13th , Slavery by Another Name, Malcolm X, Shame in the Game, The Hate U Give, If Beale Street Could Talk, and I am Not Your Negro.

Racism is alive, well, screaming, and kicking. Therefore, it is so hurtful and dismissive when you, subconsciously or not, adopt such a neutral stance on an issue that continues to plague a community of people that look like me.

White friend, it is not enough to not be racist. You must be anti-racist. Speak up.

TCID: gabby-sterling

About the author

Gabby Sterling is a Bahamian-born publicist, writer and avid dreamer.

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