An Open Letter to White Women

Dear White Women,

I have been watching you for the past couple of weeks and every time I am uplifted by you, or you motivate me, or you energize me, the next day two of you will make me angry. For every one of you that is out there on the front lines doing the work, two of you are snickering at the rest of us from behind your computer screen. It infuriates me. So this letter is for you, those of you snickering behind your phone screens. The rest of you, keep doing you, ladies. You are changing this damn world.

First and foremost, why it is so hard for you to just be quiet? It doesn’t sound hard. I mean, we tell our kids to do it all the time. Stop talking. Stop making so much noise. Stop saying the same thing over and over again, yet here you are doing just that. White women, this is not your struggle. It is not about you. I’m gonna say it again for the people in the back , THIS MOMENT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! No one cares how you are feeling right now. No one cares how you were discriminated against one time. We get it, you have felt discriminated against and you think no one stood up for you. Yeah, that’s called real life. Welcome to it. But we don’t want to hear about it now. It just isn’t the time, read a damn room. This isn’t about you, yet repeatedly I have seen white women taking the Black Lives Matter movement and somehow trying to make it about their life or experiences. Do you know what that is called? It’s called white centering.

White Centering is when you take a story, maybe the story of a friend or someone you love who is a BIPOC, you take a story from someone, it could be a complete stranger like George Floyd, and you somehow turn it into a story about yourself. About discrimination you have been through. About how hard your life is/was. But this is not the time for you to cry over something that happened to you 20 years ago (on social media) while pretending to support the movement. No one wants to hear it or see it. If that is what you are inclined to talk about when Black Lives Matter comes up, then just SHUT UP and LISTEN!

I’ve seen this day in and day out from my family members, my friends, strangers on Instagram. Y’all want everyone to validate your discrimination (you especially want Black women to validate you), but no. It isn’t time for that right now, and Black people are not your audience. I will listen to you, I will talk about mental health with you and how important is. Hear me: If you need to discuss a situation that you felt discriminated against based on (insert reasons for white people to be discriminated against), a situations or time that has stayed with you for years and years and you are still trying to work through it, I WILL listen and try to help. But just so we are clear I will NEVER listen, or take a situation seriously, if you try to sneak it on the backs of the BIPOC community, or the Black Lives Matter Movement. Stop. It’s gross, and yes, your BIPOC friends are judging you for it. They are just trying to be polite and let you have your “Karen” moment because they love and respect you, and they know you are a little racist, but it’s not okay.

Now I get it. Right now, if you’re still with me, you think I am attacking you. Matter fact, you might actually be formulating a text to me, or a message, or a vague FB status about how “someone” has “attacked” you today. That is good. In fact, this’s part of the process. Feeling “attacked” by truth is how you know it’s working. It’s like when you put Neosporin on a cut and it burns. The burning means it’s working! You’re hearing what I am saying, you’re realizing that you said something at the wrong time, that was not important and did nothing to better your community, the Black community, or the social space in which you said it. You are feeling shame and guilt. Good! But it might take actual days, weeks, months, years for you to believe what I am saying is the truth. To understand. To, as the kids say, be WOKE AF. I just hope you keep thinking on it, and for the love of all that is holy, keep reading.

White women, on top of not being able to sit and listen to Black people, ESPECIALLY Black Women, and generally white centering the narrative, you are incapable of admitting that you are covertly racist. Whew. This is tough, I know. I know. You know how I know? I had to admit it to myself. And it was hard, and I fought with myself for weeks on this one. Jesus, I did switch my bag from one shoulder to the other when I was walking next to that Black man. Shiiiiiit! I did that. Shit, I did allow my white friend to use the abbreviated “N-word” in my presence and not say something to her. Shiiiiit. I did not speak up when that co-worker told a racist joke that one time. I mean, I didn’t laugh at it. I didn’t retell it, but I didn’t speak up either. Shiiiit! I’m racist, y’all. WE ALL ARE. Look at this image I found from the Minister’s blog at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church in Charlottesville:

This is something white women just can’t understand. For the life of me, I want to shake some of y’all and scream, “You are awesome, I love you, but you are a little racist.” We all are racist because we were raised in a racist society. We were raised in a country that was LITERALLY FOUNDED ON RACISM! And no, it doesn’t matter if you have a Black husband. You don’t get a pass as a white woman, you still need to check your privileges and your racism. Ask any Black woman and she will fill you in, but wait, don’t actually ask them because they are a little too busy dealing with an influx of other dumb white women right now who suddenly want to unlearn what they were taught and expect Black women to be the ones to teach them. FOR FREE! OMIGOD, y’all. It wasn’t Black women who taught you how to be racist, and it isn’t up to them to fix your problem. It’s up to you. And while we are at it, it isn’t as easy as sticking a black square on your Instagram page one day. You need to be doing work. You need to be educating yourself. Reflecting, going inward. Walking through all the ways in which you have benefited from the structural racism that our country was founded on. If I may, it works best with a partner.

Because covert racism has just been accepted in our society. It is okay in a lot of places to be covertly racist. I don’t know any friend or family member who would actively take a role as a KKK Member, but I know several who have said things like, “I don’t like that bar because it’s too dark.” Meaning there are too many Black people there. I have friends and family members who, upon finding out that we were moving to Atlanta, said things like, “Ohh, you aren’t going to like it there, it’s pretty ghetto.” Meaning there are too many Black people there. They were wrong, on many levels. They are also covert racists. This is the kind of thing you need to be considering. Looking back at your life, seeing what you have done that is racist, admitting it, and working on ways to stop it from this point forward.

But please know that it takes time. I have been doing this internal work on my own unchecked racism for about six months now, and I make mistakes all the damn time. One of the biggest mistakes I made was thinking that Black people care about my progress. I actually thought I would get a damn pat on the back for working on myself, for admitting my covert racism, for standing up for the Black community. Uh, no. Black people don’t care if I am working on myself. And they don’t care if you are doing it either. And they don’t trust what I am actually doing will stick. They hope I am trying to educate other white people, but again, they don’t trust I will continue to. See a pattern here, white women? Black people, especially Black women, DO NOT TRUST US. Why should they? Have we given them a reason to? And again I’ll remind you I’m talking in general terms, and mainly about strangers you meet on social media, not people who you consider your friends and who know and trust your intentions.

The Black community does not want to hear about how hard we are working, because they have been working ten times harder their whole lives. They want to SEE how hard we are working. They want to see us banding together to stop other dumbass white people so they don’t have to. They want us to take some of the load off of them, and they want us to know that we should not expect a thank you for it. Because we should not expect a thank you for it. And the white women who are trying, please know that Black women may seem ambivalent to your work, and that is okay. Do not ask them to praise you. Do not ask them to educate you. Do not take, take, take from them. And for the love of all things holy, if you are relying on that one token Black friend to get you through this, get some more fucking friends! And please know that most of the Black women I have encountered through this process do not hate me, or what I am doing. But they don’t necessarily like me either. That hurt, at first. Then I recognized my own white fragility and moved one. There will be Black people, just like white people, who do not like you. You gotta get over it and keep moving forward.

Lastly, and this is the toughest lesson I have learned this week, white women you are not openly talking to your family, your friends, and most crucially your children, about racism. And your silence is deafening to your friends in the Black community. Instead you are making excuses like, “My dad is too old, different generation you know, I don’t want to upset him” or “I teach my children to be colorblind” or “My son is too sensitive it would upset him.” Let me tell you a little story about my very sensitive son and the first time I discussed racism with him.

We were at the Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Kelly Ingram Park is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led several peaceful protests. It is also where protestors were shot with water hoses and rubber bullets. It is also right across the street from where the 16th Street Baptist Church sits. The one that was bombed on September 15, 1963. The one where Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11) we murdered. You might only know them as “The four little Black girls,” but it is important that you read and say their names.

We were strolling through the park with Jackson. He was BARELY four years old. He was looking at the statues and taking in all the words, words he didn’t understand. We sat him down on a blanket, we talked to him about the Civil Rights Movement. About how people hate other people based on the color of their skin. And he sat and listened. I was so proud of how he did. It was like he knew the moment was heavy and he really wanted to hear what we were saying. Then just as I finished up I took a deep breath and I asked him if he had any questions. He said he did. Jerimiah assured him questions were good, and he could ask any he wanted. Then Jackson, in his little preschool voice asked, “Can we get Subway for lunch?”

Yeah. My four-year-old son heard what I said that day, but he needed time to process it all. Because it isn’t a one-time talk. He didn’t have nightmares from the statue depicting the police dogs attacking children. He didn’t have nightmares about a burning church or even appear to register all we had said. But a couple months later we were driving somewhere in the car and we passed a Black man mowing his yard and my son said, “Mommy, Dr. King was Black like that man huh?” And while I was a little taken aback at the rawness of the question I simply said, “Yes he was. Do you want to talk about Dr. King?” and to my surprise he did. And he has wanted to talk since that day, from time to time, about Civil Rights, about the Black community, about how he will try to help his generation make a change. And we have always discussed his concerns and questions. We have made space for him to explore it on his own. Because honestly, there are four-year-old Black kids who have a very different talk given to them about racism, and it is the least I can do with for my child.

Make no mistake, if you are talking about racism, your kids are listening. If you are not talking about racism with your kids, they are also listening. And learning. Because kids are smart and perceptive and they know that something is happening in our country right now, and they are relying on your cues to help them through it. The question is what are you saying with your words, and more importantly, what are you saying with your actions?

Thank you for reading, my friends. I’m sorry if these truths are hard to digest right now, but I ask you, I implore you, to sit with them in solitude for a little bit. Reflect on how they make you feel. Reflect on why you agree or disagree with them, then move forward to fight off the shame and guilt you have been carrying around. Move forward to talk to your family and friends. Move forward to talk to your children. Own your privilege, and own your beliefs, even if they are racist, because the rest of us need to know which side of this battle you stand on.

Be safe and well, friends.

M.

The Big Easy

We’ve been in Louisiana again this week. The last time we left Baton Rouge I said, “Good riddance, may I never see you again!” Then I screamed something in made-up French like, “Tu es stupide et je ne te reverrai jamais! Je ne laisserai pas les bons moments rouler! Puis-je ne jamais vous revoir!” And flipped I-12 the bird. Anywho, I’m back.

This time we had my mom with us. Which was good, in a way, because Jerimiah, Jackson, Duke, and I are way over the touristy stuff, (which is what we had to do again on Sunday because my mom had never been to New Orleans!) So there we were, back in NOLA and doing the touristy-type things again, when it hit us why we are not fans: New Orleans is just a really sad place, y’all. Well, most of the Deep South is, but New Orleans is worse because of the tourists that come through and wreck the city, deplete the resources, don’t give two shits about the local people, and do it all while they are drunk and screaming, “Laissez le bon temps rouler!” So I guess it isn’t NOLA that I dislike, it’s the people who come and treat it like shit. Then try to make up for it by throwing a few bucks in a street performer bucket, or take a Haunted Tour and pretend they don’t really just want to stop at the baby grave yard for beers. (Listen, I’ve done that nonsense before. I’ve been to Mardi Gras as a dumb, 20-something, and I’m sorry. You live, you learn. #WhiteDumbGirlShit)

But my mom, on the other hand, is a 75-year-old white girl who just wanted to see the sights, take pics of the Catholic Basilica for her Catholic friends, and step foot on a streetcar. No hand grenades need apply. So we did that. She had an experience for sure (pics below). We took her on the streetcar and the city bus, because the streetcar on Canal is down near the portion of Canal Street where the Hard Rock Hotel came crumbling down, killing one and injuring dozens more. (They are still looking for three more people who are lost in the rubble.) So we had to take a bus around that location. Then we walked down to Jackson Square, had lunch at the Market Cafe, walked through the French Market, and made our way up Bourbon Street. My mom was in awe of the massive amounts of people, meanwhile this was the least crowded I’ve ever seen the French Quarter. And it was only 80 degrees out and we were boiling hot, so there’s that. But still, a ton of drunk people by noon, the smell of urine wafting through the air, and horse shit, always horse shit. Oh, French Quarter.

And there I was. Looking at Jerimiah. Eyeing Jackson. We all had that look in our eyes. That look that said, “This doesn’t feel right.” Because well, it just doesn’t. I know, I know, New Orleans is a tourist Mecca for fun, but honestly, it’s so much more than that. There is so much history there, so much wrongdoing went on there. So much still left to fix, and well, the three of us are just too sensitive to that sort of thing. We trudged on. We drove my mom through the Lower Ninth Ward because she didn’t understand what levees we were talking about, and that felt wrong. It felt wrong for her not to understand the devastation that happened there, but it also felt wrong to be tourists in a neighborhood where people are still just trying to get by, to rebuild, to forget about being treated like animals. But geez, there’s no way to forget. And forgive. How could there be?

And maybe that’s it. Maybe I have only known the post-Katrina New Orleans. Maybe it used to be different than it is now. Maybe it was more fun back then. Maybe the locals were more forgiving. Maybe there was more harmony, but if there was, it isn’t there anymore. The locals don’t like the tourists, but understand their necessity. The tourists vomit and pee on the street corners where slave auctions took place in the 1700s. So I mean… While we were eating lunch we watched a white man and a black man get into a fight over bread on the ground at Jackson Square. It was a silly situation, but the emotions were real. And the anger wasn’t really about bread on the ground.

So yeah, it’s some depressing shit. But there’s no real way for people like me, white people with privilege, to talk about shame without making the “other” feel like shit or seeming to use them as fodder, so I gotta stop. Here’s some pictures of my mom enjoying her first (and probably only) time in The Big Easy. I think she had all the fun she could stand.

M.

Pole dancing because “Laissez le bon temps rouler!”
A very empty Bourbon Street. But not without the smells…
Jackson Square: Jackson smoking a candy cigarette because New Orleans. #SmokeEmIfYouGotEm
Mom found a gator. #ChootIt
Crossing back to the Upper Ninth Ward, from the Lower Ninth Ward.