Dear White People, Just Listen

So I sat down and started to write about how the last week has sucked. It snowed, a lot. Big shocker, it’s winter. Then we got sick. I mean really, I should be writing about how amazing it is that my kids have barely been sick this season. We were due.

But what I really want to talk about is Beyoncé and that Formation video. I want to talk about how totally powerful her Super Bowl performance was. During the performance the audio wasn’t good enough for most distracted viewers to actually hear the lyrics. When I talked to my husband about it his response was, “Oh, I couldn’t even hear what she was saying.” So, it’s fair that most viewers missed a very important thing about her backup dancers, that they were dressed like the Black Panthers. It’s understandable that many were confused having not seen the actual music video for “Formation” that was released just the day before. They didn’t understand the significance of what she was doing. A friend told me there were people on Facebook and Twitter actually asking why she didn’t have any white backup dancers.

Stupid. So so stupid.

Shit like this makes me embarrassed to be white. Hell, it’s embarrassing to be the white girl anytime I’m in a room filled with people of color. Why?

Because white people, on the whole, don’t get it. They just don’t fucking get it.

Do I get it?

Nope, I don’t.

There’s no possible way for a white woman raised in a predominantly white town to have any idea what it’s like to be African American. But I understand that I don’t “get it,” and I think that’s a good starting point.

baby_doll

When you admit that you don’t understand, you open yourself up to the possibility to listen. Because that’s the problem, white people aren’t listening to black voices. They disregard their plight. They minimize, they deny, they find excuses. They pick apart one specific news story about police brutality or discrimination and try and find the reason as to why it happened. “But not all cops are bad” they say, “But, but, but, he reached for the cop’s gun” they say, “He was a known criminal” they say, “That boy really did look suspicious in a hoodie,” they say, “That little boy’s toy gun looked real!”

But we need to step back from a single incident and look at the larger picture. We need to ask ourselves the hard questions. We need to admit that these things aren’t happening to white people on the same scale as they’re happening to black people.

Not even close.

And when you try to rationalize, when you try to “explain” why these things happen more frequently to African Americans, well, there’s just no way to do that without being racist. There is no explanation for the the subjugation of an entire race of people. Ever.

There are things you need to understand my white friends. There are terms you need to learn. Terms like: the suppression of Black Joy, the adult-inization of black children, the sexualization of black bodies, and most importantly you need to school the fuck up on White privilege and what that actually means.

A friend of mine said her husband takes umbrage with the term White Privilege because he thinks it implies that what he earned was simply handed to him for being white. “I got to where I am by working hard,” he says, “not because I’m white.”

He’s right, and he’s wrong.

He worked very hard to get to where he is, but a black man would have to work harder.

He went to college, studied and became an engineer, got hired, got promoted, and bought a big fancy house. But he’s in denial if he thinks that his whiteness didn’t give him an advantage over a black man doing the exact same thing. If all the people interviewing you are your race, you have an advantage. Even the fact that you could buy a fancy house. Did you know we have something called the Fair Housing Act? We had to pass a law to make it illegal for real estate agents to purposely avoid showing homes in white neighborhoods to black families. Guess what? They still do that. Don’t believe me? Ask any realtor and they can name a racist agent that is all about segregation when it comes to “improving” home value.

When I bought my first house at the age of twenty-two a white client teased that it must be in a bad neighborhood by asking, “And are there any white people in your neighborhood? Hahaha!”

White people, go ahead, admit it.

This shit happens All. The. Time.

And we don’t say anything because it’s awkward. No one wants to own up to their own racism. I’d like to say that I’m going to be the one that calls you out on your shit; but damn if it isn’t awkward to make someone feel like an idiot.

Really, I could go on. I could give you the facts of the huge disparity between whites and African Americans when it comes to serving jail time, for the same crime. But you already know that one, don’t you? You have an explanation for that one too, don’t you? Or how about the fact that black women with breast cancer are more likely to die from the disease than their white counterparts. How about the fact that white people adopt black babies all the time? But a black father with his adopted white daughter had the police called when he took his own child to the park. They thought he had kidnapped her.

But I don’t have the time in a blog post to give you a history lesson (black people were still being lynched in America in 1968) or enlighten you on the current statistics about discrimination.

So for now maybe this will help. Here’s a new definition for White Privilege, and I’m not talking about that self involved Macklemore song.

White Privilege: The undeniable fact that it is easier/better/safer to be white in America than it is to be a person of color.

If you can’t agree with that then I hope you enjoy your next Klan meeting. No? Not in the Klan? Then how about you open your mind and listen to black voices.