talking to white people about racism
It’s funny, and it makes me sad.
I was talking to a couple of (nonwhite) friends last night about how I feel like the only acceptable place for me in conversations about race is contrition for being white, and that anything I have to say seems to be tossed aside because WHITE. I get that my race means I don’t have the same experiences as other races, and I can recognize that there’s some poetic justice to me feeling shut out of a conversation because of my race here. I’m not saying my voice is supposed to be the most important one in the conversation by any means.
(Before you get really excited about tearing me to shreds for telling nonwhite people how hard it is for me to be a white person: no, it was an actual conversation. I was a little drunk so I probably was not 100% on point as a listener, but it was not some soliloquy on my part.)
The thing is: I’m trying really hard to be an ally! I think that the way race is treated in this country and globally is total bullshit, I know that racism happens every day in large and small ways, and I know that I sit on a towering heap of privilege that insulates me from experiencing it. Not to go over all the talking points, but yeah, I’m generally against cops shooting people, and I’ve certainly noticed that people who aren’t white get shot more than people who are. And I certainly don’t think that’s a coincidence.
I want to be an ally, and I know that that means listening to the voices of the people I want to stand with. I have a hard time believing that the best way for me to be an ally is to stand by and say “Yeah! It DOESN’T matter what I think!” and be a yes-man (yes-woman) for those who are angry with my race. I have a hard time believing that the best thing I can do is sit on the sidelines and not matter. I think everyone who wants to be part of the conversation — the real one, not the one full of hate and ignorance — should matter. I understand that different experiences mean different points of view receive more or less weight, and should be boosted accordingly. But I can’t believe that all I can do is listen.
White people are a huge part of the problem of racism. Doesn’t it make sense to engage those of us who want to be engaged? Doesn’t it make sense to not shut those voices out? I truly do not understand how I can help move the conversation forward if my place in it is to be silent. I can’t believe that it does more to heal wounds if the only acceptable way for me to engage with the subject is to either share the opinions of other races or keep my mouth shut.
I’ve heard before “If it doesn’t apply to you, it’s not about you.” But like… I don’t know if this gifset is about me! I’m so white that Seaton Smith once called me “right off the factory floor.” I see the conversations that happen about race, and I see jokes like this gifset, and I’m pretty sure that for people with whom I might really like to have a conversation about race and racism, my race completely overrides the opinions I hold. My thoughts, who I actually am, are secondary, because my race comes first. Where have we heard this before. I am always worried that I’ll have to prove I’m “One of the Good Ones.” Where have we heard that before.
On the scale of these problems, my concern with the tone of conversations about race is at about a .02 to the 167 of young black men being routinely shot by the police, or the egregiously disproportionate rate of minority incarceration, or even to my mixed-race friends being asked “where are you from?” on the reg. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. I think that shutting out people who want to engage – even if they do it clumsily at first, even if they don’t 100% get it, because I certainly didn’t always get it and I’ll still be learning for the rest of my life – is just a strategy doomed to fail. What I’m ultimately asking for is to have my part of the conversation weighed on its merits, in its context, before my race decides it for me.
Unrelated to all that — it won’t shock any person of color to know that hearing people talking shit about your race does not feel good. I’m not saying it’s oppressive. I’m saying it’s mean. I’m an ally. I am absolutely anti-racism. I’m not saying that you should think about my feelings before you speak your truth. I’m saying it would be super great if the prevailing temperature weren’t that since people of color have been subjected to being silenced and erased for so long, it’s only fair for white people to feel a tiny bit of that silencing and erasure now. Being silenced and erased is horrible. So shouldn’t we be trying to stop anyone from having to feel that way any more?
I don’t think we have to tear anyone down. I want to bring everyone up.
No it’s not relevant, being an ally mean you need to step the fuck back and shut up sometimes. You already have the dominate voice, your opinion and voices are heard every day, you are the ones making decision FOR us. If you can’t deal with being told to shut up and like people of color speak for themselves than you are not an ally and you don’t give a shit about people of color you just want to be in the spotlight because you’re white. White people’s opinions on racism is what started racism in the first place, no one needs white people’s input on how to deal with shit they don’t even experience. That’s like men having an opinion on what’s best for women’s health, sure you can have one, but it’s irrelevant cuz you aint a woman and never been one and have no idea about women’s health issues.
So shut the fuck up with this “lets hold hands and sing Kumbaya” bullshit. By all of that crap you just type I can tell that you are 100% NOT an ally. Ally is not something you get to name yourself. You THINK you’re an ally because you want “world peace” but ultimately all you want is for white people to be important.