Dear White People: I’m Tired
Dear White people, I am sooooo tired of this little cycle we keep playing at in America. As we all know the grand jury decided to not indict Darren Wilson and a collective sigh filled with anger and frustration was exhaled by almost an entire populace living in the United States. In the days preceding the verdict much discussion was had about the possible verdict, specifically a very heated discussion occurred on Meet the Press between activist and scholar Michael Eric Dyson and former mayor to New York City Rudy Giuliani.
The jest, although you can check out the full exchange here, was pretty much Dyson saying that cops have to be held responsible for their actions, including shooting an unarmed teenager. In an age where racial tensions are high, it’s especially important for government to show concern for black lives because they’ve historically shown so little. And that black folks go to jail when they kill other black people, but it seems such justice is not served when a white person kills a black person. To which Rudy Giuliani said a number of things but the most important being, “White police officers wouldn’t be there if blacks’ weren’t killing each other.” (There are so many things wrong with this statement that I simply shut down upon hearing it.)
It was here that I lost it, that I caved in and realized that I’m tired. As a 29 year old Black woman living in America I realized that (and you can quote me on this): White America will always place less value on Black lives as long as they can say, “Black people kill each other more, suffer the worst in all known preventable diseases [i.e. heart disease, diabetes, HIV, etc], and sit at the bottom of the economic ladder and invest most heavily in objects that immediately depreciate in value. They care so little about their own lives and quality of lives that we’d be remiss to actually appear to care more than they did. Our moral fiber and spirit of personal accountability would burn in effigy and we can not have that!”
I am convinced that the above statement is truth and if it is, then I’m tired. I’m tired that in 2014 we’re still trying to convince you [the white monolith as a culture and power structure, not all white folk]: All lives matter and where you’ve so disdainfully figured in the past (literally not less than 50 years ago) that black people were a burden, jungle bunnies, with no redeeming qualities; your closely held moralism should require you to over compensate. To actually care about your bigotry, your hatred, your small mindedness that said we were 3/5 of a human being! No one gets a do over after that. It’s the same reason ethnic Albanians and Serbians, Hutus and Tutsis, Catholic and Protestant Irishmen still fight to this day. Because historical abuse, massacre, and mistreatment do not simply get a ‘turn the other cheek’. Wholesale cultural slaughter and destruction does not get a pass. It does not get swept under the rug. This is what you all fail to realize:
—Collective psychology is real. It’s what causes people to kill in groups when they’d never do such a thing individually. For over 265 years black people were told to their faces, “You’re a nigger. You’re lazy and worthless. You’re mentally inferior to people of white European descent. Your skin is too dark and your larger noses/lips and high cheek bones are ugly.” How about you shake off the relationship equivalent of an abusive spouse shattering your self esteem and self worth concerning the entirety of your identity? Take a taste of the psychic damage done that will and has been passed down generation to generation that created a culture of the black buck and female jezebel and ruined the basis of a strong, nuclear family and a larger communal one that includes respected peers and respected elders. You go and tell that racist monster who destroyed dreams, minds, and bodies that, “It’s okay, I completely forgive your abominable behavior, you didn’t know any better. I feel no lingering animosity for these scars you’ve given me. It’s all good.” Walk in our shoes and see if its that easy for you ‘to get over it’. See if you can easily escape the negative pathologies of your family and what you were exposed to any better than we can. Try it, I literally dare you.
–Healing can happen, but it takes time and you need resources to accomplish it. Just like our Prozac nation can attest to; scars, emotional imbalance, and self destructive behaviors don’t just go away. A collective, just like the individual suffering, needs support, guidance, and resources to beat the demons. From closing schools and mental health clinics in predominately black neighborhoods in Chicago, to tax dollars going to rich suburban schools (re: white districts) when they have the funds to better educate themselves; those needed resources, support, and guidance are routinely denied to African Americans all over this country in the name of obscure, ancient, and inherently unfair tax collection and allocation rules.
Furthermore until the 1980’s (and it still exists to this day, our infamous Don Imus was accurately accused of it), housing and job discrimination were approved standards of conduct concerning black people. I’d love to know how many politicians, hedge funders, and titans of industry are the direct result of paved opportunities that stretch back to colonial times. White families had the option of owning land and businesses to pass on to their children since the 1600’s! Black people weren’t even legally allowed to own themselves let alone something external to themselves until 1865. Over a 150 year head start to establishing material possession and stable familial structures were denied to over 3 million people. And somehow the descendants of those same folks are just supposed to act like they had the same short term and long term opportunities as their oppressors. Per my previous point, collective psychology works both ways. If negative pathologies induce more negative behavior. Positive pathologies induce more positive behavior. The portion of myself that likes to dally in possible alternate realities would love to know what black people in America would be like if we immigrated here freely and as equals. Would more of us be CEO’s? Would less of us suffer poor quality of life? Would our collective scars be different?
–Imperfection in behavior is not an excuse for weak accountability. So black folks have some problems, thanks for pointing that out because in our mental ineptitude we couldn’t possibly know that. You all fail to understand the number one rule in repairing broken relationships, blame gaming is stupid and pointless. Much like the spouse who says, “you never do anything around the house’ and the other counters with “well you never help with the kids homework.’ One thing has nothing to do with the other. The person who is wrong for being lazy around the house is not suddenly ‘not’ lazy around the house because they’ve mentioned someone else’s lacking qualities concerning child care. Now the other person simply knows their spouse thinks they’re shirking their responsibilities with the kids.
To continue with this analogy; black folks being imperfect in how we may treat our own lives does nothing, and I mean nothing to mitigate the truth of the fact that white people shoot and kill black folks with little to no consequence. Us being imperfect does not stop you all from being wrong, dead wrong. And you know what fixes long term problems in communication like this; taking goddamned responsibility for your behavior. You would be hard pressed to find a black activist that you can fight with on talk shows who will say that black people have nothing to fix in themselves. Personal accountability is important. It’s the reason a black middle class exists at all, because millions of us said we weren’t just going to be our scars, we were going to be the triumph over what scarred us. So noting our group’s imperfections also denigrates the accomplishments of millions of black people who managed against the odds to be financially stable, a boon to their community, and avoided violence and jail time. And the fact that a majority of black people fit this definition and Giuliani and millions of others like him fail to realize that reality backs them up in no way makes me tired.
—Personal accountability flows both ways. There is a black quarter back in the NFL named Cam Newton, and as I write this piece there are thousands of comments on NFL forums, Yahoo message boards, and the like that question his ability to be a qualified quarterback because he is black! In 2014, 149 years after slavery, 10,000 years after humans have gone from first planting crops to flying across oceans in jets we still have people questioning someone’s competency based on race! Sure black folks have their problems, but for every heart felt plea that, “I’m not racist!”, there are a handful of folks who’d tap dance if we went back to Jim Crow or worst. White people, some of your folks are still this bigoted. And then you get in a huff when we hold your group personally accountable concerning reasonable standards of conduct, thought, and humanism. And me pointing this out does not negate that many changes need to occur in Black America, its only noting that an argument of personal accountability concerning black folks quality of life fails to address the very real racism, hatred, and bigotry that still exists among some white people. To put it plainly, if a group of people is expected to curb unsavory behavior in their clan (black folks), then those same folks asking for that peer-to-peer accountability should be just as concerned with curbing unwarranted discrimination and erroneous superiority complexes in their own clan as well (white folks).
I direct this specifically at white privilege. It can wrap you in arrogance and blind you to how utterly un-inclusive the world you’ve made around you really is. People of color literally fear for their lives around a white person and a gun and we have good reason, especially when we’re unarmed. White people I am tired that you sometimes fail to live in reality. That you continuously prop yourself up and hold the moral high ground as long as you’re better off materially than another group of people. All social markers of superiority and success are in your favor and equality threatens that superiority.
I for one would be okay if you said that, I’d finally know where I stand with my African American brethren and we would know where to go from there. In this new vision, in repairing ourselves, in growing and blossoming with our own potential and self love we would create Harlem Renaissances all over the country, we would invest in ourselves. We would know that your altruism is bull and we could finally leave your abusive self out in the cold while we make new lives for ourselves in our image, with our values and we’d be our own judges of what constitutes a meaningful, moral, and successful life. We would do this in America, I’m not talking about a segregated America or a back to Africa movement. I’m talking about an America that operates in truth and stops telling the lie that it’s ‘for the people’, but that it’s actually for those with the resources to buy her technology, her luxury, her justice, her respect for your damned life. And that the only way for you to gain these things is to ‘procure’ them, legally mind you, like blue bloods, corporations, and politicians have done for centuries. In this unvarnished state of truth, we would fight for our rights, but we would fight strategically and we would fight with the tools that WILL CHANGE THIS GAME; planning, guile, unity, and the relentless spirit of ‘we shall overcome.’ And to be clear I truly dream of an equal, egalitarian, and just society, full of empathy and understanding, but after watching that Meet the Press segment and the Ferguson verdict among dozens of other things I’ve witnessed in my short years, I realize today just isn’t that day, not for the oppressed and disenfranchised and specifically not for Black America.
(Note: I wrote this before the non-indictment for the murder, or at least legally speaking involuntary manslaughter, of Eric Garner. Obviously there is now a bit more to say. So check back for more as this is part of a series. And I appreciate the people of all races, ages, and economic statuses who have been outraged by this lack of justice and have organized themselves to make it clear to the powers that be that this situation is entirely unacceptable. I hope beyond hope that this multicultural diversity leads to the changes this country desperately needs.)