[TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of racist violence and white supremacy]
This is a post for white people. Because black people have known everything I’m going to say for their entire lives. It’s not fair that I get to write about how I came to realize something that’s simply been a fact threatening every black person in this country from the day they were born. But it’s important that I do this for the white people who have yet to understand. It’s important that I admit how I was ignorant and to add my voice to those saying “No. More.”
I had just finished showering and packing up in a hotel room in Myrtle Beach. It had been a fun weekend and I was thinking about pancakes for breakfast. I checked my phone, logged into Twitter, and saw that George Zimmerman had gotten off. That a racist murderer of a black child was walking free. I started screaming. My entire being imploded in helpless rage as I threw my phone against the wall.
Fast forward a short year, a short year in which too many more died. Fast forward past Renisha McBride, killed a short drive away from where I grew up, for seeking help after her car broke down. Fast forward past John Crawford, killed in a Wal-Mart near where I went to college, a Wal-Mart I’ve been to dozens of times, killed for holding merchandise in his hand. Fast forward past so many others. Fast forward to last night.
Last night, where we learned that Darren Wilson, who undeniably shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, will not even stand trial. Last night, where mainstream media outlets voiced more concern for inanimate objects, for property, being destroyed than they ever expressed for any murdered black teenager or any justifiably outraged black protester being tear gassed.
Last night, where I sat on my floor, as I had for weeks on end back in August, unable to log out of Twitter, feeling cold, nauseous, unable to remember how to breathe. And knowing my pain could only ever be just the barest shadow of what every black person in America felt. Fearing for the lives of my friends and knowing that was nothing to the fear they feel for their families and themselves.
In the past year I learned that arguing details as though we’re all in a courtroom at every waking moment is vastly missing the point. There are no details which justify murdering yet another unarmed black person, and another, and another, and another. Too many of them children. Either black lives matter or they don’t. Either America will continue its legacy of white supremacy, imperialism, colonialism, brutally policing black bodies and black neighborhoods, mass incarceration, murdering black people with impunity or….or what? How do we stop it? And how do we white people who are beginning to understand jump off this runaway freight train and throw our bodies in front of it to slow it, to give our all in hopes we may someday force it to stop, or set it on fire, and I’m losing the metaphor but FUCK.
White people, I’ve learned we need to shut the fuck up. Every time you open your mouth to say a black person “should” have done thus and such, it doesn’t matter what you’re going to say, some black person was doing exactly that thing when they were unlawfully murdered by police, security, or a vigilante. So Shut. Up.
White people, we kidnapped black people, destroyed everything they had, everything they’d built, stole their very names, and enslaved them. We brought them to this continent and built it off their unpaid labor, and we beat them and raped them and killed them whenever we wanted to. After slavery ended, we made damn sure the economy would continue to allow us to steal from them, to amass more white wealth at their expense. We lynched them and treated it like goddamn entertainment. We destroyed their neighborhoods, locked them up en masse, criminalized them in every way possible. We stole everything they ever created. Then we told them and ourselves that all black men are thugs, criminals, violent animals, and that all black women are oversexed objects wanting to be raped and welfare queens stealing our tax dollars. Black people are responsible for most of the wealth in this country. The “greatest nation on earth” would be nothing without black people. And we stole it all from them. We forced them to work and extorted everything they did, and when they created music and literature and culture we stole that from them as well. And then we say they’re the thieves. We say they’re lazy. We insist that they are always docile, submissive, always smiling, always happy. We demand that they never revolt against a single thing in the infinite chain of abuses we’ve heaped upon them from the moment we first met them.
But you want to make it about your white guilt and your white feelings and your sadness at being called privileged and your fear that a window might get smashed, a cop car might get burned.
You want to prove on a case by case basis that each young black person gunned down somehow deserved to die. You insist on carrying on the legacy of white supremacy, continuing the project begun hundreds of years ago, continuing the project of the slave-holders, the lynchers, and that eternal symbol of white supremacy, the KKK (which you invoke to convince yourself that since you’re not wearing a goddamn white hood you’re not really anti-black). Our ancestors told each other that their black victims deserved to be lynched, and you’re repeating the exact same lies.
White people, we have a choice. We can choose to see. We can choose to learn. We can choose to seek change, to tear down this whole unjust system, to denounce the horrible racism that America was built on and pledge our lives to building something better. We can choose to confront our own white supremacy (because we all have at least a little of it in us, uglier, deeper down than the white privilege, the little thing inside that believes the lies), confront it and fucking kill it dead. Or we can choose to remain cozy and happy, stealing, murdering, raping, and calling it “justice” and “freedom.”
White people, we have a choice. And we have to realize that black people don’t. They’re fucking fighting for the right to live.
And it comes down to that. That’s what this past year has taught me. And I feel dirty saying that. How dare I see fucking dead black children as a learning experience. Yet how dare I not, how dare I turn away and pretend it didn’t happen.
It comes down to whether we think black people have the same right as we do to live. To walk from the convenience store to their homes and survive those few blocks. To ask for help in the middle of the night. To hold BB guns. To exist on this earth, in this country, and to exist without fear.
White people, it’s ok for us to cry. To feel rage. To feel helpless. But we’ve got to realize it’s not about us. And we’ve got to fucking do something.
Because we live in a country where a completely legal genocide is occurring all around us.
Do you ever ask yourself what you would have done during the Holocaust? Do you ever ask yourself what you would have done during the Civil Rights Movement? Stop asking questions about things that never happened to you and start doing something about what’s happening right now. What are you going to do today? What are you going to do about this terrible country you live in?
What am I going to do?