Dear White America,
If you claim to not be racist because you have Black friends, it is time to show it. If you claim to support diversity and inclusion, it is time to show it. If you claim to be against white supremacy, now is the time to show it. If you are not willing to put actions behind your words, please stop talking. Black Americans are tired of hearing it.
As a Black man in America, seeing the news of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor enraged me. The killing of George Floyd sent that anger through the roof. Seeing that image of a cop with his knee firmly planted on Floyd’s neck until he could no longer breathe did not sit right with me at all. I felt more angry than I ever had before. Black lives taken at the hands of the police force and racists becoming national news isn't anything new. Trayvon Martin getting murdered back in 2012 started things off, and there have been far too many since: Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and more.
As a Black teen, growing up and seeing the senseless killings of other Black teens on the TV screen was a scary experience. My parents would make sure that I didn't wear certain things out of the house because of how I would be perceived. They explained to me that there was a high chance that I would be followed around a store just because I was Black. They made sure I understood how to deal with police in public and how to properly conduct myself to prevent myself from being killed if I were to be pulled over. They explained that because I am Black I would have to work twice as hard to get where I wanted to get to in life.
It’s frustrating living in a country where you have to fight just to be seen as equal — let alone fear for your life every time you leave the house and are not out with your white friends. I am tired of that being the case. It should not be this way. I was ultimately angry because I now realize that as an adult, there is literally nothing that can save me from dying at the hands of white supremacy or the police.
White people, please understand that your privilege allows you not to be afraid of the police force. You don't have to tighten up and look in to your rearview mirror every time you pass a police car. You do not have to worry about the police being called to diffuse a normal situation involving you, because the police have historically always been in place to control and detain Black people.
I refuse to be your token Black friend. It is not a title worth having. Because what happens when you are not around and your “Black friend” is in a situation, just like the other Black people that you do not like? What happens when the police have that “Black friend” handcuffed with a knee on his neck pleading for air before ultimately dying? What happens when your Black friend is asleep in their home and the police barge in and fill them up with bullets? What happens when racist civilians that you could be friends with kill your Black friend while they are out running in the neighborhood?
What if George Floyd was your Black friend?
What if Breonna Taylor was your Black friend?
What if Ahmaud Arbery was your Black friend?
Would you care then? Because at that point it is too late. You have lost a friend that you cannot get back. If that thought does not bother you, you do not have any Black friends. If it does bother you, prove it.
Fight alongside your Black friends to make sure they do not have to worry about their safety when they are not around you. Fight to make sure that those that look like them do not have to worry about their safety either, because when that Black friend is not with you, America just views them as another Negro. Take the time to listen to what your Black friends have to say. Take the time to change your behavior when called out. Do not just do things because they are a part of a trend. Do not say, “I feel you” as a response to their grievances because you ultimately cannot feel what they feel at all. For those who constantly fight to say the N-word but have been silent on these issues, your silence told your Black friends everything they needed to know. If you are not comfortable fighting for your Black friends being seen as equal and provided equal opportunity then, again, you do not have Black friends.
Being born white in this country places you on a team that has a home court advantage, referees that work in your favor, and you get to play a game that is specifically designed for you to win. You also get a 50-point lead out the gate. There are rules in place to help protect you and obstacles put on the court that prohibit your opponent from scoring. The game is obviously rigged but you say nothing because it does not affect your progress.
Being born Black in this country places you on a team that has to play in an unforgiving environment, with referees who will make every call against you, and you are ultimately forced to play a game designed for you to lose. Every time you start chipping away at that deficit, an obstacle is put in your way to slow your progress down. The game is obviously rigged but there is nothing you can do about it.
That is what white privilege is. It makes the playing field uneven for those who are not white. Black people can catch up and ultimately reach that 100-point mark, but it is made harder for no justifiable reason.
For the white people who enjoy Black culture, whether that is the food, music, athletes, entertainers, vernacular, etc. Don’t just cheer for us when we start a new trend, provide a new banger for you to listen to, score the game-winning goal, basket, run or point but then not support us when we aren’t doing those things. Do not tell us to stick to sports, or music or dancing or whatever our craft may be. It is disrespectful. If you are not willing to be vocal in support of us fighting for equal treatment in this country do not be vocal at all. It is no better than a person who is vocal against us gaining equal treatment.
Ultimately, you are no better than a slave master: you enjoy the goods and services that Black people provide but have no regards for them as people.
Black Americans are tired of fighting to be seen as equal. It is a battle we should not even have to fight in the first place, but this country was built on us never having rights. We have been viewed as property, animals, three-fifths of a human being and as humans undeserving of what white humans consider to be basic rights since this country began. It has been a 400-year fight just to be seen and treated as equal. We are past the breaking point. Do not tell us how to protest and display our anger, because when we tried to peacefully, you criticized that as well.
Civil rights activists marched in the street and were hosed.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists and were criticized.
Colin Kaepernick kneeled and was blackballed from the NFL.
We are out of options. We are now at a stage where we will fight for our rights and for our voices to be heard by any means necessary.
We do not want any performative actions from politicians, universities, corporations or friends. We want meaningful actions that provide change and we are not going to stop until we see that change take place.
White America, if you are truly not racist, prove it.
A Fed up Black American
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