Disclaimer: This is a response to How friendly are your white friends?, an article by J.L. Saxon from Blavity.com. I posted it on my Facebook and tagged a lot of my white friends, asking them to share it because I felt it spoke to my experiences in a very succinct way. This sparked a lot of sharing, but also some critiques of the article. So, if you’re reading this J.L. Saxon, I tried to fill in the gaps that some people pointed out and here is the digestible version of what I ended up posting in response:
For those who believe America is now post-racial or that colorblind society is possible in the near future, consider this fact: as a Black man I am always perceived as Black, whether I “choose” to see my/your color or not. Race is a social construct, but it still has a profound effect my daily life and it is a symptom of white privilege for someone to be able to say that they don’t see color. And according to the way color works in the U.S., white is the default. Some of my friends are white and therefore are always white, but can choose to appropriate other cultures for laughs. They can wear another culture because the palette is white (see: Cinco de Mayo). See, the difference is that white people can choose to not talk about or see race–unless it is convenient for them– because they are the majority. We, the 13% of the U.S. known as African-Americans, do not have that option. We aren’t the default, we are one of many ethnic minorities. And when we, as Black people, are finally included in circles of white people, it’s because we “aren’t ghetto” or “aren’t like the other Black people.”I’ve heard those exact words in my life. (You can look up respectability politics to find out more about that). If you saw my poem, over-empathy, you know that I literally had a noose thrown at me as a “joke” and carried so much shame in freezing instead of responding that I rarely shared the story. So to say you are colorblind is insulting. To say that I’m not like most Black people, as if there is one monolithic and hegemonic Blackness? That’s not a compliment. It’s fucked up to me and people who look like me.
So, yes, many articles I post won’t solve everything. You may have critiques. But if you find something in them compelling and you learn something, consider sharing. Many people have told me that they love what I post and I that I teach them a lot. Maybe share it and say something like:
“I think the author could have gone into more depth here and here but I’m sharing it because my Black friend feels like it speaks to his experiences and I’d love to begin a dialogue on how we can do better to ensure that he doesn’t lose his sanity in a world where the color of his skin can be a death sentence.”
All that being said, don’t be alarmed, I’m doing well for the most part. I’m 25, I’m employed, I’m in college and I have somewhere to lay my head and food/water to put in my stomach. But sometimes I deal with depression and that’s a direct result of systemic racism, white supremacy, microagressions, the killing & suffering of so many people (not just Black people but also trans people, Nepalese people, South Africans, etc, etc, etc.) in addition to any my own school/work/life stress. So help me out here and dismantle white supremacy in your own home and social network. Just remember that your Black friends are not your personal tutors and it is draining to ask us to take on that responsibility. So ask us questions. But do your own research, too.
note: the header is a photo of the legendary June Jordan, courtesy of Google image search.