A few days ago I posted on my Facebook that I don’t plan on engaging with white people on the topics of race, police brutality, or even class. There are exceptions, but for the most part, I’m good. A friend messaged me today and asked why. If I am a self-proclaimed scholar-activist intent on dismantling white supremacy, isn’t direct engagement with white folk a great way to conscientize them? This blog post is inspired by that question.
After 26 years of being all-consumed by whiteness and spending my years conscientizing white folk, I’m just not going to actively do it. I grew up in historically and primarily white neighborhoods, work/ed in white spaces, and attend a top research institution that contains a lot of white logic. Combine this with the historical legacy of Black dehumanization in the United States and you should understand why I’m tired.
So if a debate that naturally occurs in person? Maybe.
Online debate? Nah. Almost never worth it.
Questions from white folk? Especially respectful clarifying questions?Definitely; although I, like anyone, reserve the right to not answer them.
Devil’s advocate or “why did #BlackLivesMatter do this?” when I’m not a formal part of BLM? Nah. Not here for it.
I have literally had knots in my stomach and elevated blood pressure from debating this life-or-death shit, so I’m not here for semantic arguments or for you to practice your debate skills on me. I’m not here to be hyperconsumed like I’m google when my knowledge comes from 26 years of Black queer life, lots of self-reading, conversations with friends/elders/mentors/& more and of course the formal education I’ve received over the years. And here’s the thing: I’ve thought about some of these debates for days afterwards, feeling like it was my job to do this mess. Feeling like if I wasn’t doing this I was failing my goal of working with “allies” to help the mission of Black Liberation.
But if you notice, I have over 1,200 contacts on FB and around 2,000 followers on twitter. Many of them are white. So when it comes to white consumption from white people at a certain level of consciousness already: y’all are hopefully hearing it, listening quietly, and processing solutions. What I post is a form of conscientization, but what I’m saying is that I won’t take it a step further and discuss it in detail with white folk. I mean, y’all see how much content I produce on social media. Y’all see how much I read, and you wanna bank on my knowledge, my familiarity, and my perspective. I ain’t mad at it, but hopefully you’re also going home to your white families to check them on their potentially racist, classist, misogynistic and transphobic rhetoric. If you’re so inclined, you can talk to your friends about it, online or offline. But it’s too much intellectual and emotional labor for me to talk to white folk about this all the time. It’s not my job. I’m not being paid and in fact it takes time away from me and I’m suffering negative health effects as a result of your requests and my choice to engage with them. So then I hope that white people, half-white people, white passing people, and PoC with more patience are doing the work that I’ve done for most of my [short] life.
In other words: it’s on those who benefit from the interlocking systems (white people, men, straight people, able-bodied people, etc.) to help dismantle them. This means self-education and that sometimes means asking for help. But too often y’all aren’t asking for help or creating solutions, but demanding unpaid labor from me. And…nah.
If you’re white and this post makes you uncomfortable, read this piece by Joel Leon to give you a sense of the things I do, have done, and may have to continue to do for white people in my life, including this blog post.