“This is why I don’t talk to white people about race”

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.

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5 Tips to Get More Than Clicks: Consciousness Raising on Facebook

If you know me personally, follow this blog and/or my twitter, you know that I post a lot of potentially divisive, contentious and depressing topics (politics, death, war). The goal for me in postings these is twofold: (1) sharing content I have read in the hopes that someone in my social network finds them interesting and (2) consciousness raising. Consciousness raising, popularized by feminist scholars, basically means making other more aware of a certain issue or conditions, I.E. #BlackLivesMatter.

Using my Facebook as a template, I’ve created this guide to share some tips on how to get people to actually pay attention to those things that matter to you, the reader. I based these tips on anecdotal evidence and articles I have read along the way. Obviously this won’t work for everyone–you have to tailor it to your personal networks–and I don’t always follow these rules myself, but I think this may help more than it will hurt. Additionally, people have to some opinion on your opinion. Whether they agree or disagree, they need to feel like your content is worth engaging with.

When posting an article/content on Facebook

1. Busy, bored, and disengaged; “I didn’t logon to get an education”

Simply put: a lot of people won’t like or notice a lot of what you post, so make it interesting. Keep in mind that outside of your personal relationships with those in your networks, social media is also affected by how much you interact with other people and how much they interact with you. Practically that looks like liking their photos, commenting on statuses, etc. So if you’re not very active, even with these tips you won’t be popping up in people’s feeds as often.

2. Choose a reliable source; ain’t nobody got time for false information.

Can the content be found on another [verifiable] source? If it’s a not a news source, like a blog, does it have a history of great content (like Black Girl Dangerous) ? Does it contain references for the information it cites? This may seem obvious, but it’s important because if you are known for posting from unreliable sources, people are less likely to engage with your content. Examples of sources I often cite include Al Jazeera News and The New York Times, but keep in mind they all have bias.

3. Framing is important; context is key.

Think about your own use on Facebook. What would make you as likely to click on a Buzzfeed article as an NPR article? Outside of the thumbnail used, interest level in the content is a huge factor for many people. Considering #1–people often avoid talking about socially conscious issues–expect that people will only read the headlines of what you post, at best.In order to properly frame an article, see below.

4. Include a comment or quote; make the reader’s job easier.

People will scroll past links, even when you do caption the articles but these people know you through familial, business, or school connections, giving you an in. But chances are, they may not click the link but may skim your comment. For this reason I usually will usually include 2-4 sentences (if it’s too long, people will often scroll past) of a mix of:

  • My thoughts/reaction (taking into account my bias or the bias of the author)
  • Thesis statement from the article
  • A short quote that spoke to me

5. Monitor posting frequency; be strategic

There are better resources than I to tell you when to post (to maximize peak times for traffic), but I can tell you that Facebook has algorithms and people have limits. Posting too often will mean that your posts won’t show up. Additionally, think of how you “reserve” your likes for a post on instagram. If a friend posts six amazing photos within one minute, many people will not “like” all six. But if she spread them out throughout the day or the course of a few days, she gets the most exposure and higher number of “likes.” The best bet–particularly to make sure people don’t tune you out–is to post less frequently but of a higher quality.

RE: How friendly are your white friends?

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.