On an episode of Still Processing, a New York Times podcast, host Jenna Wortham says re: Charlottesville:
I sometimes worry that sharing a quote like the above with white friends will be met with a response (voiced or not) that the author is exaggerating the fear that they feel. I worry about this because I, regrettably, have struggled to understand this fear. The day after the election, I got a text from a friend that said, “I’m very scared. I don’t feel safe anywhere.”
I immediately hurt for him, and rushed to listen. But there was a part of me that felt out of place—how could I comfort him? How could I, a white man who knew that the hatred wouldn’t directly affect me, understand his fear?
After Charlottesville and the many events preceding them, I don’t think it’s possible to believe there isn’t cause for fear. Racist and fascist hate groups have been given a free presidential pass to stir violence in any city. “Slap on the wrist” is the typical description of this flaccid response, but it wasn’t even that; it was an empty platitude in the loosest sense.
I want to say it starkly: people of color have reason, backed by a heap of historical and recent precedent, to fear for their lives in every corner of this country. There are good people out there who will seek with all of their heart to open up safe spaces for their brothers and sisters, but the message coming from the White House contradicts that spirit with a loud voice.
If you are a person who feels scared, we find it crucial to first voice that we love you, and that there are many people who support you and are fighting for love and justice. Though there is much work to do to make this country just—a goal that sometimes seems impossible—the issue at hand, and the immediate response that is needed in the vacuum of the President’s non-response, is not elaborate: we acknowledge that racism and white supremacy exist in the public sphere, and we condemn it as a backwards and evil ideology masquerading as free speech.
The hateful voices speak loudly, with fire and gunshots and car-horns. But you have voices too, and we're adding ours to yours.
We are three white men whose hearts hurt, and who feel the locus of our privilege more embarrassingly visible than what we knew was possible just weeks ago. But it’s time to stop getting hung up on our feelings, and start doing. For white people reading this, we’d like to share a few resources that may help.
First, it’s important to understand that it’s your job to educate yourself. Sure, pick up on cues from people of color and those who know real fear—but do not place on them the obligation to help you understand how they feel. Danielle Belton says on The Root:
Darnell Moore of Mic and The Feminist Wire echoed this, calling it “willful ignorance.” He said:
The second lesson is tied to the first—you have to get over your feelings as a white person. Maybe you want to help, but you feel unequipped to make a difference. Transcend this feeling. Start doing the work. This is something we’re striving to get better at, too. Ann Friedman talks about this on The Cut—for her, she struggled to feel like she belonged at a Black Lives Matter protest. She was relieved that the protest organizer answered the question for the group, “‘How would black organizers like me to show up as a white person right now?’” Friedman explains:
The third is about your interaction with others fighting for the cause. A good place to start is Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national org dedicated to educating white people in supporting Black Lives Matter work. Friedman calls it "training wheels for white people who are new to racial-justice activism." In their guidelines, they recommend keeping all interactions with other white people positive. We're trying to create a community that others want to join. So call people in, not call people out. As white people, we're all going to make mistakes; don't shame people when they do. Learn from it and encourage them to do better next time.
In interactions with people of color, SURJ recommends that white people understand that this is a fight we're waging for everyone. One of SURJ's guidelines is "Organize Out of Mutual Interest." They say:
Protest organizer Umi Selah said, “White people ought to challenge themselves to engage in more spaces of risk and difference.” After the election, I struggled to understand the fear that many people were feeling because I wasn’t directly affected by the hatred. Maybe if I’m not putting myself in positions where the hatred does directly affect me, I’m not doing enough.
The best thing we, as bloggers, can do is to point to the voices of people that you should be listening to. Here are a few that we wanted to share.
"It can be both mentally and physically taxing to just survive as a person of color when you are surrounded by news about Neo-Nazis and other terrorist groups that threaten your livelihood. In the past few days I have found myself scared and angry but most of all just tired. I was tired of posting the same things on social media without seeing any change, tired of being disappointed in white Americans, and tired of living in a country that doesn’t value me. . . . I had to remind myself that worrying about your mental health as a person of color in this country isn’t selfish; it’s necessary. "
Kristin Adolfson, witness of the terrorist attack by James Alex Fields, Jr., who drove a car through a group of counter-protesters:
“This was a terrorist act. Something that happens in so many places around the world, and it happened here in our little town. It was hard to process that. And the hate—that someone could actively take people’s lives, that’s what their goal was.”
“Be complicit in dismantling racist structures by taking risks, putting your bodies on the line in the streets, sharing access to resources (and releasing agency over them), living in some discomfort with difficult conversations in collaboration, knowing when to listen and organizing other white folks.”
"Even before the insipid forces of radical whiteness had withdrawn from Charlottesville, Virginia, one heard the beseeching protestation “This is not us.” That sentiment blossomed into a hashtag, exculpating our society after some of its citizens had seemingly forgotten our standing position against fascism. The truth, though, is that there has never been a time when what we saw in Charlottesville has not been us.”
Jenna Wortham on Still Processing:
Jenna Wortham of Still Processing shared facts about the increase in the number of hate groups and crimes in America since Trump. The number of Islamic hate groups in the last two years rose from 34 in 2015, to 101 in 2016. The number of hate crimes against Muslims rose by 67 percent in 2015, the year Trump started his campaign.
Wesley Morris on Still Processing:
“I think that one of the striking things about what happened on Saturday is that a lot of the clashing was being done between white people. I was talking to a lot of people who found the images confusing because they couldn't tell who was which, and that was really fascinating to me because in the history of battles against white supremacy in this country, it's been black people confronting white people, or white state-controlled or government-controlled apparatus turned against black people. So in a sense, there is something new about a race melee featuring more white people fighting each other than black people and white people. . . . It was perversely comforting. . . . This gets to this idea that people don’t want to hear about white supremacy because they aren’t white supremacists. But you are white. And I think part of the problem with the conversation around white supremacy is that white people might not feel like they’re white supremacists at all—most aren’t! But there’s a system by which white supremacy operates. And it is setup to benefit white people. Now, you don’t have to be a practicing racist to benefit from racism. So you have as a permanent beneficiary of that system a duty to challenge it when it loses its mind, and actively beginning to do things like taking away people’s rights, and actively harming people, which is what this administration seems intent on doing from policy proposal to policy proposal to policy proposal.”
This is a music blog, right? Here is some music.
- St. Martin de Porres - Marry Lou Williams
- Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away - Stevie Wonder
- Open Our Eyes - Funkadelic
- Good Day - Nappy Roots
- Royalty - Sounds of Blackness
- A Change Is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke
- Gon Be Okay - Lil B (Not on Spotify. Youtube link)
- Fuck You - Lily Allen
- Hurricane - Bob Dylan
- Strange Fruit - Nina Simone