A Theory on Black and White Solidarity

Navigating the Wounded Heart is not a task for the Weak or the Ignorant

I’m white, male, straight, single, no kids, decent job... living the dream, right?

I’m not going to deny I’ve got it better than a lot of people.

The thing is, Black people, Latino people, Asian people, every race and color, you are my family. No matter how well I have it, I am not content when my family suffers.

I don’t know the cure… well, I actually do, but it’s a cure that the Problem is going to refuse, just as it always has. It’s love. From love comes understanding. From love comes patience. From love comes tolerance. From love comes acceptance. Love does not submit to judgement, prejudice, or discrimination. Love cares for all, no matter skin color, nationality, or wealth.

We’re not dealing with people who know or understand love, though. You cannot hate someone you don’t even know and claim you understand love. Most of them can learn, but the ones who are incapable of it work hard at swaying the rest. Hate will always be easier for people than love. Genuine love requires an open heart, which is scary. All hate requires is to aim internal pain, anger, and blame at a target, which can, sadly, be very satisfying.

So, yeah, love isn’t going to cut it on it’s own, no matter how much I dig John Lennon.

I, and most of the white people I interact with, have declared our support for our colorful family in their struggles. It’s not always easy to know what to do, though, and so many of us want to do something substantial.

So we try and often we step on the very toes we’re in solidarity with, in our awkward attempts to help. Almost none of us sammichbreads truly understand black culture or what it’s like to be black. It’s frustrating knowing our hearts are in the right place, and having a genuine willingness to do what will help, but we’re still blinded by a gulf we do not understand while we stumble over our brothers and sisters in the human condition.

On a different subject, but one which will tie into this, we have those, of all colors, who have been so thoroughly traumatized by an event or events that their trauma is locked into a part of the brain that can only sometimes be interpreted as memory instead of present action, reliving the nightmare again and again. This can be visual, sound, inexplicable emotional disruption, and even smell.

I’m no expert, but I’ve worked with an unusually large percentage of sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s quite real and it’s awful to witness, inconceivable to experience. My experience ranges from an aborted degree track for Child and Adolescent psychology, focused on abuse victims, to extensive heart-breaking work with women who have been beaten, raped, and/or emotionally abused and have no where to go but the street to escape it, often with children in tow. I also spent almost 4 years married to a survivor with an extreme case of PTSD, who had not learned how to do anything about it. We had to learn together.

I am no expert on PTSD, but I’m observant and patient and I like to think my heart is open. I discovered some things:

  • Someone who has never experienced PTSD is only going to be just so helpful in treating it/learning how to live with it.
  • People with PTSD respond in a drastically different way to others who experience it as well, which is why group therapy is so much more effective than one on one when PTSD is involved.
  • Trying to help someone with PTSD, when you do not understand it, can be extremely frustrating to the sufferer, even when the person trying to help has only the noblest of intentions.

We learn this, and it makes a certain sense, yes? We can accept that and help the sufferer where and how they need, through communication and a realization of how complex and real the condition is.

What follows is a thought process that came to me when a (white) friend, who is one of the sweetest and most generous-hearted people I know, got a bit discouraged because her noble and absolutely loving attempts to find a place in the discussions and actions of #blacklivesmatter met with a level of resistance and resentment.

They weren’t wrong, but neither was she. This, in particular, is not a matter of love and hope. It’s a matter of experience and communication.

I feel that the black citizens of The United States have lived under prejudice, discrimination, blatant racism, violence, threats of violence and death, disregard, lack of opportunity, UNequal rights, police harassment and brutality, and more, for so long (with no real recourse and little hope of change in the face of smiling white politicians, cops, and the wealthy, regardless of the difference in perceived degree) that our black brothers and sisters have developed a sort of mass PTSD.

Think about the images they’ve witnessed, the helplessness to do anything about it, even being oppressed for trying to exercise rights that any white person would exercise without a second thought. Think about how much that bothers you as a “White Ally” and then think about it ten-fold... a hundred-fold… a thousand. I think it’s entirely conceivable that this has caused a very real and widespread trauma, experiencing it day after day after day for generations.

When we apply the things we learn about working with PTSD sufferers to this situation, it fits remarkably well.

  • Someone who has never experienced being black is only going to be just so helpful in understanding and acting alongside our black family members. As white people we need to consider that, accept it, and act with that firmly in mind.
  • Black people respond in a drastically different way to others who have experience being black when issues of racism are brought up. There’s not a thing wrong with that. Shared experience makes for one of the strongest bonds there is. Shared negative experience, even more so. As white people we need to consider that, accept it, and act with that firmly in mind.
  • Trying to help our black brothers and sisters, when you do not understand what it’s like to be black, can be frustrating to black people, especially in this current climate where the fear and anger is very real and justified, even when the white person trying to help has only the noblest of intentions. As white people we need to consider that, accept it, and act with that firmly in mind.

Just like with PTSD, one of the most helpful things you can do, as a “White Ally” is to spread word and awareness among the unaffected in order to form an informed unified refusal to allow racist acts, policies, and violence to continue. What we can do is stand up, educate ourselves, and be there for our family.

If we can just get this right, through the lens of love and hope, there’s nothing that can stand against us.

I’m aware that I’m wandering into shaky territory here, but I am doing so with love and acceptance for all of my human family. The situation, as it stands now, is unacceptable, for our black family, our Muslim family (whether of Arabic descent or not), for our LGBTQ family, and for the future we leave for our children. What’s our legacy going to be? Love or hate? Peace or war? Life or death?

If I have offended anyone with my writing here, it was so very unintentional. I’m just another person looking for a way to make our family stronger and our solidarity more effective.

Thank you for reading. It is my sincerest hope that something I have said here may benefit us all (even if it’s impact is as small as a blade of grass, it’s something) in becoming the enlightened human race that we could become if we could put aside our ridiculous notions of superiority, inferiority, exclusion, and oppression.