Dear White Progressives™ : A Breakup Letter
*** This was originally written in August of 2015
Dear White Progressives™,
We’re finished. I have been doing some thinking about our relationship, and I’m leaving you. I am no longer yelling myself hoarse about why Amy Schumer is problematic and why you can’t say #AllLivesMatter. I know you won’t want to take responsibility for the problems in this relationship, and say that I’m too sensitive or “divisive” (seriously, that’s your new favorite word). So, I will lay it out for you. Here were the three straws that broke the camel’s back:
#AllLivesMatter: What possesses you to say this? What about centering Black lives is so egregious to you? I guess you are feeling left out. You get to see yourself everywhere: television, film, books, course syllabi, etc.. White lives matter, and they have in this country since England first planted their flag in this soil. It’s Black life that hasn’t mattered in this country. We have been the victims of brutality for centuries, and we have reached another tipping point. For the past year, I have been pushed mentally and emotionally to find ways to deal with the amount of Black pain I witness daily. Yet, instead of standing in solidarity, you have shouted Black people like me down and undermined them. Yes, that is what saying “All Lives Matter” does. It undermines the struggle for Black liberation by de-centering Blackness. #AllLivesMatter doesn’t further the movement, it reinforces the status quo, and Black people including myself are no longer allowing themselves to be crushed by the status quo.
Jon Stewart and Wyatt Cenac: As I’m sure you know last month Wyatt Cenac, former Daily Show writer and contributor, candidly retold one of his most negative experiences as part of the “best fucking news team ever” on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron. Jon Stewart is your North Star. I have watched his show for years: laughing at the ridiculousness of Hannity and O’Reilly, bemoaning the tomfoolery of cable news, and watching correspondents give some of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. A lot of feelings rushed through me as I heard Cenac recount his experience attempting to call out a racist joke that eventually did make it onto the show. Not only did I deeply identify with Cenac’s experience as the only Black person in the room, but I felt residual pain from the many times a White person, that I saw as a friend and ally, silenced my voice. Jon Stewart may be your hero, but Cenac’s experience displayed something really unsettling, yet unsurprising. You are White before you are progressive; in our society you consume what it means to be White long before you understand what it means to be progressive. If Jon Stewart, White Progressive™ extraordinaire, has no issue making racist jokes, silencing disagreeing, Black voices, and throwing an all out temper tantrum when he’s told he is wrong, then I don’t know if there is hope for the rest of you, and I won’t wait around for disappointment.
Bernie Sanders Getting Interrupted by Black Lives Matter: Now, I know what you’re going to say. “But Jackie, he marched with Martin Luther King?”. Yes, Bernie Sanders was at The March on Washington 52 years ago. Today a Black person is killed by the police almost daily, and many presidential candidates have yet to come up with real policy solutions to the problem. I like Bernie Sanders, but the racial myopia that characterized his campaign before Netroots Nation just wasn’t enough for me. Black people overwhelmingly vote Democrat and have in every election since The Voting Rights Act of 1964. Black voters, especially Black women, are one of the most reliable voting blocks the Democratic party has, so we can demand they prioritize issues disproportionately affecting Black communities. If Bernie Sanders is going to defeat the Clinton powerhouse and win the Democratic nomination for president, then he needs Black and Latino people to back him. What part of that do you not get? In Seattle, when Black women put themselves on the line for their cause, you shouted them down and called for their arrest, which is ironic seeing as how they were protesting police brutality against Black bodies. If that weren’t damaging enough, you had to get on Twitter and come for Black activists and journalists (literally everyone owes Elon James White an apology). You told me that Bernie was my friend, my best chance, and if I knew what was good for me I’d “feel the bern”. Your racist paternalism reared it’s ugly head, and that’s when I knew it was time to put you behind me.
Don’t worry. You’ll be alright. You will continue to walk through life with the privilege to not know my pain. I offer strength to the other Black people still entangled with you, and I hope that you don’t disappoint them the way you’ve disappointed me. I’d leave you with some books to help combat your ignorance, but you should have learned to use Google by now and I can’t hold your hand through everything.
So that’s it. We’re done. You better call Tripp (because I know you don’t know any Tyrones) to help you come get yo’ shit.
Wishing you get woke,