White Friends: Don’t Be Afraid of The HashTag
THIS IS WHY I SAY, “BLACK LIVES MATTER”
I know your hearts. I know that you feel like you don’t know what to say. I know you love your Black neighbors, your co-workers, your friends. I know you pray for them. I know you just wish everyone would get along, but this is what you’re not getting and I hope it helps you understand.
I am white. I am college educated. I am a mildly successful children’s book author. I am middle class-ish. I am normally well-spoken, polite, and pretty darn OK with what I see in the mirror everyday, give or take a few 5 pounds.
When I walk outside with my husband, my Black husband, these things change. When I walk outside with my husband I lose my womanhood. I am suddenly a “white GIRL” who married a Black guy. I’m a “gold digger”. I am sexually promiscuous. I am supposed to speak loudly and out of turn. I am supposed to over compensate to be “down” and I am supposed to provide an explanation for how I met my husband. I am supposed to know to assure strangers without them even asking that my parents are “ok with ‘this’”. My marriage suddenly requires an explanation beyond the fact that I love the man standing next to me and he loves me, when our union is even recognized as a marriage at all. When I walk out with my husband my wedding ring disappears. I become “his girlfriend” or “his girl” instead of his wife. I am asked if he is the father of my child. I’m forced to explain that he is my husband and that yes he is. I am required to educate others and smile when they compliment my husband on “being a nice guy”. I am required to introduce uneasy new acquaintances to a ‘safe’ Black man.
I am forced to stand next to a man, who I know to be one of the very best in this world, and defend him before he even gets a chance to open his mouth.
And all of these things hurt my feelings. All of these things make me feel bad. They seep down into my soul and they make me doubt myself. They make me doubt the goodness of people in general. They make me defensive. They make me wary, because for every one person that doesn’t batt an eye when they see our family, there are five that stare. Are some staring at his height? Sure. Are some wondering at why he is carrying around a blue-eyed little girl because they don’t understand the recessive genes carried by African Americans that belonged initially to their white slave owners? Sure. And are some thinking everything I said in the previous paragraph and more? Absolutely.
But here’s the difference. I can walk out of my house alone. I can walk out into the world a slightly ambiguous but probably white woman. Again bright, highly educated and of above average moral character. I will be called “ma’am” again. I’m married. I am not required to explain myself or my family. I am a non-threat. I again have the luxury of being able to talk my way out of a traffic ticket. Outside of impromptu Instagram show-off my baby sessions people have no idea I am married to a Black man and once again I am normal. The police aren’t scared of me.
Now take that hurt and multiply it by every second of every day from birth. Imagine what it feels like to step out of your house and be looked in a way to make you feel less than. To be scrutinized as a possible suspect because of your hairstyle. To have assumptions made about you each time you walk into a store, a restaurant, and a classroom. To not even be safe in your own home because of inaccurate depictions on television, in movies, and in songs.
And now imagine that happening to your child. Think of your kids. Think about how it feels when they’re misjudged. Think about what it feels like to know they’re scared. To know the “intent” of their actions is determined by an adult who doesn’t “know them” and realize you are now in the shoes of Black parents. Black parents who must deal with that reality as not just inevitable, but entirely expected. Black parents who must find a way to combat the subtle pain that reaches for their child the minute they leave the womb. Realize that all the cute Black children you have remarked upon will grow into the men and women you avoid eye contact with.
The most potent and dangerous form of racism is silent. It’s subtle. It’s systematic. It comes from an inability to communicate and empathize. It comes because good people “don’t know what to say”.
So for all my friends still silent and still searching for your words I have a solution for you. You can listen. You can read. You can watch the videos. You can refuse to scroll past. You can find the same voice you use to condemn ISIS and hate in other countries and you can use it to protect our neighbors–to protect other Americans. You can talk to your friends. If you don’t have any Black friends, you can begin to reach out. You can volunteer at schools and fundraisers. You can make a point to meet the parents of the children in your child’s class or on their sports team. You can visit a new church. You can find common ground. You can build a community. The thing about the fear of the unknown is that it only has power until it is known. Stepping outside of our boxes isn’t scary once you realize they’re prisons.
Of course, to good people “All Lives Matter”. It is an umbrella, and under this umbrella are peoples of all races, cultures and occupations. “Black Lives Matter” is whispered, written, sung and shouted because it is not always evident that it is understood. Not everyone is convinced that it is true. When we say “All Lives Matter” we are not wrong, but we are not acknowledging the group that needs to be heard.
“Black Lives Matter” doesn’t tie you to a political party or a candidate. It is much, much bigger than that. It ties us to our brothers and sisters. It ties us to each other.
So what does posting “Black Lives Matter” mean? It means we’re listening. It means we hear you. It means Black voices matter. It means Black pain matters. It means exactly what it says.
It means BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Originally published at lizadora.com