The Complexities Of My White Lady Friendships Post Election
(The first part of this piece is a flash back. The second part was written today.)
Written: Sometime in December
The results of this election haven’t just left me deeply distrustful of our great Nation of racism … but it’s left me with an overwhelming distrust of white women. The regular run-of-the-mill troll encounters are one thing. As a writer on the internet, you learn early and often how to let those run off like water on a duck’s back. You build a hard but necessary shell for Twitter and you learn that most of the time, it’s okay to not read the comments! (Or you write for a clever women’s site that doesn’t EVEN have comments. Do that. No really, I mean it.)
In the short span of two weeks, I have had two white women who have let me down, attempt to push me back into online friendship. There comes a point where your apologies are futile and you are so busy, focusing on getting me back in your life (so you can stop feeling bad about what you’ve done) that you don’t recognize that you’re causing more damage. You are failing to recognize that the damage you’ve done isn’t repairable with a bandage and an apology. That I need time and space to process and to come back entirely on my own and that you need to focus your energies elsewhere like … fighting racism and white supremacy in your circles. If you were so concerned about losing my friendship, you should have taken a breath and stepped back from the computer. Because the thing is, I am not begging you or anyone else back into my life. I might like you but I do not need you. The things I actually need right now may be few but they are major and not quick fixes. Right now what I need most is safety and security for my family. What I need most is to not be afraid to drive at night alone. What I need most is peace of mind that bigots will not feel so emboldened that they physically hurt people like me as they become more entrenched in our new government. That is what I need. And if you are not doing that work, than your friendship isn’t at all necessary to me.
The gas lighting in the last month has been legendary. I’ve been called “toxic”, I’ve been called a “bigot”, I’ve been called “crazy”, I’ve been called “dangerous”. All because of my critiques of white supremacy or Hillary Clinton. Make no mistake, for someone who is apparently the be all and end all of the very make believe “race baiting” in some people’s eyes, I have spent the majority of my life surrounded by white women. I recognize and have never in any shape or form denied my privilege. I grew up in a very white area and for the most part have had some pretty solid white women friends that I love and care for a great deal. To the point where my boyfriend actually teases me because I bring my best friend Sofia up in conversation so much but I always preface it with,
“My best friend Sofia … she’s Swedish and …”.
I think I do this because it helps people paint a picture of her. Her subtle yet hilarious sense of humor that can often come when English is your second or third language. I also think it gives her an uncanny ability to critique America and all that it is, as an outsider. Which can bring upon some profound insight if coming from a person with a lot of awareness. This is not to say Sweden is perfect. It isn’t. But it’s sometimes easier to look at problems from if you didn’t help to create them.
You really begin to see who your REAL friends are once you become political. Once you stop playing “nice” and once you start talking about racism in a way that is unflinchingly honest, all of a sudden people you lose people. People you never thought you’d lose.
Today: June 15, 2017
Whenever I write, there are subtle hints at real life events. These things do not come from thin air. Racism is real and the gas lighting we women of color experience which comes with a hearty dose of distrust is extremely real. That person that messaged me and called me “toxic” and “crazy” slithered up to me in ballet class and asked me if I wanted to speak with her. Well no, SURPRISINGLY I don’t. What part of do not contact me again did you not understand? Did you think that just extended to the internet? Did you think the threats you made had no real impact on how I would feel or view you in person. Did you think things would change once you were surrounded by other white ladies and we’re all dressed in leotards and tights? I answered “NO” with as much force as I could muster and held up my finger to keep her from coming any closer, but that hasn’t stopped her from always trying to be within my line of eyesight. But let’s examine her behavior. How does one go from messaging a person with insults and swears to trying to engage that person in conversation post ballet class? How does one make that jump and fool themselves into thinking the other person will and should engage when you have behaved in a way that should cause you shame. That’s the wonders of white privilege. Thinking you can be awful and that a person of color OWES you a conversation.
Currently I have a friendship which had an open wound that wound got infected. Meaning there was a fall, a scrape, a bit of pain and instead of dealing with it, we left it open but tried to ignore it. I pulled away and distanced myself after the usual things were said about me hating white people, etc, etc. But then said person made it weirder by blowing up my phone one night in a drunken tantrum. Now the wound has gone septic and there seems to be no route to a solution. The leg might have to be amputated. But why must the onus fall on me to fix a problem I didn’t create and why can’t that person grasp what they did wrong and why I should be hurt and distance myself. Why is it that I can give a white woman all the Tim Wise (because white people listen to other white people about race sometimes before they listen to their black friend) links in the world and instead of watching them, she’ll skip the homework and demand forgiveness? Because watch whiteness work. The most harmful thing you can do to a white woman is insist that you don’t need her in your life. And whenever I do it, the backlash is fierce. Because whiteness gets to dictate the parameters of even our friendships and how we conduct them. And whiteness can change it’s mind at the drop of a hat. Because one minute I am the REAL racist who hates white people and the next I’m SUUUUUUUUUUCH A JERK because I don’t want to be your friend anymore. It can all change in a moment like the infamous scene in Get Out when Rose reveals that the keys were in her hands all along with a quiet and disingenuous, “Sorry, babe.”