To My White Friends Who Struggle With What To Say
To be clear:
You should always feel free to express outrage at systemic racism and bigotry.
You should always feel free to describe the anger you feel on behalf of your friends or family of colour.
You should always feel free to express ways in which you are trying to make a difference: from donations to organizations that fight racism and bigotry, to lobbying against racist and/or bigoted laws, to marching in protest of racism and/or bigotry, to talking with your kids about how to deal with racist or bigoted behaviour that they witness (and how you deal with racist or bigoted behaviour you witness).
The above is always and forever acceptable, and will be deeply appreciated by your friends of colour or those who are disenfranchised.
What’s NOT helpful right now: saying statements that resemble the following:
“But we don’t know the whole story.”
There is enough evidence in the world right now that racism and bigotry in the US is systemic, without knowing every single minute detail of any one particular story.
“I know how you feel. I was in a situation once where I felt different …”
I understand that your story describes your discomfort, but chances are really good that (a) it was an isolated incident, and (b) I’ll bet that at no point in that story did you have a rational thought that your skin colour might get you killed. As a white person in the United States, you are a member of the majority and the collective power, and as such, it is impossible for you to understand how it feels to be constantly — and I mean constantly — aware of your race and how it’s being perceived in any situation.
“Maybe if these people stayed out of trouble, they wouldn’t face so much trouble.”
This shows a bias against minorities that you need to check; furthermore, in all instances that have recently made the press, none of the victims were engaging in a violent or illegal act — or any act that warrants being murdered.
“Yes, but you’re in the south. It’s different outside of the south.”
Ferguson, Dayton, Baltimore, Dearborn — I could go on — aren’t in the south. This isn’t a purely southern issue.
“I’m colourblind/I don’t see colour/Why do we have to talk about race all the time?”
When you say you’re “colourblind,” you’re saying you don’t see me. And despite how you think you might feel in my shoes, I am actually deeply proud of my colour and race and nationality and heritage, so if you tell me that you don’t see my race, then I have to wonder what other parts of me you’re choosing to be blind to. Also, we have to talk about race all the time until racism is no longer an issue.
“But how does rioting help?”
History shows that protests have been instrumental in creating change. And while I will never condone violence, ever — what’s going on in Baltimore made you look, didn’t it?