On suddenly woke white folks versus their cousins who are taking the slow route to understanding their privilege

Tanya DePass
Sep 21, 2015 · 4 min read

If you are a person of color on twitter, tumblr and other social media spots I’m sure you’ve encountered the suddenly woke white person. They often have #BlackLivesMatter & other hash tags in their twitter bio, retweet people like Deray, Karnythia, Shaun King, FeministaJones, Netaaaaa, & other well known POC activists constantly.

They are often driving the outrage train, admonishing other white folks to get with the program and shed their privilege. They will often tag in any and all POC they can think of when they are on a tear about the latest thing to have happened to POC that’s in the news. Be it another person gunned down by police, or Ahmed being unjustly arrested, or more recently, wailing about the #PeakCaucasity exhibited during Viola Davis’ Emmy win by a white soap actress who did the acting equivalent of all lives matter.

I’m not sure what enables some white people to go from zero to one-hundred in terms of realizing their privileges but sometimes it’s really fucking irritating. Like newly anointed zealots, they are stuck on 1000 in terms of anger and outrage; even more than most POC they try to pull in for …veracity, co-signing, or whatever reason they decide they have to show they aren’t like the average white person who doesn’t care.

Here’s a pro-tip; stop it. Stop doing the following and the folks you are following and tagging in will thank you for it. Otherwise you will likely earn a one-way ticket to blocksylvania with no chance of getting out.

  1. Don’t @ every POC you have encountered on twitter in tweet chains about whatever is going on. Spoiler: we’re probably aware of it, we’ve probably said whatever we want to say on the topic already (if anything) and we have other shit to do.
  2. Don’t continually harangue your other white friends to wake up too. It doesn’t work. Trust me, it’s just as irritating to see come across our TL as it is for your friends to be nagged about their lack of outrage. If anyone is gonna get it? It won’t be thanks to your perpetual output of shaming them for not caring.
  3. Understand we are not here to co-sign your outrage. You noticed things are fucked up in America, GOOD FOR YOU! Now go take that privilege you have and do something with it besides tweet furiously at folks 24/7.
  4. Don’t get twisted when people block, mute or ignore your “work”. See point one, we have other shit to do and feeding your outrage isn’t one of them. Especially when it’s free emotional labor.
  5. Stay out of conversations POC are having when it doesn’t involve you. We don’t need your sudden hot take or perspective on issues you won’t get no matter how “down” you think you are. Don’t be a Tim Wise.

Now that we’ve covered ways in which our suddenly woke white friends can take it down to about 30, and make life more relaxed for everyone; let’s talk about their chill cousins the slowly awakening white folks.

They are the ones who most importantly; LISTEN, I REPEAT they listen to what POC have to say and don’t over talk us in an effort to show how much they know about diversity and the struggle cause they get it you know! They are folks who’ve taken a slower road to realizing their privilege, understand that often the best way to do better and to do the work is to do the following:

  1. LISTEN, I say again LISTEN to the words of POC and not refute them, go but my one black/gay/bi/asexual/woman/trans/ INSERT DESCRIPTOR HERE friend said Y when you say Z so your experience isn’t authentic. No, dear friends they listen and take note.
  2. Signal boost and support without conditions for ally-ship. There is no, you have to hold my hand, stare into my eyes and be nice to me while you teach me; otherwise I will withhold my support of your humanity qualifier.
  3. Believe, without the caveats of the first point. There is no but, if or and needed to go ok I believe you, for now or I sort of believe you even though I can’t relate to your lived experience whatsoever.
  4. Understand it’s not about you, will never be about you and that you need to do your small part to dismantle the systemic racism as a person of privilege.
  5. Understand that not every conversation on race needs their input. Sometimes, amazingly enough POC want to have these conversations without (I’m giving the benefit of the doubt) well meaning white folks wandering in with their 0.02.

With that you might be wondering, if you are white where do I fit in? What can I do to not be a suddenly woke whitey but also recognize my privilege without expecting POC to guide me through to wakefulness? That’s easy, read a book, read a book, read a motherfucking book. Otherwise, Google is your friend.

POC who are tired of folks using our time, energy and draining us when the weight of the world is already on our backs are not your friends, nor will they thank you for the additional, unpaid, and unasked for emotional labor.

Tanya DePass

Written by

I Need Diverse Games Founder, cast Rivals of Waterdeep, games critic, diversity consultant, freelance games journalist & public speaker.

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