On Identity Politics and Its Victims: a Letter to Those Who Believe Their Race Is Their Destiny
Traditional Tradesman
262

If you’re able to understand and express empathy towards the negative reaction of “poor and working-class white Americans, who were economically struggling, yet being routinely sent the message that they were privileged oppressors”, please extend the same courtesy to the African-Americans who have been routinely marginalized in our society.

When I speak with some of my white friends, I often hear the lament that before Obama, race relations were better. Or that black people are trying to point the finger too much. Or that all this talk about race is making things worse. Yet, somehow, that seems like too easy of a dismissal and doesn’t take into consideration the frustration that has grown over generations. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this newfound visibility of African-American culture that go beyond images we are bombarded with in the media.

For different reasons, I am hesitant to align myself with the Black Lives Matter movement. Not because I fear their ideology, but because some of the interactions I have seen on the media are too confrontational for my taste. I have children who I want to see grow up and live long fruitful lives. I don’t want to see them hurt or killed because they were rallying for a march. And I can’t afford to lose my livelihood. For me, justice means nothing in this world if you’re dead. That in itself is sad that I feel unsafe in speaking up for my convictions.

Learning about one’s history a far cry from being indoctrinated by ideologies that serve to validate one’s race .

The reason for ethnic studies isn’t validation, it’s education of a culture that has been strategically left out of the historical dialogue. Just as you have written umpteen articles about race because you have something to say about the matter, others do as well. We don’t need identity. We have it. We are curious about our lineage. In fact, because of our fractured history, which is a result of slavery, Jim Crow, the Black Codes, the Great Migration, oh and I forgot, the Middle Passage, the psychology of African Americans is very similar to that of children who have been given up for adoption. And let’s not forget that we continue to be excluded from equal access to quality education.

I feel the same way about these recent murders and injustices as I’ve always felt as a black person in the U.S.

Fearful for my family, especially my son. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who is white and for her, the recent events and the response of the black community are so surprising. She even made the comment that it seems like people weren’t aware of race until Obama was in office. I had to explain to her that people of color have always dealt with racial tensions, a specific place in society, and the increased potential risk of interaction with the police. For generations, we’ve had these conversations with our children on how to interact with white authority figures. Before any of this shit went down, once my children became pre-teens and were becoming more and more independent, I began having daily conversations about what to do if their rights were violated as my mother did me, and hers did for her. I tell them to keep their fucking mouths shut, be polite and let us deal with the violation retroactively. We could get a lawyer. Start a march. Start a social media campaign after the fact. But none of that shit is worth a damn if they’re dead. I tell them that I would rather they be oppressed than dead or hurt. This conversation is one that I can have with any of my black friends and they understand because they’ve had similar experiences. However, when I bring this up with my white friends, at best, I receive interesting dialogue and an empathy that comes not from being there, but from understanding that though our circumstances are different, we can still connect at that human part of us, unframed by culture, that is repulsed by inequality and unfairness.

I think now, our country has this newfound awareness of what the black experience has been like and it seems like some white people are having a really hard time dealing with the fact that this country isn’t only about their reality. That this reality that we’ve constructed on both ends is disintegrating. Because for as many white people who live in a bubble that we have overcome, there is another black person who is catering to this ideal by avoiding the conflict. I know I’ve done it. This is the reason why these conversations are necessary.

You write well Alexander. I just wish you would consider while you’re wielding words to present your point of view, there are a lot more realities that exist other than yours.