Loving Thy Neighbor Is Hard These Days
I used to be a religious woman. I grew up in the racist, segregated Bible belt in South Carolina, where the word of God rules. Even if you’re not religious, folks still mind God’s word.
Religious folks in the South love to talk about love. They love to say they love everybody. When white folks say it, I always give them the side-eye. The way they live tells me exactly who they love, and God is not involved in the process. As a proponent of equality and unity, I’m all for love in the practical sense of the word. I want to love my neighbors the way I love myself, but people make it so darned difficult. Sometimes it’s other people who make life hard for others. Sometimes (a lot of the time), those people are white people.
White people enter the chat.
Love requires a lot, and that a lot part is something most white people aren’t willing to sacrifice.
“Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” ~ Romans 13:10
White people have done so much to Black people, it’s impossible to fulfill the requirements of God’s law. If I can’t trust white folks to behave in a manner that’s respectful how can I believe they love me? Loving one another becomes impossible, and for my safety, I’m good with that.
Characteristics of Love
Hate makes loving harder. America has lots of hate for Black people. Hate makes it impossible to love. White people have made America a loveless state for Black people. We’ve had to deal with hate for centuries. People keep telling us to get over it and move on, continuing to engage in hate, race, and inequality all the while. Loving one another requires one to love him or herself, and there are plenty of white people who do not love each other. It’s impossible for me to believe white people will love me when they show me how much they hate me.
When you love someone, you’re able to demonstrate it.
When you love someone, you protect them. White people don’t love us, because they won’t protect us.
Love is an action, not a feeling. White people use racism to demonstrate they don’t love us. Love has nothing to do with a person feeling good or liking someone. It’s an active, daily activity or a ritual of looking out for the best interest of Black people. If you’re not asking us what you can do to make us feel loved, you’re not getting to know us. You can’t act on our behalf walking in the blind. If you think this is cool, you can’t possibly be an ally. Love requires one to act.
Where there is love, there is no jealousy or competition. If white people loved Black people, then there wouldn’t be a need to compete against us, especially when white folks are already at the top of the social hierarchy. You can’t be jealous of Black folks, and that zero-sum thing white folks love to cling to would be gone by now. Competing with Black people keeps white people alive.
Love means putting other people’s needs equal to or before your own. White people put white people before any other people. If Black people are asking for something to level the playing field, white people are waving their hands asking what about them. In the reparations discussion, it’s the same thing. If Black people are going to get something, white people believe they must get something as well, making the playing field more uneven. White people have a hard time with equality.
True love accepts differences. Black people have been treated as subhuman because of the color of their skin since being brought here on slave ships. White people have never accepted us, making love between the two groups damned impossible. We are different, and white people make sure we never forget it. From cradle to grave, Black people are forced to defend their differences. They must protect themselves because they are different.
Love has empathy. Most white people have apathy. They also have little or no empathy for Black people. We gotta die in the streets like dogs calling for our mothers with police knees on our necks before white people understand something is wrong or unjust.
When you love completely and unconditionally, there is no fear involved. Most white people are raised to fear Black people, making relationships difficult. On the flipside, Black people fear white people because of the long history of violence. You can’t love when you fear.
Love doesn’t ignore. Loving something means you give it attention, and most white folks aren’t interested in loving Black people. White folks ignore us most times. When you’re not paying attention to the needs of people you say you love, you can destroy them. Like plants need water to survive, white people need to shower Black people with love and attention to keep them alive. Right now we’re keeping ourselves alive. Nobody loves us but us.
True love really does love without trying to change the other person. Black people aren’t accepted by most white people unless we are doing something to please white people. White people simply cannot accept us the way we are. If Black folks don’t change (assimilate), white folks don’t want anything to do with us.
Love means compromise. Being in a relationship with white people in America has meant living a life of compromising. Our compromises are one-way streets. When Black people are the only people compromising and making concessions, eventually the walls go up. I’m tired like most Black people. When one in the relationship gives too much, eventually they find their needs aren’t being met. The folks who compromise the most eventually want out of the relationship. Black people like myself want out. We’re tired of living in a loveless relationship.
Love allows people their freedom. White folks hate for us to be free. They believe they are the police of Black people. If white people really loved us, they would give us our freedom. We could live in this society in peace.
Love makes you feel good, not bad. I can’t tell you how many times white people have made me regret loving them. White people do so many awful things to Black people or treat us differently.
Without Love, Equality Is Elusive
We’re never going to achieve equality without love. Love is a condition of the heart and mind, and only white people have control of their hearts and minds. Black folks are busy fighting for equality with love in our hearts, only to be met with a brick wall, racist slurs, bad policies, racist politicians, and anything that derails equality. In order to achieve equality, white people must learn how to love.
It’s not our job to keep loving white folks until they find love for us. It’s not our place to keep forcing white people to accept equality. We Black folks can’t continue centering love and equality while white folks are centering apathy and hate.
I can’t get with loving one another when folks don’t love me and my people. White people in America need to do some soul searching and learn how to not only love themselves but others. Love is essential to have healthy relationships, and Black people have never had a healthy relationship with America.
Black people can’t love one another because America hasn’t prepared the way for her white children to love or be loved by anything besides white people and their money. We are in a dysfunctional family with whiteness. White people need to get some help. They need to learn how to love.
They need to learn how to love Black people.
The Bible says “Love does no wrong to others.” My people have endured so many wrongs committed by white folks it’s scandalous. Doing wrong is a way of life for us. I don’t have any more cheeks to turn. Most Black people feel the same way.
I’m tired of white folks asking for more time, asking us Black folks to be nice to them after they’ve treated us like crap, and wanting us to be patient as they gaslight us. The goal for whiteness is always to deflect, decenter, and erase us. There is no love is involved in these activities.
The calls for unity and asking us to love one another after January 6th are tired, too. I can’t get with all this love one another anymore, and no decent person shouldn’t expect Black folks to either.
As long as white folks love themselves more than anything else on earth, we can never be in a healthy relationship with each other, making loving one another impossible. Black love is under new management. Giving love without getting any back is no longer the policy here. White folks should get used to it for a spell.
Instead of white folks worrying about the love they’re not getting for Black people, white folks should try focusing on being better people, learning to care more about racism, and loving their non-white neighbor because it’s the only way equality and equity can occur.
Marley K. 2021