Hey White People,
Would you prefer the formality of Dear white People?
We need to talk about whiteness. To conform to whiteness is an act of oppression. Born white, we have an opportunity to disrupt the assimilation to whiteness as status quo and stop the systematic oppression of other cultures. If you believe Black Lives Matter, get comfortable with the visibility of Blackness in all its vibrancy, not tamed into something palatable to whiteness.
When whiteness is so pervasive it’s hardly noticeable, it’s easy, if you are white, to forget racism exists. The invisibility cloak of whiteness perpetuates its existence and its impact in the form of cultural genocide. There’s the obvious country club culture but also whiteness upheld in seemingly liberal communities. It exists in the way we teach “proper” English in schools, the way we equate clothing with criminality, the existence of cash bail, the gerrymandering of voting and school districts, the assumption of others as guilty until proven innocent, the ability to walk through the grocery store munching on a just-opened box of crackers without being accused of shoplifting, the othering of people, and in seemingly innocuous but nevertheless indicating language like nice neighborhood or good school.
Writer Shane Paul Neil and other Black people should not be asked to find ways to be less foreboding. In his recent article Your Fear of Black People Is Not My Responsibility he writes, “I don’t attempt to hide or soften my Blackness. I don’t push it into the corner or dress it in the mirror of Whiteness. Some of this is a matter of pride. But it is also a matter of a nihilistic acceptance that I have no control over the thoughts and actions of Whiteness.”
Who controls whiteness? We do (until we don’t). It’s not an easy take down. This is not a two person job. This is the responsibility of more than 60% of our nation born into privilege, skating by on whiteness, at the expense of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and other people of color.
Whiteness is being too polite, too afraid to offend, and silent as death. Born white isn’t the crime.
It is not enough to board up your storefront and spray paint Kindness Wins across the plywood. It is not enough to hide behind a sign that pledges Black Lives Matter without doing something more.
Point out injustice as you see it. Call and write your representatives on behalf of a specific issue you care about. Donate to grassroots organizations. Stop protecting the innocence of white children. There are appropriate ways to talk to them about hard stuff, people of color do it every day. Tune into your own words. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The door is open, come on in. We have a long history to dismantle.