I don’t feel sorry for you. I know that you are not responsible for what your ancestors did. I know that you are probably good people who just want to live life and enjoy your personal pursuits of happiness. You are on the other hand responsible for how you act and fail to act now. You are responsible for the injustices that are allowed to continue now. Your freedom to move on with your life unaffected and oblivious to your neighbor’s struggle comes at a very high price that you will never be required to pay… because it has already been paid in blood, strife, poverty, and the inequity suffered by people of color all over this country, and the world.
I’m not going to beat you over the head with gimmicky titles like “White Privilege,” or even gut punch you with what a few bad law enforcement officials have done. I just want you to take a moment to consider what you have actually done to contribute to the state of affairs right now. Have you personally engaged anyone in a conversation that acknowledges this nation’s problem with race? Have you spoken up when someone you know said something racially repugnant when there weren’t any people of color around? Have you stopped clutching your purse or feeling for your wallet when you’ve found yourself alone and in proximity of a person of color? Have you stopped assuming that every Black person has to listen to and enjoy rap? Have you stopped ending statements you think are complementary with “… for a Black girl/boy…” and not thought it either? Have you even thought about the things you do that might be offensive to any of your 5 black friends?
You see, like many other people of color, I have spent my life trying to ignore the injustices and inequity. I have applied and interviewed for jobs. I have had the quality of my work and content of my character questioned. I have been wrongly accused by people I thought were my friends. I have been backhanded by statements meant to be complimentary…
I was taught in junior high school that I was not allowed to be a statistic. which meant that I wasn’t allowed to have children out of wed lock; not because of religion or standard of propriety, but because that’s all that You would expect of me. I wasn’t allowed to not go to college; not just because education is important, but because I am Black, and Black girls aren’t expected to make it that far. I wasn’t allowed just be average; not just because I could do better and be more, but because being average as a Black girl meant that I would never even come close to being able to compete with an average anyone else, and thus I needed to be extraordinary just to be even with the average not Black girl.
Dear White People,
I do not feel sorry for you, and I don’t feel sorry for myself either. I am extraordinary… ok, so maybe I do feel just a bit sorry for you. I’m sorry that your capacity for ignorance has been fostered, coddled, and encouraged one generation after another, while Black people have been forced to bear burdens and strife that has made us stronger and more resilient to adversity, one generation after another. With every back-handed compliment my skin gets as thick as it is Black, and I get better, smarter, and more brilliant every time you force me to act like your ignorance is a non-factor to my continued existence. With every feigned smile and false praise, I get to be that positive representation of what a Black person really is; I get to help one more of You shed one more ill-conceived notion. I get to be that extraordinary Black girl whom you met that one time… one of Your 5 Black friends… one of the good ones…
I just hope that one day You will acknowledge what Your ancestors did; that You will claim Your privilege, and that You do take a moment to think about the things You do that might be offensive to any of Your 5 black friends… that You might one day require more and better of Yourself, because You finally realize the price of Your blissful ignorance is just too high.
Do More. Require Better.