Over the past week in the city of Shreveport, Louisiana, I have found several cases of ill-thought-out and racist comments being made about the removal of Confederate monuments across the state of Louisiana, namely in New Orleans. The isolated decision at the bottom of the boot has made its way to the top of the boot, to a city I often hate to call home. Shreveport/Bossier is a city of what I coin “polar-spectrum racism”. On one end there are the very racist and on the other end, there are those who don’t even know that racism exists in the city. I regret to inform you that I was on the end of the spectrum that didn’t know that racism existed as much as it does in the city I was born and raised in. Shreveport, a city that LBJ refused to help and aid because he believed that it was filled with horrible, ungrateful, disrespectful and vile people. Yep. Right in the middle of it.
In this week I have uncovered comments and opinions I didn’t know existed amongst the people I went to school with, worked with, had a many of conversations with and I couldn’t rack my brain around why they didn’t understand what we, as black people, have been screaming to them over and over again. Well, my beautiful DiAngelo gem shed some light on the situation. It is explained using the terms “White Fragility”. I ran across this concept as a high school student, Isaiah Hines, was being extremely scrutinized on a “Rebel Alliance” Facebook page behind a photograph. I mean white people were in an uproar, but not one had even opened their eyes to the fact that “White Fragility” is an actual psychological theory. *rolls eyes*. After reading his five-slide presentation and several articles on the subject area, I grew more tolerance and my ability to dismantle racism when I encountered it. So here we go….
Dear White People,
*sips tea* I know yall are probably tired of hearing that phrase huh? It makes you uncomfortable? Eh. Well, you’ll be okay. Black people are getting together and are finally being able to voice what they have thought for centuries and so eloquently calling you out on what we, and the majority of our world view as “white privilege”. See, my black culture is full of gems. Some of which you idolize yourself, whether it be our fashion, or music, or even our facial features and our deeply rooted melanin. It’s always something… But luckily, I ran across one of your gems today. A jewel. A precious pearl. HER name is Robin DiAngelo. Robin DiAngelo, is a multicultural education professor at Westfield State University, an anti-racist educator, and the reason “white fragility” is a social psychology theory. She is also the author of What Does it Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy, which is soon to be on my reading list.
White Fragility is defined as “ a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include (the) outward display of emotions such as anger, fear and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence and leaving the stress inducing situation.” That two sentences explained so much to me. But then I began to wonder, what exactly is anti-racism education. I continued to read and then it clicked. The cultural diversity class you are required to take when you enter the workplace? That is anti-racism education. The social climate has changed over the years therefore so has the terminology. Everyone is required to take a cultural diversity, tolerance, or anti-racism course. I find this funny, however, because an hour or two every year isn’t going to dismantle racism in the workplace or in the world around us because often it is a one-sided presentation. However, as I always view things, a conversation will get something started. Conversation, however, is something white people seem to either stray away from or they jump very defensive about. Now, let me pause and say this right now: I AM NOT SAYING THAT THESE ARE ONLY THINGS WHITE PEOPLE DO. Black people do this too, but I’m not writing a letter to them, am I?
White Fragility is the reason there are so many heated arguments about Confederate flags, Black Lives Matter, and Barack and Michelle Obama. White Fragility is why I feel it is impossible to have a race conversation without feeling like my white counterpart feels I’m furthering the divide. It is not a crime to talk about racism. Talking about racism doesn’t make you racist. IT JUST MAKES YOU UNCOMFORTABLE. The topic of race is something that must be discussed because although you might reside in your Racial Ivory Tower on the best side of every town in the states you reside in, RACISM STILL EXISTS. Why? Because it is intertwined in the constructs of our world’s operating systems. Statistics are staggered every day to skew the views you have about people of color. Negative social views are reiterated through the fake news that you love to watch every day that uproots any positive outlook you might have of the world while it’s in the hands of people of color. White fragility solidifies white supremacy. White supremacy is not just you riding around on horses in all white with white hoods hanging “niggers” and burning crosses. White supremacy is not isolated to having KKK and swastikas tattooed on your ass! White supremacy is a mindset perpetuated that just so happens to be combined with negative action. White supremacy is your comfort zone and if that comfort zone is invaded there is often hell to pay.
White fragility is the thought-process justifying that because you are so morally high and mighty and you have black neighbors and co-workers that you are cordial to that you are incapable of doing or saying racist things. You can’t handle the challenge of racism. You can’t handle the truth that maybe, just maybe, you are capable of such things. Look, the world we live in is filled with racially charged agendas. The world we live in embeds these ideals and constructs daily. However, please, I beg of you, if the conversation is had about race do the following things:
- Listen. Class, Class!? Yes. Yes. Listen. Actually listen. Listening is the process of hearing and processing. Actually get past the hearing step and process the information that is being given to you. Listen to people entirely.
- Do not interject on a topic before receiving clarification. A lot of the back and forth occurs because a lot of people are misinformed. To do better is to know better. Do your research. Ask Questions.
- Do not coward in defense. An immediate and emotionally driven defense will be filled with clouded judgments. Take a breather and make sure the comment you chose to make is well thought out and intentional. Negativity doesn’t make you look stronger. It makes you look stupid. Especially if you are proving the point made in the first place.
- Do not result to name-calling. This will make the situation worse. This ONCE AGAIN, only proves the point people of color are trying to make in the first place. But please know, that calling us out of our name is not why we called you racist, but you just added it to the list.
- Don’t tell us we are ungrateful. “ You should be happy. You have a black President.” Okay, so two things. First things first, this statement should null and void any conversation had about white people being offended about black people going around saying “He’s not my President.” White people have been doing that shit since 2008. Second, having a black President was a blessing, but it also opened the door for the topic of racism to skyrocket in our country. Instead of the commentary being about us coming together, people from all ends of the spectrum made matters worse, by inviting the concept of a “post-racist” society simply because we have a BLACK PRESIDENT. We do not. I repeat. WE DO NOT LIVE IN A POST-RACIAL ERA. The shit is inevitable because the country runs on these social constructs. Wake Up.
- Don’t make this about you. Immediately discussing your family lineage is not going to dispute what you were called out on. If you have done something that is allowed because of your white privilege allow time for self-reflection or even ask for further explanation. But by all means, do not bring up the fact that your grandmother never owned a slave. It’s deeper that who owned whom.
- Know that “White Privilege” is a Real Thing. Please stop viewing it as a bad thing. It is the concept that explains that white people, particularly white males, have the upper hand in our society. You don’t like to discuss it now because it currently has a negative connotation because it has been seen in all sorts of negative commentary. No one can say “White Privilege” without all hell breaking loose. Let’s clear that up here. White Privilege is: being white and reaping the benefits and advantages that come to you and only you. NOT POC. No one is saying that you didn’t put in the effort to get where you got, or you didn’t struggle, but please understand that you are offered more help than any other person in any other race because of white privilege. (Please do not reference Affirmative Action because that was a policy put into place because your race refused to be inclusive of all additional races and WHITE women.) You, white people, are who is being put into positions of power. You are the top dog in every facet of this United States. It is seemingly impossible to penetrate or even prosecute this white supremacy. Look at any police shooting article in the last decade and tell me I’m lying.
- Know that we are NOT calling you BAD people. We are calling your actions horrible and vile. We are only seeking clarification to aid in the process of changing a negative behavior. Racism is not a topic that can be isolated to morality. You saying or doing something that can be viewed as racist does not make you a bad person. Truly believing the things you say, instilling negative views and perpetuating stereotypes of people of color in the minds of your children, isolating yourself from people of color, spewing your thought that “white is the only right”, however, does make you a bad person. Not recognizing your wrongs and refusing to change them is what makes you a bad person.
- Be empathetic. Actually think about why POC are upset at what you said or did. Everything doesn’t go make to slavery so stop using that as the only explanation for everything.
- POC embracing and wanting to protect their culture from culture vultures (who just so happen to be white in the majority) does not constitute the term “reverse-racism”. THAT DOESN’T EXIST. You can’t say that it’s racist to have a Black Entertainment Television network. NO. BET was created for US because there was nothing like it on television networks. EVERYTHING ON TV IS WHITE ENTERTAINMENT. We have award shows for our culture to embrace and praise our culture because we need to encourage our own kind! You cannot criticize the creation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities because there were no opportunities for blacks are your universities. That’s why they have coined Predominantly White Institutions. You cannot criticize the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People because it was created for the sole purpose of protecting people of color against the injustices in this white-ran justice system filled with white supremacy. YOU CANNOT! These things were put into place because you were not being inclusive. Black Girls Rock and Black Lives Matter included.
- We are not seeking to take YOUR HISTORY away. First of all, realize that YOUR history is technically OUR history except you exclude the why. You exclude the harsh realities of OUR American history. History isn’t meant to have holes in it. The entire truth needs to be told, however, everyone needs to be privy to it. WE have to go around explaining our history and learning more about ourselves because it has been erased. If we can go decades and centuries without all of our histories. You can deal with a few monuments and artifacts being removed.
There is a lot more you could try to do to change your midsets, but that’s up to you to decide.
White fragility is a part of our social history that needs to be learned by all races so here are a few things to start you off:
Just Keep Sipping,