To all of my white friends, I have believed you to be an ally or believe that you are ready to step up and be an ally in the fight against racism. I also know that many of you already know some of things that I am about to say. I also know that you need to know more because if you really knew all of these things, then we wouldn’t be where we are now.
If you self-describe as white and want to be a real ally in the fight against racism…
1. … you need know in advance that it is it very hard work. In fact, it may be one of the most difficult things you have ever done. Depending on how active of an ally you are, you should be prepared to strongly and regularly experience very uncomfortable emotions like anger, fear, frustration, awkwardness, defensiveness, embarrassment, despair, hopelessness, bewilderment, cognitive dissonance, disorientation, and utter exhaustion. These are feelings that black people in this country start dealing with as very young children and continue to deal with on very regular basis for the rest of their lives. Most of us are very good at dealing with these feelings without letting them utterly destroy us. We can help you to do that too.
2. … you should be prepared to not be able to get through this entire list in one sitting for emotional, physical, or time management reasons. But be prepared to come back and finish it eventually because you really need to.
3. …you should be prepared to have very conflicting thoughts and feelings. This is natural, because the issue of racism, although very simple in some ways, is very, very complex in other ways.
4. …you should be prepared to sometimes feel like you are being personally attacked and blamed for things beyond your control and occasionally, you may be. This happens to black people routinely. We know it sucks. While you may feel like we are unjustly accusing you, usually we are righteously challenging you to take action on the things that are in your control.
5. …you need to know that this is your fight. Black people are 12% of the population of this country. Hearts and minds can’t be changed without your active and wholehearted participation.
6. …you need know that actively fighting against racism is like “buy one get ten free.” Racism doesn’t exist in an intellectual, moral and spiritual vacuum and in this country, racism has coarsened our natures and contributed to our willingness to tolerate other kinds of injustices. Racism sits very comfortably at the table with sexism, classism, apathy, selfishness, corruption, greed, environmental devastation, nepotism, authoritarianism, glorification of violence, materialism, hedonism, oversexualization, militarism, etc. Your children and grandchildren can live in a country that gives in to these bankrupt ideologies or they can live in a humane society that upholds, truth, justice, love, respect, honor, peace, human dignity, kindness, compassion, courage, honesty, and integrity. Tackle racism and you take a bite out of all of these “isms.”
7. …you should be prepared to engage in mental experiments that will cause you some degree of trauma. For example, purposely superimpose the image of the face of your husband, wife, son, daughter, sister, brother, grandfather, or grandmother on the face of the black victims of police and vigilante violence. Really take the time to imagine and feel the emotions of it. Imagine the psychological toll that takes on black people. You need to feel this on a gut level. It will help you be more committed, courageous, and effective in the fight.
8. …you should be prepared to spend hours educating yourself about the black experience in America. There is so much information that you need to know and that was kept from you in school and that is still being kept from you. The average black person doesn’t even know a lot of this history but it is very, very, important for you to know it so that you can push back against the stereotypes and break through the barriers of prejudice of your less enlightened white friends, relatives, acquaintances and co-workers.
9. …you should be prepared to have a to have a lot of patience. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice (MLK). The first few times you try to push back against prejudice with someone who you don’t think is receptive will be awkward and uncomfortable but the more you do it, the easier it will become and the more effective you will become. Moreover, the more people that are pushing back and holding them accountable, the harder it will be for apathetic people to remain unengaged, uninformed, and unhelpful.
10. …you should know that however bad you think it is, it’s much, much worse. And yet we can still tackle it. We have no other choice.
Thank you for not being a fair-weather friend, whose commitment to justice is conditioned on the changes and chances of your mood, on the level of historical knowledge you have, on your level of knowledge of current events, or on the level of push back you get from people who aren’t yet ready to be real allies. We are going to need some serious tools in our arsenal for this fight. I’ll follow-up with some of these in a separate post. In the meantime, please meditate and pray in preparation for the long road ahead.
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