Why I’m Done Trying To Solve White Ignorance

125

Over the past few years, I’ve become extremely passionate about the subject of racism in America. In large part that is because of going to college and taking Black Studies courses that shocked me to my system. When my father suggested to me as a teenager that I take Black Studies courses in college, I was annoyed by the idea. I was raised in the 90s; a time where every kids television show had a diverse cast of almost every color. I was taught in school that acknowledged race is racist. I learned that specifying or recognizing someone’s race is racist and well into adulthood this is what racism meant to me. Then I took a writing course in College that was specifically about lending voices to people of color who were trying to create their own narratives about being a person of color in America. I didn’t take the class because I thought the subject was necessary or good. I took the class because I thought it was going to be easy and that since I was black, I was bound to get a good grade. In the space of a semester, this class started to make me uneasy. Not the writing bit, the writing bit was fun and I’ve always been complimented on how I write. The parts of the class where we discussed the history of racism in America… that’s what made me uneasy. Learning that what I learned in public schools was watered down, white washed and downplayed made me upset. It made me upset because I slowly came to understand that I’d been told half truths. I can’t say that I was lied to, but I wasn’t told the full extent of the truth and that angered me.

On my platform, i try to have informed conversations about racism that relate the fact that these things aren’t taught in schools. I don’t even remember reading about the Pequot massacre that gave America the reason to celebrate Thanksgiving. I don’t remember reading about how the same church where Dylan Roof shot 9 black people had been burned to the ground by white supremacists in 1822. I don’t remember reading about how the war on drugs started largely as a way of attacking Chinese Americans. I didn’t remember reading about how the Irish became white through supporting anti-black unions and how they and several other groups assimilated into whiteness; or even further that whiteness is a legal construct. I didn’t learn these things in school. I didn’t learn the full extent of racism in this country and as and adult I now know that I didn’t learn it because how could I grow to become a patriotic adult if I knew all of the dark and divisive things that America has done to people of color since first stepping foot on this continent? We are fed a version of history that allows us to know some of what happened, but never everything because the truth is too painful and would cause too many people to become critical of how great of a country this actually is.

What I have learned bringing this conversation to people is just how unprepared people, especially white people, are to have this conversation. It is so much easier for everyone to simply maintain the status quo of what we’ve learned and to never really challenge ourselves to know the truth or to understand our history to prevent the same things happening in the future. The post below is what inspired this post.

124

I have a lot of white followers and I love them for the most part. For some reason, my white followers are a bit surprised when they follow me on Facebook and see how often I discuss racism. While yes, I am a feminist, I am a woman, and I am transgender, before I am anything I am black. My blackness has always been a part of me that has been recognized before anything else and it’s always the things used against me when someone wants to be petty. Frankly, the issues I face as a trans person are a thing of the past for me. I would be completely dishonest if I sat here and tried to formulate some sort of oppression I experience as a woman who is read as cis in most situations who’s had her name and gender marker changed legally free of charge. I live an extremely privileged life as a trans person, but I’m still a black woman and I’m that above all else. So what I discuss when I’m having a stream of consciousness rant ,as I usually do on facebook, will probably relate to that. And I understand how a white person wouldn’t want to hear that, but I’ve worked since a teenager to build my platform to where it is now and before I want to uplift and empower any of the numerous groups I embody, I want to support, uplift and promote black women. This disappoints my white followers who usually perceive me as firm yet patient. And honestly, I am patient.

I patiently sit and explain myself over and over again to white people who enter into my space with disrespect and hatred on their lips. I have dealt with racist microagressions all my life and I’ve accepted them as a part of my reality so much that I can’t take them seriously; but I call a white person a “white person” and suddenly, I’m the racist. What I found fascinating about the comment above is that they came to me and prefaced their point by saying that they loved and supported me and then proceeded to attempt to invalidate my positions and my message. She said that I’m right about so much, but I’m wrong about racism. A white woman who will never walk my walk decided that she was an authority on what is and isn’t an experience of mine. I think most people can understand and see what’s wrong with that, but this is actually a very common pathology that I see on my page. The white experience in America has given so many white people this sense of entitlement that I think most people of color can see is really inappropriate, but I’ve accepted that your average white person simply doesn’t see it. I wouldn’t dream of telling someone what their life is about, but all too often am I told by white people on my page how my life must be. All too often these white people feel that they have some degree of superior knowledge that I must respect and listen to. All too often they come to me and tell me that I need to conduct myself a certain way if I’m to be taken seriously. Of course I have thousands of followers, a nearly fully booked speaking schedule and currently make my living having these conversations, but they are still convinced that I need their advice and their direction if I’m to be taken seriously. There’s this thing I’ve noticed with so many white people where they feel like my validity begins once they acknowledge it that I am valid. What I seek to do as a black woman and as so many other things is to communicate that we need no one to be valid, our words are precious and positions justified. We do not need to qualify ourselves to majority groups. Trans people do not need the seal of approval from cis people and black women do not need the seal of approval from white society. So I make sure to communicate to these people that I don’t need nor do I want their approval or agreement because I will continue to be great with or without them.

What I’ve learned having this platform and what I’m having to constantly remind myself of is that not everyone is ready to receive the message. I waste so much of my time trying to break through to white people and to help them understand what to me are relatively simplistic concepts. I create videos, I create animations, I write, I draw pictures, I do everything I can to break through to them but they simply do not want to hear it. So I’ve stopped holding out home for them because some people are determined to keep things how they are. Fortunately, I have a lot of white followers who really value me as a resource and every single day I get a ton of emails from people that I’ve helped understand these conversations more and more. I can’t waste my time with people who refuse to hear what’s being said and will tell me to instead see things from their perspective. When you’re Black in America, you’re taught in many ways to cherish the white perspective over your own. To make yourself small so that the white perspective can flourish. To appeal to whiteness as a means of pursuing success in life. And frankly, part of deprogramming anti-blackness is realizing that you don’t have to sacrifice your humanity for the comfort of white people. They will disregard my perspective to reinforce the mainstream narrative. White perspectives are rarely denied or rejected. They’re alway seen as default and valued even within a black space. You can’t say the same about black perspectives and as a black woman with a voice, I refuse to stop speaking about what I want to speak about because white women would prefer I support and think about them. There will always be people out there that support what you’re doing. Criticism is great and it’s healthy, but I’m learning to recognize the divisiveness in these comments that want me to, once again, recenter white narratives above my own. This is my platform. This is my story. And I will tell it how I please and I don’t care if Rebecca doesn’t purchase a copy.

216

Frankly, these conversations are very emotionally taxing for me. It’s very painful to simply list of historical fact and then hear them say “ok cool, but get over it” over and over again. I’m learning to accept that some people will never break out of their ignorance because they don’t want to. I can’t really blame white people for not wanting to deprogram something they benefit from.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Why I’m Done Trying To Solve White Ignorance

  1. Nobody says:

    Honestly, I’m glad you made this decision. I follow you on FB and I see these big arguments and I think, those people aren’t going to listen. Yes, people can learn the error of their ways, or to acknowledge their privilege, but it ain’t gonna happen from a FB comment. Maybe once in a blue moon, but it’s a lot of energy and frustration for little to no gain.

    For me, you’re just preaching to the converted. And while I know your FB page isn’t _for_ me, I’m just putting my vote down for everything except trying to convince people who don’t believe anything can be other than their experiences. 🙂 so I’m happy for you to avoid the toxic arguments, and for me cuz I’ll get to see you post more other things (hopefully)!

    Like

  2. Name says:

    I dunno, I gotta say something. As a straight white male, I fully understand my place here in this conversation right now, and I’m not trying to tell you anything, or convince you of anything. These are simply meant to be words of encouragement.

    I think it’s really easy to see all the hate, and all the ignorant white people who don’t listen, and don’t learn. And it’s really easy to to be weighed down by that, because they are the most vocal. They’re the ones who’ll argue with you, and the ones who’ll say hateful and racist things. They’re the ones whose voices you’ll hear.
    Then there’s other people. People like me.
    And here’s the thing: when I say ‘People like me,’ I’m not differentiating myself from all the ignorant white people. I am one of the ignorant white people. I’m differentiating myself from the ‘people who don’t listen.’ Because there are many people, like me, who see posts like this as we scroll through our facebook feed or what-have-you, and we pass over them 9 times out of 10, but every once in a while we see a headline we think looks interesting, and we click on it. Read the article. Maybe we don’t even read the whole thing, just skim parts of it. But the point is, when we read it, we learn something. We learn something because we’re willing to listen. Now, absolutely, I’m not going to deny how much I have to learn. I’m not going to deny I’m one of the ignorant white people who engages in casual acts of institutional racism constantly. I’m not even going to deny that when I see posts like this, they make me uncomfortable. A lot of times, as I read articles like the ones you post, I leave thinking to myself ‘well, no that just can’t be right.’ But I also leave willing to think about what’s been said. I try to process it. I argue with myself over it. And then, the next time I see a similar post, I’m more ready to understand the arguments being made, and I’m more ready to understand the sentiments, and I’m more ready to accept them. I think there’s a lot of people like me. I think there are a lot of people like me, and not enough people like you–people willing to speak candidly and bluntly about the way things are. Because ultimately, the more voices we having speaking out about injustice and racism, the more people like me will be able to hear, and be able to grow.
    Here’s the kicker, though. The people who are willing to listen and think about what you’re saying are the ones who aren’t going to comment. We’re not going to comment because we’re still trying to think things through. Because we understand it isn’t our conversation. Because our minds aren’t made up. Because we aren’t sure what to say.

    It may seem like you ” waste so much of [your] time,” trying to break through to white people, but the reality is, for most of us, there never is a breakthrough. It’s a gradual coming-to-terms with reality, because the culturally in-bred illusion that white people don’t deserve to have their comfort shattered from time to time IS a very difficult illusion to let go of.

    Ultimately, the point of my comment is this–I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I’m not trying to say you have some obligation to white people to make them understand. I’m not trying to second-guess your decision not to argue with white people and try to solve white ignorance.

    Nor am I trying to give you my ‘white seal of approval.’

    All I’m trying to say is: though it may not seem like it, I promise–these posts really are helpful to people like me.

    Like

  3. Alissa Matthews says:

    I just started following you after a dear friend recommended you and let me say I am glad I checked you out. I have pretty much watched all your videos on YouTube and am following you on Facebook.

    While a black woman I did not know the extent on how racism ran so deep I just knew I felt uncomfortable in certain places with certain people. Thank you for putting into words the experiences I have. Thank you for your platform and your strength.

    Like

  4. Pax Ahimsa Gethen says:

    How on Earth can someone say they “really like you” and then turn around and say “It’s always you black ones that are so militant, angry, and rude?” Privilege, that’s how. These kinds of daily micro-aggressions are part of why I’m avoiding Facebook right now. I’m glad you’re blogging here so I can get small doses of what you’re experiencing; your work is really valuable and I’m sorry you have to put up with so much relentless ignorance.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Morgan says:

    I just wanted to say that my experience was sort of like yours when it comes to racism in our country. I didn’t know I was black until I came to a university. I really appreciate your posts…they give me life. I face micro-aggressions daily at my predominately white school but it’s good to look blogs up like this that help me put things into perspective.
    You are a true badass and I’m extremely grateful that you have a platform. You really have a voice and its so fucking strong.
    Keep up the good work and fuck the Rebecca’s but you didn’t need me to tell you that 😉

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s