Race and friendships. Ehhhh. Such a tricky tricky subject. A subject that many do not want to tread on because of the potential loss that can happen. I talk a lot about race. A lot. Race is something I think about from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. I read, research, and educate myself as much as possible so I can have educated conversations about how and why there is still systemic racism and oppression in this day and age.
I haven’t always been this way. My eyes did not really start opening until about five years ago. I did not try to understand my race and my privilege, I did not even think about it honestly. Yes, I said privilege. I have a white mom who had wealthy parents. You do the math. The privilege I received was definitely monetary, but also racially. Having a white mom insulates you from things, incidents, issues when you are with her. You don’t understand what her skin color protects you from until you aren’t with her. But it is when you aren’t with her that you start to see how her white privilege protected you. You hear n*gger on the school bus, you get followed throughout stores, you see the looks you get when in a white crowd and you are one of the only black people. The things you took for granted in not affecting you starts to affect you.
I am lucky. I have friends of different races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and so on. I have a friend group that is wide and diverse. But yet, lately I have seen how talking about race and the issues that come with it also bring a backpack of other issues. The friends who believe that because they have black friends they cannot be complicit within the systemic racism our society was built on. They feel they don’t have white privilege because they have had problems and stumbles- but not realizing their stumbles will never be because of their race. They believe they are don’t belong in the group of white people that just don’t get it. They “understand” what the problems are… But do they really? They understand there is an inequality, but they don’t want to admit they have white privilege. They don’t want to see they have received a benefit that was not asked for in their white skin. They don’t want to believe that what they unknowingly receive is still holding me down. Of course this isn’t all my friends. I have many friends who want to talk race and talk about it on a consistent basis. They talk to me about very thought provoking ideas that make me question my own ideas and opinions. They give great arguments about articles and websites I post. They send me websites, articles, or videos asking me what I think. I have some good friends who want to help. But then like many other black people, I have friends who are of the “white moderate.”
As MLK said, it isn’t the KKK we need to worry about. It is the white moderate, and I fully agree. The white moderate are the ones that “understand the argument, they get “why” he did it, they are on “our side”. MLK said it best, “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
Isn’t that what we have now? A large community of white moderates who know and have black friends yet want the protesting to stop. They want to stop talk about race or hearing about it. “We are one race” they say. They are tired of hearing white, white, white. They are tired of race always coming up. They are tired of hearing about white privilege. They are tired of hearing about our beliefs and opinions on systemic racism. They are tired. They aren’t tired of being affected because luckily they don’t have to worry about that aspect. They are tired from being told and shown consistently how they have the power to help start change but it means becoming uncomfortable and they aren’t ready for that.
It seems that whatever protest methods that are used- well those aren’t the right ones or it isn’t the right time. They don’t believe in the black lives matter movement or don’t see holding up traffic as a method of protest. They “understand” why Colin Kaepernick did it, but it wasn’t the right space, he is a millionaire, or his parents are white so what does he know about oppression and racism. They say things like “talking about race causes divisions” “I don’t talk to my kids about race because we are all human” “We are all human”, and any other don’t talk about race catchphrase. Those phrases show me nothing more than the resistance of wanting to truly understand your “black” friend’s plight.
I have also seen that the white moderate types only want to speak or comment to pop holes in any argument you have about racism. They are the ones that will only say something within conversation on white people or white privilege that have no data or factual basis. They are the ones that will say, “I have black friends”, but won’t have the conversations with those friends on how they can help them achieve equality. They are the ones that will see a status on race or get involved in a conversation on race and comment, but when shown wrong they won’t comment again. They will use it is “your belief or opinion” when talking about systemic racism and the data and facts that come with it. They will not want to continue the conversation and will try to end it with a “well, we will all have to agree to disagree” or a well placed “well have you dealt with that?” to try to end the conversation because they are feeling uncomfortable or realize that maybe there is something to what you are saying.
Those are the white moderates. Those are the ones that want you to achieve equality but not at the risk of their uncomfortableness. They are the ones that know rich black people or black people in key position so question is systemic racism there if Kaepernick making $15 million. They are the ones that say “you can get a job before I can because you are black. They have scholarships for black people, can I get a white person scholarship? They are the ones that say black people have all the privilege now. We get the jobs over white people because we are black. But do we really? Or are we put in positions but expected to stay quiet. Are we allowed to be our true black selves? I am so lucky that I get to work in an environment of diverse people that allow me to be my true black self with no questions, and give me the utmost of support. But others aren’t as lucky. They can be make 6 or 7 figures and still feel the consistent effects of racism and want change to happen. Money means nothing if your skin is dark.
My question is when are you going to stop being a white moderate because I am frustrated. I am tired. I am tired of having to defend myself to people who have known me for years, thinking that because they can leave out being white, that I can leave out being black.
I am not just a black woman. I am a BLACK woman. The color of my skin has determined things within my life, sometimes more than I even realize or know. My hope within this blog is to get white people who have black friends thinking more about those relationships. Thinking more about equality and if they are truly helping their friends or just using them as a crutch to not talk about race or protest the inequality it has caused.
What are some of the things you can do to help your black friends?
- Have conversations about race with your black friends.
- Have conversations with black friends about how they feel about the racial climate.
- Have conversations about how you can help.
- Have conversations about what makes you uncomfortable.
- Educate yourself