I won’t waste too much time talking about what occurred in Charlottesville Friday night and Saturday. It’s not new. It’s been happening for centuries. For people who have been paying attention, none of the events from this weekend are surprising.
This is America.
America was built on the literal land of Native Americans, it was progressed by African slaves forced into ships and brought here against their will. To this day, new construction is largely based on white folks deciding an urban area needs rinsing. So, they build a Starbucks and then a Whole Foods; a mayonnaise shop (which ironically fails because the rent is too damn high). Then, they get rid of all the people of color to make it “safer.”
Make no mistake, what happened in Charlottesville can happen anywhere around the country. Anywhere.
I hate when racially charged violence occurs in our country. Mainly because it’s racist and shouldn’t be happening, but also because of the word vomit that plagues every social media platform for 24-72 hours after the event. They look a lot like this:
There is only one side. #charlottesville
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 12, 2017
Even as we protect free speech and assembly, we must condemn hatred, violence and white supremacy. #Charlottesville
— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) August 12, 2017
— Women’s March (@womensmarch) August 12, 2017
Note: I used notable accounts because I’m working on being aware of how I contribute to callout culture, especially of people I care about. I truly don’t want to tear anyone down for caring about what’s happening in Charlottesville and showing that they care via social media. So, white people, consider this unsolicited advice on how to be a better ally. Which is a verb.
I appreciate statuses, favorites and retweets from you all that proclaim black lives matter, white silence is violence and similar sentiments. But it isn’t enough for me anymore. I’m not impressed. I’ve been seeing that since Mike Brown was killed three years ago. The violence feels like it’s gotten worse, but social media posts, and thoughts and prayers have stayed the same. There’s been plenty of love in 140 characters, but little action. Once the strict 72-hour window of giving a shit is over, it’s back to cat videos and RHOA gifs and tweets about how much coffee you’re going to need to function on any given day.
I know it feels like I–someone who (many times) has been more talk than action–am coming at you for being yourself online. I know it probably seems like I am trying to make you feel bad for your decision to post (or not post) about Charlottesville. I’m not trying to be that way. I’m just fed up.
I don’t care about your retweets and likes, your Instagram posts and annoyingly long winded Facebook statuses. I care about your actions.
Don’t tweet when you let your racist uncle say whatever he wants about black folks at Sunday dinner. Don’t post if you haven’t talked to your mom in months because she voted for Trump. Don’t like my shit if you do not and are not willing to actively make space for the people of color to have their voices heard in predominately white spaces.
Your concern via social media feels fake, forced and I don’t care about it.
White folks, I need you to use your privilege in secret white meetings, when you’re invited to speak with leadership, but your black colleague of five years isn’t. I need y’all to speak up in the white spaces that you inhabit and start a conversation about race and inequality in America. if you feel like you don’t have the tools to start that conversation, read a book. Use Twitter hashtags like #FergusonSyllabus and educate yourself, then start the conversation.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, bring water and food for protestors of color in your area instead, donate to nonprofits (that are trusted and transparent) actively sending money raised to Charlottesville and other areas where incidents like this occur.
Lastly, if you must continue your concern via social, I challenge you not to hide it from folks in your circle that you know won’t agree with your “liberal” (caring about black lives shouldn’t be a left-wing trait btw) views. Let disagreements play out in the comments section. Seriously. I’ve seen some powerful things happen.
What’s happening isn’t okay, but it is normal. This is as American as it gets. I do believe that it will take all of us to combat it, but it doesn’t have to be as drastic as it may feel. White people, whether you denounce white supremacy or not, you benefit from it. I don’t need you to apologize for that. I do need you to use that privilege to change hearts. I need you to have difficult conversations with racist friends and family members. Not because doing so will change their mind immediately, but because eventually, I truly believe they will begin to understand.
I’d like to end with a sentiment I’ve seen on Twitter during times like these: If you’ve ever wondered what you would’ve done during The Holocaust, slavery, Jim Crow, etc., take a look at what you’re doing right now. Pay close attention to what you say and don’t say. Whatever that is, that’s what you would’ve done then too.
How are you fighting white supremacy? Let me know in the comments below. If you’re looking for other ways to support #Charlottesville here is a list of places to donate.