It’s Time to Listen to the Kids

 Photo by Clem Onojeghuo  on Unsplash . Photo by Clem Onojeghuo  on Unsplash .

It’s really easy to get stuck in a difficult situation. I don’t mean the situations that are moderately inconvenient. I mean the soul-crushing, life altering situations. Like what happened last week in Parkland, Florida after a man took his AR-15, entered his former school and attacked dozens of innocent students and educators. Seventeen people are now dead, fifteen were injured, the gunman is still alive and the students who survived, didn’t miss a beat. They went to work. The work that elected officials should’ve been doing for years.

It hasn’t even been a week and these kids have already organized, protested and spoken up in ways that cannot be ignored. Without even realizing it, these kids are teaching us adults how to have power in situations where the world would rather see us remain powerless. They’ve shown us how we may be victims of a situation, survivors of an atrocity, but we don’t have to move forward with a victim mentality.

Here are a few ways students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are refusing to stay silent in the wake of what’s happened in their community.

Read More »

Advertisements

White Silence is Violence?

   Photo by  Alexa Mazzarello  on  Unsplash
Photo by Alexa Mazzarello  on Unsplash

I really didn’t want this to be a blog post. 

I wanted to go on a rant on my Instagram and be done with it. But as I started recording the tenth video, I realized that I was clearly feeling some type of way and maybe I wasn’t alone in it. 

The first time I heard “White silence is violence” was at a protest after Michael Brown had been shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. I became obsessed with the phrase. Finally, I had four words to describe why I got so angry when my white friends were tweeting about the Kardashians while my black ass was crying over another instance of police brutality. I had a reason, an excuse to want to go off on Becky who seemed to care more about Taylor Swift’s new album than racism. 

Then, I spent more time with white folks. Not racists, or conservative republicans. Just plain, well meaning white folks. Woke white folks. The ones who have friend groups that look like my high school’s Model U.N. club, white folks who checked their privilege, so I didn’t have to.

That’s when I started to think that maybe the phrase was too much. Too harsh, unfair, mean spirited. I kept hanging out with white folks and I realized their willingness to tweet #BlackLivesMatter or proclaim they have privilege in the circles that we both inhabited was pretty much where their activism ended. 

I realized, these white folks were the same ones who will tell you they have Trump supporters in their family and then say that they refuse to talk to them. They were the type of people who asked me about “black stuff” at work because they assumed that’s all I was interested in, not because they were cultured. They’re the coworkers who love your idea for a story that finally features some diversity, but don’t back you up when pitching to the boss. 

White silence is convenient. It’s privilege. It’s comfortable. 

Now, the phrase confuses me. Especially in the wake of the DACA decision.

I’ve seen a lot of my woke white peers posting the phrase across social platforms. I’m inclined to agree with them, but in this case I wonder what do you want them to say (which is also how I felt with Charlottesville)? 

I’m not convinced there is anything well meaning white folks could say in 140 characters or 1,000 words that would make the 800,000 people affected by DACA feel any better.

This administration is showing yet again that people of color, immigrants do not matter. This is 100 percent about race and taking away power. It is about making people feel inferior because of a decision their parents made in order to give them a better life. 

I don’t think a white person’s comments of *shock* or their thoughts and prayers are going to add anything positive to the conversations being had right now. In instances of racism and brutality, I don’t need white folks to post online or say things for my benefit, I need them to check their not so well meaning peers when I’m not around. 

Calling out white folks who refuse to tweet about DACA, Kaepernick’s protest or another black life lost to police brutality feels like a waste of energy at this point. If the election, Charlottesville or any discriminatory act that Trump has passed hasn’t woken them up, nothing will. 

At this point, action is everything. Keep your words, do the work. 

-BK


What do you think? Should white folks be the first to speak out in situations of injustice? Why or why not? Tweet me your thoughts or leave a comment below. 

Black Women Are Beautiful

  Clarke Sanders via Unsplash
Clarke Sanders via Unsplash

Originally published March 19, 2014.

Growing up, I was a beauty pageant brat. I knew I was beautiful because the judges and trophies I won told me I was. A lot of people are quick to judge and ask parents how they could put their child through long days like that, but I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I think it’s where I got my competitive spirit from. I wanted to win, I needed to win. So, during my childhood I never even questioned if my skin color was beautiful, or if it meant that I was worthy of winning a beauty pageant or becoming famous or anything like that. My skin color was not a problem.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I started to question whether or not I really was beautiful, whether black women in general were beautiful. In fact, I didn’t just wonder if I was beautiful enough for society’s standards, I wondered if I was strong enough, and smart enough to rise above the majority in anything I did.

Being black seemed toxic.

When I’d apply for jobs and go in for the interview, managers would try to hold back the shocked looks on their faces. As if a black woman couldn’t be named Brittany and have a phone conversation without “sounding black,” insinuating that my qualifications were no longer valid because of my skin color. I hate it. I’m followed around in stores, ignored by classmates, and overlooked by guys saying, “I’m not really into your kind,” as if we’re all the same (spoiler alert: we’re not).

It’s funny because with all of that mistreatment, people from outside the black community still question why we need programs like Black Girls Rock, why Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar in 2013 was such a big deal for black women from all over the world. It’s because we aren’t supported. We can’t get upset or loud without being called ghetto, we can’t simply work hard to earn our 4.0, we must have cheated. Because even when one of us gives the performance of our life in a movie that brought in over $140 million, twitter still explodes with tweets about how Jennifer Lawrence should have won and the editors at People magazine give Matthew McConaughey the post Oscars cover and Nyong’o a tiny sidebar.

According to the Pew Research Center, black women are enrolling in college at a higher rate than any other race or gender, oh and this might come as a surprise, we’re graduating. We’re becoming doctors and lawyers and journalists and actresses and we still aren’t seeing the respect we deserve. We’re typecast as the girl that sleeps around, the girl that has a baby out of wedlock and can’t pay the rent as if we’re the only ones. As if black women in those situations can’t bounce back and turn it around. I’m sick of it.

My skin color is not a problem that needs to be corrected with lightening creams; it’s not something that fits into one of the three shades offered in the makeup aisle for dark skin. My hair is not something that needs to be tamed by a hot comb or covered by a wig. I don’t “speak well for a black girl,” and I’m not “cute for a black girl,” either.

We are strong, beautiful, smart women and I don’t say that to say that other women aren’t, I say it because we need to hear it, we deserve to hear it.

-BK


Got a black woman in your life who needs to hear this right now? Share it with her! The post originally appeared on Thought Catalog.

I Don’t Care About You Condemning Racism on Social Media

  Vlad Tchomplav via Unsplash
Vlad Tchomplav via Unsplash

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: 

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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. 

-BK


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.