Letter from the Editor:
How NOT to Be an Anti-racist
A few days ago, I read “When It Comes to Racism, Does Intent Matter? It's Complicated,” an article by anti-racism writer and educator Tim Wise. In a nutshell, the article discerns the interplay of intent and impact and when they should be considered. As a short-statured person, life provides people with innumerable opportunities to make all sorts of comments to or in earshot of me, about my height. Life also provides me with ample opportunity to weigh their intent in contrast to the impact of their statement. Wise’s article resonated with me. I perused the Comments section to read how the public responded. Pretty good stuff, save one disgruntled reader who interpreted the essay as “yet another opportunity to virtue signal and shame white people . . .” What follows is an open response to that rant.
Buddy, it sounds like you have no chip but the Rock of Gibraltar on your shoulder. Here’s why I say that. Fifteen words into your first sentence, you’re name-calling (“white latte liberals”) and making unfounded accusations (“telling the rest of us how racist we all are”). Your state of exhaustion, which you may have been at the time, is self-induced. You alone sit on your throne of decision-making for not only what you want to read but what you actually read.
Let me turn your question back to you: Have you sought out the opinion of Black folks in need to find out what we need from white people to improve our lives? With such an impressive spate of Black people permeating every facet of your life, and believe me, that’s a whole lot of Black people for one white guy to be associating with [cue: “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”], one might guess you’ve asked several of them on numerous occasions what they need from white folks to improve their lives. But wait . . . with working so close to all those Black people for ten years, running with your Black buddies, the Black friends you have had at your house, and dating all those Black women, and attending all those concerts and sporting events, and what with the Black guys who’ve crashed at your home (we won’t include the Black kids you’ve babysat because . . . you know . . . well, they’re too young to have anything truly relevant to add to the conversation), your Black friends probably aren’t poor, are they? Not that their economic status should factor into who your friends are, right? Because if it did, that would make you—a classist.
I mean, really? Come on, my man. You’ve already tipped your elitist hand. Oops.
For the record, the economic status of a Black folks is irrelevant to this conversation because the lived experience of every person living in Black skin, from the lowliest of the low to the Black man who held the highest office in America, is one of inequity under the law and inequality of opportunity. Stop. Before you attempt a tepid retort, engage in whataboutism, or throw a tantrum, know that I have lived in Black skin every day of my life, so that gives me an exponential advantage over what you “think” you know. And judging from the impetuousness of your comments thus far, my guess is I have a few years on you.
But I digress.
I bet it’s true to say that you haven’t broached the subject with any of your Black friends. I say that because even if you had asked even, oh, say three out of your abundance of Black friends, you would have quickly gleaned that the experience of every Black American is one of inequity under the law and inequality of opportunity. I say you probably haven’t done so for a second reason: for a white person to ask a Black person such a question requires a measure of grace you haven’t even skirted in any of your posted comments.
So, “nah, bro.” I’m not buying it. And I doubt any white person with at least ONE Black friend is picking up what you’re putting down.
If you really want to know what Black people need from people like you to improve our lives? I’ll give you a short list.
It would really help if people like you specifically and white people in general would—
- Practice humility. Stop acting like you’re above reproach and you know it all. Because obviously, you don’t. Based on your comments, you’ve demonstrated to everyone who’s read them that there’s enough you don’t know about Black people, our needs, and our experience in these United States to make a-whole-nother Earth.
- Do your own work. You want to change the world? You want to know what Black people need? Research it for yourself. Like that old song goes, “Mama may have, Daddy may have, but God bless the child who has his own.” For goodness’ sake, you’re on Medium. MEDIUM. I can’t begin to tell you how many excellent Black people there are on this platform writing about every conceivable aspect of racism, racial equity, white supremacy, equality, misogynoir, blah, blah, blah. (I would name a few, but that would leave you nothing to do. You know the platform has a search feature, right?)
- Be respectful. The WORST online behavior you can exhibit is barge into someone else’s comments and insinuate they’re doing it wrong—especially someone who, in one single essay, has given you more best practices on anti-racist behavior rooted in decades of experience than you’ve been able to pick up from your copious Black friends.
- Take the note and say thank you. See #1. If someone tells you you’re stepping on your own dick, just take a moment before you embarrass yourself, and think about what they’re saying. See if you do indeed have your boot on your dick. Know what I mean? (Pardon me, ladies and gentlemen.)
It all comes down to this, if you want to change the world, you need to start with yourself and your interpersonal skills. Don’t be arrogant, don’t show up unprepared, don’t be disrespectful—just listen for a change. Then work on systemic racism. Tim Wise has a lot to say about that.
Love one another.
In This Issue
- New This Week: “The Consequences People of Colour Are the First to Suffer” by Jesse Wilson
“On ‘The Native Scholar Who Wasn’t’ and Other Mistaken Identities” by Emily Cashour
- In Case You Missed It: This week's legacy article is “The Strange Paradox of White Privilege” by Rebecca Hyman
- Final Thoughts
New This Week
by Jesse Wilson
In response to Londoners' recent racist and destructive acts committed after the Italy v England UEFA Championship match, Jesse Wilson examines what can happen to People of Colour when governments and social media companies turn a blind eye to racist abuse and hate.
by Emily Cashour
When people insist upon an ethnic identity, how do we know to believe people versus when to be skeptical? Yes, race liars should be called for dishonesty, but what happens when people cling to the lie in the embodiment of the truth? Emily Cashour asks, do we really know as much as we think we do when defining someone else’s race?
In Case You Missed It
by Rebecca Hyman
White privilege. Now there's a term that raises hackles, eyebrows, and blood pressure. The concept, once understood, can never be forgotten or mistaken for anything else. But in its initial encounter with many white people, the term is guaranteed to be misunderstood. OHF Weekly writer Rebecca Hyman explains why.
Love one another.
Our Human Family, Founder and Editor-in-Chief