Racism

To All Well-Intentioned, Justice-Loving White and White-Passing People

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I am very grateful to every single vocal Sahar’s Blog reader, inquisitive Instagram follower, fellow TikTok fanatic, and loyal Twitter user for all the opportunities to discuss injustices caused by racism.  I have learned a lot over the years from so many people and I look forward to learning even more over the years to come.

There are certain questions that seem to arise again and again from well-meaning and justice-loving individuals within these various circles.  I have had innumerable one-on-one discussions around each of these questions.  I had kept these conversations on a one-on-one basis until recently, when I found myself wondering if there might be other justice-loving individuals in my online circles who might have these same questions but are hesitating, for whatever reason, to reach out, either to me or to anyone else.

This post is for you, to help you clarify questions you might be scared to ask.  Some of you are scared because of the anger that might be directed at you, should you ask a question.  You understand that this anger is warranted, but at the same time, it’s hard to bear.  Some of you honestly don’t understand some of the topics I am going to be sharing below, despite trying hard to figure it out.  And some of you are living in places where you have never been encouraged or had the opportunity to have eye-opening conversations.

Whatever the reason, I hope that this post comes in handy in helping you avoid sabotaging the cause of justice that means so much to you, and I hope that you will reach out to ask me anything else you might be struggling with.  I often don’t have the answer, but I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing anti-racism support system that I will reach out to on your behalf.  Don’t underestimate how much this work is important.  It is absolutely vital for people with White Privilege to champion the rights of people of colour, and we can only do that if we meticulously dismantle our own racist belief system.

Why “Black Lives Matter”?  Don’t “All Lives Matter”?

Absolutely.  All lives do matter.  This is what all supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement believe in.

But ask yourself: if all lives actually mattered, would 24% of those killed by police in 2019 be Black when Black people represent only 13% of the population (here)?  Would 2,272 per 100,000 Black men be imprisoned in the USA, compared to 392 per 100,000 White men (here)?  Or what about the 40 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 Black women in the United States, compared to 12.4 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 White women (here)?

Remember that for some people, “All Lives Matter” is a way of taking away from Black people a movement meant to save them.  To you, saying “All Lives Matter” is a reminder of the utopia that you would like to see become reality; to you, it’s a good thing.  But to some people, “All Lives Matter” is translated to “Why are we spending so much time on Black people?  I need help, too!”  This is usually because of confusion between the various types of injustices that exist in our society; more on that below.

And even more importantly, remember that, for some other people, “All Lives Matter” means “Things are good the way they are, stop making a fuss.”  Just remember that, in its pure form, when someone says “Black Lives Matter”, it doesn’t mean that no other life matters.  Rather, it means “All lives matter, which is why I am underlining that Black lives matter, because the way our society is structured, Black lives are not treated as important at all.”

White Privilege Isn’t Real, because I’m White and Suffering From Injustice

All right, friend, so this is where it becomes super important to differentiate between the various types of injustices.

White Privilege means that you will not suffer because of the colour of your skin.  While you might get shot by police whatever the color of your skin, the chances that you will be shot are not increased because you are White.

But White Privilege will not protect you from other types of injustices.  And there are a lot of those lying around, quite unfortunately: sexism and misogyny, economic injustice that keeps the poor stuck in a cycle of poverty, homophobia and ageism, only to name a few.

The challenge is that these injustices overlap, so it can get quite confusing—especially when the people who profit from these injustices purposefully muddy up the waters even more, so that any attempt to establish justice is further thwarted.  So check your privileges, be it racial, gender, class, economic, etc. because if you are not a Person of Color, your injustice is not related to the colour of your skin.

(The great news here is that fights against all types of injustices can go hand-in-hand, so by clearly identifying the injustices that are affecting you and going after them, you are also supporting anti-racism work.)

I Support Anti-Racism but I Can’t Support This Avenue of Action

There are a couple of things to address here.

First, protestors are not rioters or looters.  Not only true protestors will not riot or loot, but they will try to stop the rioting or looting, even knowing that, should the police come, they are more at risk of being punished for the rioting and looting because of the color of their skin.  (And please take a minute to think about how unfair it is, that they might pay with their lives for protecting someone else’s livelihood.)

Second, the reason why there are so many protests and so much anger is because not enough people are listening, and not enough change is happening fast enough.  Don’t think that these people go from 0 to 100 just because one person was killed.  Guys, racism has existed for hundreds of years, and the shooting of Black people has been happening to hundred of people every single year for far too many years, without nary a ripple in social consciousness.  You might know George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown, but what about Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Alton Sterling, Michelle Cusseaux, Janisha Fonville, Akai Gurley, Gabriella Nevarez, Tanisha Anderson, and so many, many more?

Third, let’s be honest: there will never be a “correct” way to protest.  That’s the whole point of protests in the first place.  If everyone was willing to come to the table and calmly listen, really listen, and work on dismantling the individual and systemic racism that permeate our society, then we wouldn’t have protests; we’d have a ton of meetings, instead.  Don’t dismiss anti-racism work just because it’s not the avenue you would pursue.  Instead, support the people who are protesting by never criticizing them, by educating yourself, and by doing what anti-racism work you are good at doing.

Fourth, no one wants to plan to go out and protest.  Every person you see on the street out there?  I’m sure there are a hundred other things that they should or would want to do.  It’s hard work, it’s dangerous, it’s exhausting, and it has many emotional, mental, and physical repercussions.  This “avenue of action” is what needs to happen, because every other avenue of action was constantly shut down and denied.  Therefore, anti-racism work must scale up.  You don’t like protests?  Then step up your own anti-racism work, so that it doesn’t need to get to the point of protesting in the streets.

Final Thoughts

Dear White and White-Passing friends, I appreciate your questions and please, do keep them coming.  I hope that this post helped you in your personal anti-racism work.  More posts are coming; until then, these are the things that need to continue happening:

  • We need to analyse the injustices that affect us and address them to the best of our ability.
  • We need to understand that the colour of our skin ensures that we are never going to be in the same dangerous situations as someone with dark skin, and we need to accept that we benefit from this privilege. It’s hard to do so and that’s ok; having a hard time accepting this privilege can reflect a deep commitment to justice, and that’s a good thing.
  • When you have fully accepted your White Privilege, use it well; defend those who do not have this privilege, because you are going to be listened to (and remain safe!) in a way they never have been and won’t be until racism is over and done with.
  • Remember that your reality is not theirs and, more importantly, that their reality is not yours. Take the time to read some books, both fiction and non-fiction, and check out movies and TV shows that address these issues.  Make sure to consume content that has been created by Black people.  And take the time to try to understand, as much as you can.

Which brings me to my final point.  Lovers of justice everywhere are furious at what is currently happening.  You are angry at the injustice before you—great!  You want to do something about it—amazing!  But you have extra energy that Black people don’t have, because the color of your skin does not put you in the same danger as they are in.  They need to put so much energy into dealing with day-to-day racism—and it is exhausting.  So instead of pointing your nose up at the avenues of action being explored at the moment, point it towards your own anti-racism work.  Carry some of the load and when you need help, turn to someone who isn’t already overburdened because of the colour of their skin.

And remember that we can and we will eliminate racism, one step at a time.

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