First and foremost, I want to thank you for embarking on the journey to becoming anti-racist and an ally.
On Blackout Tuesday, we saw so many white allies posting black squares to show solidarity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. This initial support was fantastic. Unfortunately, I noticed that when it came time to posting resources and references to support the movement (e.g. posting petitions to get justice for George Floyd, and highlighting the email information for the justice department in Minnesota), it seemed that we’d hit a point where people were uncomfortable doing that. What this implies to people of color is that initial support with the square was performative. Now, I understand that the biggest argument here is that someone’s intentions were in the right place. Yes, that is absolutely true. But, intentions do not take into consideration the impact and consequences that follow which is what can completely undermine a movement and the valid concerns of a marginalized community.
Following Blackout Tuesday, we had the Blackout publishing week, which resulted in a surge in discussing anti-racist books such as Stamped and How to be Anti-Racist by Professor Ibram X. Kendi. For those who read these books and engaged in the conversations, it has been truly incredible. I held a special buddy read and discussion for Dear Martin by Nic Stone where we tackled a myriad of racial injustices, and the sixty people who participated with me approached it with grace. No judgments were made on questions and comments.
That being said, there has been a subset of white people that ordered the books but didn’t actually pick them up, or bought them but reverted back to reading books within their comfort zone. This behavior is damaging because it’s difficult to continue the conversation about allyship when allies become fatigued and revert back to what is comfortable. The thing is, I completely understand wanting to just escape and turn it all off. What you need to understand though, is that as a Black female, I am never afforded this luxury. I can never turn it off because I live it every single day.
I maintain these conversations on social media but more importantly, I am constantly having these conversations within my family especially since I have white family members. A personal example that I have is that a family member recently sent me a picture that was mocking Black culture. It was a picture of a young boy wearing a hoodie and who appeared to be “throwing gang signs”. The caption was ‘my little hoodlum’.
My immediate thought was that Trayvon Martin was an innocent teenage boy who was gunned down for wearing a hoodie. What they expected to find on his lifeless body was some kind of weapon. What they found was a bag of Skittles he’d just bought from a nearby 7-Eleven. While I get that this picture was “just a joke”, I was the one who was told that I was being too sensitive and that I’d misconstrued the entire situation.
This goes back to intention versus impact. The person’s intention wasn’t harmful. It was meant to be funny. But the impact was so incredibly harmful because there are instances of innocent Black boys who have lost their lives for less. When I called out the behavior as problematic, I was the one who was deemed a bully even though this is my culture that I’m sticking up for. As a Black person, we are taught to not wear hoodies, to not loiter, to not appear suspicious because at any point we could lose our lives. I know this sounds grim, but it is how Black people are raised.
Your Black Friend,
***Toya has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. A 30 something who is happily married to a fellow organic chemist. (They are self- described ‘big nerds!) They have two cats, Luna and Titan.Toya has been super active in the bookstagram community for over a year and a half.
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