Today's lesson, Racism. If you see something written here that you’ve said or done, use it as an opportunity. Take it as a wake up call and make the decision to grow, change and be conscious of your own privilege. Remember, I am not a speaker for the entirety of a people. Use this blog as a reference tool, not as the one and only view on the topic.
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Not all silences are created equal.
This is going to be a hard post for some of you. I am going to do my best to explain in detail but maybe you should go get a hot drink before you continue reading.
There are some topics where it’s hard not to dismiss the “It’s not fair” argument. Like non-black people that think they should get to say the N-Word. You know why you can’t say it. No matter how much you shout that it’s not fair, YOU KNOW WHY you can’t say it. You shouldn’t have any NEED to say it anyway.
This is an argument that I almost encourage to be dismissed because no matter how much you tell me you think it’s unfair, I know that you know why it’s not okay. You do know why.
Then, there are things that can be extremely confusing. Even if you have the best of intentions. Even if you are constantly working on your ally status. It can be hard to understand.
Silence is one of those things
Let’s talk about it…
A Silent Ally is Not an Ally.
This can be difficult. In most cases, this can be the most difficult thing about being an ally. Speaking up. When you are out with your friends and someone says something racist, your silence equals agreement. You may not mean it to but it does. It does 100% of the time. There are no exceptions. None. This can be scary and uncomfortable. I have lived in places where, at times, it was actually dangerous to speak up as an ally. I am not talking about these times. If you are in a situation that could actually be dangerous, your silence gets a pass. However, your discomfort is another thing altogether. Being an ally is not easy. Yes, I know I made a post yesterday about how easy it can be. Yes, there ARE things that can be done that actually are easy. Let’s not pretend we don’t know what it means to be an advocate. It’s tough. It can be tough a lot of the time if you live in certain areas. Still, you must speak up. Speaking up doesn’t mean calling someone names or even getting into an argument. It can be a simple statement of “I don’t hang around with people that say those kinds of things so if you are going to talk like that, let me know so I can leave.” It’s a statement. It’s letting your boundaries be known. Then, sticking to those boundaries no matter what.
Yes, this “Simple statement” can absolutely turn into an argument. You have to know that going in. Still, stay strong. It’s uncomfortable and scary if you are the odd man out but still, stay strong. Unless there is actual physical danger, I personally see your silence as being in agreement with the racist.
A Silent PoC Might Still be Mad.
It doesn’t mean we are okay with what was just said. It doesn’t mean we didn’t hear it. It doesn’t mean we aren’t mad. Sometimes, we HAVE to ignore it. We have to. Sometimes, a lot of times, we have to say to ourselves, this person is a piece of shit and I know that. I am just going to keep eating my hamburger because if I don’t, this will turn ugly.
This is where it can get confusing for an ally on at least two levels. First, You may have the same thought, right? You may also just want to eat your hamburger. Here’s the difference, there are things that we have to consider in our arguments that don’t have to be considered in yours. For example, you and your best friend are out to dinner. She says something racist. You call her on it. You two argue. She’s mad, you’re mad. You both go home mad. Later, you either work it out or you don’t. Normal stuff. If I were out to dinner with a white friend and she said something racist, I would call her on it. She might get mad, I might get mad and we might argue. Then, other white people will join in.
Oh you don’t think this happens? It does. As a matter of fact, not only has it happened to me, I saw it happen the other day at a restaurant with a couple that was sitting not far from me. You may be reading this as a good ally but there are a lot of people out there who aren’t. It’s that entitlement. Jumping into conversations with people you not only don’t know but feel entitled to add your two cents too.
On top of this, if an actual argument happens, the PoC (especially if black) will be the angry ____. The angry black man. The angry black woman. Whatever. People who don’t necessarily jump into the argument will discuss it. Right there in front of you. They won’t be quiet about it. They will say things like “Black people always want to argue” or worse. This really happens. Far more than you may realize. In addition to that, if some overzealous person were to call the police (yep, seen this too. Over absolutely nothing) the officer will be much more likely to see the PoC as the aggressor. ((I have actual proof of this as well. I’ll be posting on it in a day or two))
This is a hard thing to explain to non-PoC because you don’t live in the same world. You don’t have the same view point. You aren’t to blame for that but you should try to understand why the very same words and actions can cause a very different outcome. As much as we’d like to believe it doesn’t matter, race does have a roll in that.
Yes, I know you can think of something that happened with two white people where all this crazy stuff took place. I don’t doubt that one bit. The difference is that the other people that were around, especially if white, aren’t going to make sweeping announcements about their race. They also aren’t going to use this one single incident as proof that “This is how those people act.” If the police are called, which is less likely, each of the people involved will be given equal attention.
This is what we have to let go through our heads in order to decide if it’s worth speaking up. For you, it’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. It feels like people are going to not like you or look at you differently. For a PoC, it’s a decision of “Do I want to go to jail tonight?”
If you’ve just read this and rolled your eyes or you think it’s an overstatement of facts. Find out for yourself. No matter how many times I tell you that you shouldn’t ask PoC about their experiences and feel entitled to answers, some of you still do. Some of you have read #7 of this post and know that even I believe there are exceptions to this rule. Now, if you’ve read those exceptions and you fit those guidelines, ask your friend who is a PoC to read this. Then, ask them what they think. Maybe you’ll find someone who disagrees but I am willing to bet you’ll find far more that do agree. Go ahead, give it a try.
Second, if you are an ally, there is yet another issue that might seem extra confusing about the situation of silence. What if it’s you, your white friend and your black friend? What if your white friend says something racist and your black friend says nothing? Should you still speak up? Yes, you should. Here’s the thing though, pay attention. If your black friend tells you to let it go, or says that it’s okay, LET IT GO. It doesn’t mean that the black person is okay with what the racist person said. You did the right thing. Stopping when asked, is equally the right thing.
I know this is very difficult to understand. I’ve even seen cases when a white person stood up for a black person and the black person ended up being mad at the person who stood up for them.
They aren’t mad for the reason you think they are. At least, not in the case I am talking about.
The black person was mad because he had asked the person to let it go and he didn’t.
That seems simple but here’s what happened: By the time the black person asked the person to stop, the two white people were already steaming mad at each other. So the white ally, took the black person asking them to stop as the black person being on the white racist’s side.
That isn’t what it was about. The black person asked the ally to stop because they saw the ally as the “Rational” one. They felt like if one of the two would stop when asked, it would be the ally. The ally however, saw it in another way. This caused the ally and the black person to argue and because of this, the racist person felt as if they were being validated and getting the “okay” from the black person.
Just pay attention. That’s all. Don’t assume things. Listen to what you are being told and know that what is being said might not be all that there is to the story.
Yes, this is confusing. If you read all this and felt like your mind went fuzzy, I understand.
This is the best I can do so I hope it helps.