Special thank yous go to our friend & talented photographer, Alysia Spencer, for graciously providing both of the photos featured in this piece. We encourage everyone to check out Alysia’s work on her Instagram @thecreeveycam.
Hi readers. Though we’ve been present in our personal outlets/circles regarding #BlackLiveMatter and the most recent unjustified murders of Korryn Gaines, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, we haven’t exactly been vocal here on our blog, speaking as “Fat Girl Big Mouth.” At first we kept quiet, occasionally sharing an article or two on our Facebook page. We agreed that it was very important to us to not snuff out voices of the Black community, because there’s nothing worse than whitesplaining an issue that affects Black people; however, after some deep introspection and insight from Black voices in our communities, we realized that it’s also unfair to say nothing at all. By saying nothing, we further perpetuate the notion that we (white people) solely expect the Black community to carry this weight on their own, educate on their own, and change the course of oppression on their own.
We say “nay” to that. Guided by thousands of resources out there from the Black community, a handful of which will be linked throughout this piece, we wanted to write a letter to our fellow white people about how we can all do better and work to be better allies for the Black community…. Without further ado, here’s our letter.
Dear fellow white people,
Let’s do better. Though on the surface they seem like three simple words, they hold more weight than that. They hold responsibility, accountability, and most importantly, the potential for true justice.
And we’d like to say here and now, lest we come across as “Holier Than Thou,” that we’ve made mistakes, we’ve made bad calls, we’ve been racist… we’ve all done these things. We’ve all, whether internal, external, or otherwise, have unfortunately lobbed microaggressions and racism toward Black people in our lives. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or blissfully unaware of what constitutes racism (stopping here at the word ‘racism’ to remind you that no, reverse racism is not a real thing). Whether it’s telling or even laughing at a racist joke, walking to the other side of the street to avoid a Black person walking in your direction, or actually using the “n” word (yes, even if you were just singing along to a song) – they’re all actions rooted in racism and all real-life examples we’ve heard firsthand from the Black community.
As white people start to wake up and realize the mistakes, the racist actions and the microaggresions we’ve made in our lives, we are quick to want to offer some kind of penance, some kind of “sorry I was an asshole” moment. Typically, we offer this penance by lighting up social media in support of #BlackLivesMatter, and share the videos of vicious takedowns and murders of Black people like Alton, Philando, and Freddie Gray in total outrage, sadness or disgust. But our cries on social media quite frankly don’t do much. Circulating the videos actually does more harm than good. Our nodding in agreement and sharing of white-faced late night TV hosts’ quotes and videos as they speak their feelings about a movement that isn’t ours to own is a little backwards, when you think about it.
Though our voices are important in helping to push the #BlackLivesMatter movement forward, ours are not the most important voices in the room. We should not have the megaphones. Instead, we should hand over our amplification to Black people as they talk about their real life experiences and make their demands. For those of us white folks who try to say the BLM movement is “terrorism” or “unproductive” or “a nuisance”, we need to stop for a moment to reflect on why we feel this way. After we’ve unpacked all of that internalized racism, we need to stand with and show support for the Black community. Attend vigils and protests, support black-owned businesses, donate to the BLM movement or other organizations that help people of color… and for fuck’s sake, if you see something racist, call it out (but more on that in a minute). There are a myriad of ways we can use our privilege for good. We should only be using those metaphorical megaphones when we’ve specifically been asked. It’s a balance, and you may find it’s not easy to maintain at first, but it does exist.
Don’t Derail Conversations. Better yet: Stop using “________ Lives Matter” in place of Black Lives Matter
This really shouldn’t have to be said, but unfortunately every time a Black person or ally claims that Black Lives Matter, there will always be the person stepping up to say but “All lives-” or “Blue lives-” (which aren’t a thing, but we’ll revisit this later) or plug in whatever they deem fit to proclaim. Let us tell you why this is crap. When you say “blue lives matter,” do you mean that blue lives matter more than other lives? No. Do you mean that you believe police are unfairly targeted? Yes. This proves that you know exactly what someone means when they say Black Lives Matter. You know that they feel that the Black community is unfairly marginalized and targeted for the color of their skin. You just choose to ignore it to better suit your own narrative. That’s gross. It’s obvious that Black people want to matter the same amount that every other life matters, however statistics show that they do not.
So before you pipe up to interrupt someone shouting “Black Lives Matter,” do the world a favor and put yourself on mute. Before you stand up to defend your friend, your sibling, your parent, your significant other because they are a law enforcement officer, put yourself on mute. Before you claim that you don’t have privilege either, put yourself on mute.
Another way conversations of racism get derailed is through wanting to share the ways in which your life has been difficult as a white person. As intersectional feminists we are always up for a discussion on how poverty, classism, gender, sex, or religion affect your daily life. However, if you only want to talk about these issues when others are discussing racism we’re going to have a hard time believing that you are after equality. Trust us, we know it’s hard. Facing and owning your privilege is super hard. You’ve suffered, too! Your life hasn’t been easy! We know, we know. Before we understood our own privileges, we used to get really hurt and angry for being accused of having “privilege.” But the more we learned about the world, its unfairness, and the oppressed, the easier it was to see that we truly are privileged. Now it’s our job to do something with that privilege to create a more even playing field for everyone.
It’s Our Job to Speak Out Against Racism, Even When It Means Calling Out Family, Friends, and Coworkers
There are some of us out there, despite tons of different resources spelling out everything above (and more), that still won’t get it. Those of us that refuse to acknowledge it, blindly sticking to our own ways, screaming “WHAT ABOUT ME and MY LIFE?!” These are the same people that feel as though reparations are bullshit. The ones that spout false, diluted statistics about “black-on-black” crime. Those who complain about the movement’s message – but don’t all lives matter? White people that work to derail Black-led movements are nothing new. There are plenty of images out there. Y’all know where they are – just check your dusty, old, white uncle’s Facebook timeline!
Those of us that are aware that these microaggressions, these racist comments, these derailments are present very rarely confront them. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve bit our tongues when watching our Trump-Thumping family members make these microaggressions by way of nasty comments and posts on Facebook. We stay silent, for fear of upsetting the balance in our families, for fear of a text message from Mom or Dad asking us to “knock it off” or “end the argument” when they see us snip at the offending family member on Facebook.
…but lucky us, so privileged to only have to deal with ruffling someone’s feathers, meanwhile there are Black people in our communities fearing for their lives when they speak out. Now reread that statement. That’s some shit, isn’t it? Can we just put that into perspective for a minute? We are so. damn. privileged. that the only thing we possibly need to worry about for speaking out about the injustices on the Black community is getting into a Facebook comment skirmish with Trump-lovin’ Aunt Lizzie that might leak over into Sunday’s family dinner. That’s it. We are not shot. We are not beaten. We are not kicked or threatened or spit on. Many in the Black community are not so lucky.
Using our privilege, we need to start calling this out more often – not just on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; but, also on the bus, in the grocery store, in our own homes. Many Black people are calling on us to do this, and have been calling on us to do this. The “social” in Social Justice Warrior (a badge we can all wear with honor, by the way) doesn’t just mean “social media.” If you can, if you have the privilege to do so, start putting the spotlight on racist remarks in real life, start attending marches and vigils, start getting involved with the BLM chapter in your city. Don’t solely attack microaggressions behind your computer screen, because sadly, that’s not the only place they exist.
There’s not much else we can say other than we promise to strive to do better, and we hope you join us in that promise, too.
Gia and Kyria