Can people of color and white people be both friends and teachers?
I’ve really been struggling with this question for quite some time now and I still have yet to find a definite answer.
As an adoptee raised in a white family, the majority of my friends were white. The people of color in my life were few and far between even though I lived in a country that predominantly mirrored my skin tone.
But white people have a way of pervading an environment even if it is not for them. They tend to feel they fit into any space, at any time and they don’t feel uncomfortable about it.
Missionaries will go to places where their skin tone does not match the people they are “saving”.
Non-religious volunteers will go to countries where they really want to do good but can’t seem to realize that their super power is their skin color which makes them somehow better than others.
White adoptive parents will adopt kids of color for many reasons: we don’t see color, the child was cheaper, the parents were drug addicts, we can’t have kids….this list goes on.
White people take up space where people of color can’t; In their own lives.
The level of comfort and the look of happiness on their faces make me wonder how much of an ally they really are. I mean, how can you be an ally for people of color and then play the savior card?
- How can you want to empower people of color but then take their babies and raise them to be like you?
- How can you be an ally but then send the same kids you adopt to live in a predominantly white neighborhood. Just because YOU feel comfortable in any environment does not mean your child of color feels comfortable in any environment. 9 times out of 10 they are aching to leave the white spaces you forced them into while you are aching to enter into a space that is not yours.
I watched a youtube video awhile back about a white couple who moved to the “bush” and lived a life of “simplicity” as they like to call it. They created a mansion out of mud, rock and wood. They CHOSE to live as a poor person. If that does not display ultimate privilege, I’m not sure what will.
I also read and article where a lady decided to downsize and live in a tiny house. I love tiny houses, and even within that tiny house, they had more than someone living off of 10000 dollars a year.
For a white person, downsizing is still living what step higher than someone else. I have no problem with that. My problem is when they don’t realize their own privilege.
Even the poorest white person can get a loan quicker than a working class black person. I know that is a bold comment to make but I’m all about lifting taboos here and this is something people don’t like to talk about.
I watched a video once of a woman who divorced her husband and then built a house from scratch. She took out several loans to build the house and had all this time on her hands. Kuddos to her for being able to do this. But is she woke enough to realize that the fact that she was able to take out one, two or even three loans is a privilege?
Let’s talk about a savings account. Most developing countries struggled to understand the concept of a savings account because to many people in the developing world, understanding what it means to have xyz tomorrow means you forget about the present. We are asked to live in the present. To be thankful for the now. To understand the now. To have food for the now.
I believe in the concept of a savings account because when you have children who are college bound, hopefully what you save up can make life a bit easier for them. But is this even realistic? What about them working and paying for their own college? Isn’t the thought of being college bound a privilege in itself?
I am surrounded by people who want to be my friend, who want to touch my hair, who think I spent hours on my hair so that they could admire it. I grew up with adoptive parents who exotified me, fetishized me and saw me as some kind of creature from another planet with soft skin they were entitled to touch, strong butt muscles they were allowed to squeeze, and amazingly crinkly sponge-bob-square-pants hair they gave themselves permission to “boing” at their leisure.
I grew up not having autonomy, healthy boundaries or permission to my own body. Not having opinions of my own and when I did have opinions, I was silenced and equated to “other blacks” who were unruly.
I am surrounded by people who believe that since I am their friend, I am responsible for teaching them what it means to be “black” or a person of color. They expect me to be their teacher and their friend but the moment I call them out, they no longer want to learn, they rather just “be friends”.
Is it possible to be a teacher and a friend to white people? As a friend, I speak my truth but am supposed to worry about how my truth will affect them. As a teacher my job is to lay out the facts and make clear what is fiction. I am also expected to represent all people who look like me.
But blackness is not a monolith.
I can’t speak for all black people.
And because I was raised in whiteness, I for SURE can’t represent people of color since I am still trying to figure out my own roots and culture.
My daughter said something interesting the other day. She told someone she loves that she forgives them for their microaggressions and she is still trying to figure out her culture and her roots and that she would be happy to invite them on this journey.
My daughter is young and will learn that inviting a white person to learn about black culture and roots alongside her is like telling the sun to continue to shine strong at high-noon while you refuse to drink water. You will get dehydrated, and all your energy will drain out of you. The water replenishes you. White people can’t do that. They can’t replenish you. Only your kind can do that.
Empowerment is a tricky thing. I am not talking about a friend helping a friend up after they tripped and fell. I’m talking about a friend taking the fall for you so that you don’t have to.
- Empowerment is being ok with being wrong.
- Empowerment is exchanging your glass fragility for a wicker basket. Both are still fragile, but it is a different kind.
- Empowerment is confronting racism head on and asking how you are complicit regardless of whether you were there or not.
- Empowerment is continuing to ask the hard questions when you feel that you are all out of questions.
Empowerment is NOT teaching people about Jesus while they are starving.
Empowerment is NOT sending shoes to a poor country while shoe businesses are going OUT of business.
Empowerment is NOT adopting a black child and raising them in isolation.
Empowerment is NOT walking into spaces that do not belong to you.
Here’s the thing, people of color often don’t tell white people how they really feel about a situation. Black churches rarely share that their place of worship is for them, not for you.
People of color are not as honest as they would like to be because for some reason, we care about how you feel, we give you the benefit of the doubt, and…we are FUCKING TIRED of having to be your teacher.
If I were to tell you how many times I’ve heard “how am I supposed to learn unless you tell me“, this blog would be several hundred days long. I hear it several times a week. And it is exhausting.
I feel that when I am your friend, it means I can be honest but very quickly I learn that our friendship is supposed to be superficial.
I was told by a white person once that I spoke about race too much. This was coming from a white male who had all the privilege in the world. One day at church I was told that they don’t see color and they accept everyone. People who respond in this fashion are not concerned with my culture or my roots or how their skin color minimizes mine. They are not concerned with the impact. They are concerned with preserving their reputation and making their intent loud and clear.
The worst thing a person of color can say to a white person is that they are racist. It is the biggest stab in the chest. Because what a white person is hearing is that they hate people who are different. What the person of color is actually saying is that they benefit from a system that continues to allow inequality to run free like a child who refuses to put their nappy back on because they just want to be free.
I don’t often tell white people they are racist, but I do tell them that they benefit from a system that gives them a head start in the world. I tell them they spew out micro-aggressions all the time and that the rate at which they pre-judge a person is astounding.
White people don’t like to think about privilege because they well, have it. It’s kind of like:
- a millionaire dropping 1000 dollars at a dinner party-they don’t even think about it because, well, they have it.
- a teacher who is gifted in her job, she just does a good job, because, well, she’s got it!
- straight people thinking they chose to be straight. Because, well, they just are. Straight people don’t have to think about being straight because they are not attacked for being so.
Racism is tricky and those who are affected by it daily see it, feel it, and live it. As a black woman, it is not my job to teach white people about my experience so that they can feel like they “learned something new”.
It’s not fucking new.
- What we share about not touching out hair is old.
- What we share about racial profiling is old.
- What we share about our names being too exotic to get a job is old.
- What we share about out having to step it up in our clothing for work is old.
- What we share about having to justify why we should be able to wear our hair however we want is old.
- When we tell you that we didn’t get the job because we are black…that too is old.
- When we modify our name so that YOU can pronounce it and understand it….ummm…Toby (some people will get this)-it’s old.
- When we tell you the cop stopped us BECAUSE we are black….it’s old.
NONE of what we share with you is new.
Stop pretending it is new.
In today’s day and age, all you have to do is get on the internet and google this shit. WE are not your google.
The problem is, white people are not asking the right questions. White people are whitewashing their google searches so that they can check off “one more thing learned” on their diversity list.
They want to feel comfortable with their search. White people, don’t look for people of color to satisfy your “things learned” on your diversity list. Use each other. Ask each other, and then, GOOGLE THIS!
Yes, about entering spaces not for them. I went to a book club meeting for black women and who shows up? White women and white men (and a Chinese man). The moderator was a white woman. Would I ever go to a book club meeting called White Boys Read? Never. I’m not used to forcing my way into every space. I thought I would be discussing Trevor Noah’s book with other black women and instead, I had to censor my thoughts. The funny thing is I met up with a couple of the black girls after, and one said nearly word-for-word what you did.
If I ask questions and get information from “the source”, I don’t have to do anything thing else – which is also old…