My husband jokes that without social media I’d have to resort to keeping up with the news. This has never been my jam. People who exclusively rely on the news sometimes have less information than I do. They’re not exposed to first-hand stories of the marginalized nestled amongst the noise of the Internet.
They haven’t witnessed POC be patient through the valley of the shadow of white tears. They haven’t been changed by the public conversations full of grit, insight, vulnerability, and hurt, despite the trauma and fatigue involved.
The Internet has made me a less ignorant person. A better ally. More empathetic and understanding. It exposed me to voices that I would have otherwise missed.
The day after SCOTUS ruled in favour of same-sex marriage nationwide, I saw a cartoon on Twitter of the rainbow flag going up in place of the confederate flag. It made me smile, and I almost retweeted it. Something stopped me—something that had nothing to do with critical thinking or insight.
Later, on Facebook, friends were in conversations about the problems with the flag cartoon. How it’s dismissive, appropriates black pain, and implies the black struggle for civil rights is over. And, once again, I was thankful to be privy to these public conversations. I was thankful for the chance to listen, learn, shake my head at my own ignorance and enormous privilege.
It’s tough to face internalized racism, bigotry, sexism, classism, ableism, ageism. It’s embarrassing and sad. Uncomfortable.
“It does hurt to be called racist, or to have your behavior that contributes to a greater culture of racism called out. That does suck.
However, it is nothing compared to the pain of racism and weight of discrimination based on race that people of color endure.
If you hope to be an ally to people of color in their fight for freedom and justice, it would behoove you to endure a few moments of discomfort or soreness in order to continue to grow and educate yourself.”
If the state of the world is breaking your heart and you don’t know what to do, start by earnestly listening to people of colour. Get comfortable with calling out the bullshit. And get comfortable with being called out.
Engaging in race conversations can be terrifying—as a white person who carries pockets of prejudice I’m not always aware of, I’m bound to make mistakes. My ignorance will reveal itself. But if there’s any hope of evicting the racism that resides in me, I need to embrace exposure as a risk that’s necessary and worthwhile. I need to get comfortable with discomfort.
That didn’t feel good, but maybe we’re not all supposed to feel good right now. Not yet. –Chenjerai Kumanyika
A piece I read last week offers a brilliant framework around racism and call-outs. I plan to follow it going forward.
“Racism is the norm rather than an aberration. Feedback is key to our ability to recognize and repair our inevitable and often unaware collusion.
In recognition of this, I follow these guidelines:
- How, where, and when you give me feedback is irrelevant – it is the feedback I want and need. Understanding that it is hard to give, I will take it any way I can get it. From my position of social, cultural, and institutional white power and privilege, I am perfectly safe and I can handle it. If I cannot handle it, it’s on me to build my racial stamina.
- Thank you.”
Follow with me, friends?