By Brook D’lin
The country is in chaos right now because Black people are once again tired. Tired of being scared. Tired of being used. Tired of being abused. We are tired of watching videos of our sisters and brothers being murdered. We are tired of explaining to our children that cops are dangerous. We are tired of worrying about our men and whether or not they will make it home safely. We are tired of getting the short end of the stick in education and housing and employment and you fill in the blank. We can’t jog, or play, or work, or breathe, or exist. And we are tired.
Despite this, I keep hearing excuses from white people. “But I’m not racist.” We aren’t protesting correctly. We should be thankful it’s not like it used to be. We’ve come so far. Obama. Oprah. LeBron. We are making it up.
The problem is that we’re threatening the white way of life. White people can’t focus on their lives with all our screaming and protesting.
Good. White people deserve to be uncomfortable for a while.
Let’s stop pretending that simply not being racist is enough. White people have benefitted from a system specifically created to assure that they get ahead whilst the rest of us scrape up whatever is left behind. If you’re white, you are racist because you’ve been programmed to be by television and music and magazines and even the news. You may never call me “nigger,” but you probably don’t think asking to touch my hair is a big deal.
There are two kinds of racism: Aggressive racism and passive racism. Both are violent because they rob me of my personhood and autonomy.
Aggressive racism is what the man who screamed “nigger” at me from the window of his jacked up pickup truck last week is. In 2017, when a group of five grown ass men surrounded me in the Walmart parking lot, told me that Trump was going to send me back where I came from, and punched me in the face, that was aggressive racism. The KKK is aggressively racist. These kinds of racists are scary, but they’re easy to spot because the hatred they have is very apparent.
Passive racism scares me the most. It sounds like this: “You don’t talk Black.” As if all Black people in America must speak in a singular dialect. As if we don’t grow up all over just like white people. “You don’t act Black.” As if all Black people must act like the caricatures they see on TV. “I’m Blacker than you.” Said to me when someone has a tan or when they tell me how much they like rap music. As if I’m supposed to smile and laugh while they demean me and my ancestors. As if I should be proud that I don’t have all the trappings of the Black caricature in the minds of white Americans.
Passive racism claims we don’t have a systemic racism problem despite the mounting evidence to the contrary. Passive racism says braids and locs are unprofessional or ghetto, but the Kardashian/Jenner sisters are glamorous when they do them. Passive racism is silence during this season of change we’re experiencing because speaking out against racism or police brutality doesn’t fit your “aesthetic. Passive racism is especially scary because it comes from my friends and family. No, they wouldn’t call me “nigger,” but they also refuse to stand up and defend my right to humanity. Passive racism is a privilege. It is a privilege to be able to ignore problems because they do not apply to you.
Why is it enough to just “not be racist?” Why do white people insist on setting such a low bar for themselves? Why say “I’m not the problem” and then dismiss yourself? Do better. Be better. Speak up. Speak out. Defend the lives of those, like myself, who have it harder for a reason completely beyond anyone’s control. Hold yourselves to the same standard you insist Black people hold themselves to.
When we say Black Lives Matter, we’re not saying only Black lives matter. We’re saying that Black lives need to matter because white America acts like they don’t.
Don’t tell me all lives matter when I’m sitting at home sobbing because I’m too scared to go to Walmart with my curly hair because some dude threatened to shoot me last week for simply existing. Being a Black woman in America is exhausting and terrifying.
Don’t tell me all lives matter when my nephew had a gun pulled on him by a cop at FOURTEEN while walking home from school.
Don’t tell me all lives matter when I can’t get on Facebook without seeing another video of a Black person dying.
Don’t tell me all lives matter when we can’t get jobs or homes or even an education because the cards are so stacked against us. And when we fail, we’re told to work harder. Do better.
I just graduated from one of this country’s top law schools. I have worked hard. But I still can’t carry in my groceries, or sit at a stop light, or walk into Walmart without being harassed. I still have to spend hours straightening my hair just to be taken seriously. I still sit up at night worrying that I’ll have a child blessed with dark skin who will be unjustly punished for it.
So, do better, America. Push yourself to be uncomfortable. Read books about white privilege. Watch movies and TV about our plight. Listen to Black people when they tell you you’re being kind of racist. Apologize and actively work to correct your behavior. Not all of us can stand outside holding a sign, but all of us can do better. Teach your kids about race and how to be an ally. Amplify Black voices and lift us up. Fight for us. This is the only way you will ever prove that all lives matter.
It is no longer enough to be not racist. You must be vigilantly and aggressively anti-racist. Anything less puts you on the side of the oppressor.