I Can’t Ignore Racism; Can You?
I don't have the privilege of getting back to normal until racism ends
Hello friends, I wrote this last year, and it seems a good way to state my intention for 2021: to remain committed to anti-racism writing and education. After all, how can I do anything else?
I Can’t Ignore Racism; Can You?
When George Floyd was murdered — and it will never be anything else BUT murder — there was outrage that crossed racial divides, and even countries. Social media lit up with black squares and promises to do better. White “allies” appeared out of nowhere. Companies with troubled pasts hastened to say something, ANYTHING, about diversity, equity and inclusion.
A few months later, while there are still lots of people, Black and white, fighting the good fight (thank you; we see you), many “allies” have burned out. Many companies have gone back to business as usual. For many white people, fighting racism for a few weeks is too much or too hard.
Imagine how we BIPOC feel after centuries.
As a Black person, I don’t have that privilege. Your cause of the day is my LIFE, and many Black lives.
Here are some other privileges I don’t have when I move in spaces where I am “minoritized”:
I don’t have the privilege of being seen as simply “Sharon”. I move through the world with the almost unbearable weight of white gazes, ancient stereotypes, and low expectations.
I don’t have the privilege of walking tall, unfettered by the color of my skin, when many white people want to make me less than I am. (By the way, I refuse).
I don’t have the privilege of ignoring the impact of the color of my skin on white people in the street, in workplaces, and in everyday life.
I don’t have the privilege of forgetting that being in the wrong place at the wrong time could kill my Black brothers and sisters, my Black child, or me.
I don’t have the privilege of overlooking the fact that so many countries were built on — and grew rich on — Black people’s enslaved labor, yet we still aren’t truly free, and have never received compensation. (Though, I ask you, what could really compensate for being trafficked, enslaved, discriminated against, despised, deprived and hated?)
I don’t have the privilege of always seeing people who look like me AND represent my reality on TV and in the media. (Yes, I’m still mad that Denzel won his Oscar for Training Day, and Halle hers for Monster’s Ball. I’m not knocking the quality of their acting, but that quality was evident in many roles that didn’t involve crime or alcoholism.)
I don’t have the privilege of staying quiet when racists are actively discriminating against people who look like me. If I don’t speak up, who will?
I don’t have the privilege of ignoring racists’ attempts to invalidate my looks, my education, my presence, and my very self.
I don’t have the privilege of questioning whether this or that person meant to be racist. I know the impact, I feel the impact and I always recognize racism.
I don’t have the privilege of withdrawing from the fight to dismantle white supremacy — Black lives depend on all of us doing our part.
I don’t have the privilege of waiting around till the death of another Black man causes another wave of outrage. One more Black death in the hands of the police is one Black death too many.
So, no, I don’t have the privilege, the luxury, the option of going back to normal.
Nor do I want that privilege.
I want white people to begin to understand what it feels like to be in Black skin (you will never understand fully, but empathy is a start).
I want white people to look racism in the eye. I want them to do something about it, and to be actively antiracist.
And if they don’t, I want them to realize and acknowledge that they are willfully turning away from and ignoring racism.
The white world doesn’t give me the privilege of ignoring the color of my skin.
And so the white world should not have the privilege of ignoring racism, a problem that white people started, and that white people should finish.
Thank you for continuing to read and support this newsletter, and may 2021 bring progress on the anti-racism front.
Heads-up: If you want to do more work on anti-racism, and hear more of my experiences face to face, check out the anti-racism workshop I’m leading on January 23rd.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2020-2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.