Keshia, 38, New York, USA
To the Silent White Majority…
I have so much to say about what's going on in our country these past few weeks and yet I feel unable to speak, my once outspoken voice metaphorically caught in a vice.
Not because I'm numb. I feel this all acutely, from my rage against the insidious Amy Coopers of the world —who front as open-minded and decent, only to reveal their rotting true self— to distress over the loss of life of George Floyd (and countless others) who could have been my friend, cousin or even father. (Do you, white, or non-black person of color, have any idea what it feels like to fear for the life of your parent on a DAILY basis? That one small traffic stop could result in their murder? If not, really sit with that for a moment and get back to me on what that does to you).
And it's not exhaustion. I will never tire of speaking out against inequality and oppression, whether it be against people of color, the LGBTIA community, immigrants, Muslims, native peoples and of course, women, etc. The oppressors of the world are banking on exhaustion, creating a sense of fatigue as each day brings new ways to demean, take, abuse and harm. I won't give them that.
But what I am tired of is doing it alone amongst my community. To be the sole voice calling out racism while white people writhe and fret in uncomfortable silence or worse, go about their day unaffected and unmoved. Sometimes I wonder what you are afraid of…not being asked to join next weekend's bar crawl? Having a somewhat awkward exchange with Aunt Lucy? What scares you about losing the opportunity to engage with people who hold ignorant beliefs? Unless there's some part of you that agrees with them)? Do you think it's fair to partake in black culture — our music, our slang, our fashion, our movies, our TV shows, our food, our art, and our sports figures — without giving something tangible back to the black community who created them? We want your vocal support, not your knowledge of Drake lyrics.
And no, it's not fear. My sister affectionately nicknamed me Angela Davis, after the black civil rights activist. I've been known to engage with white friends to the point of tears, asking them to examine the dark corners of their belief systems. To make conversations really awkward with people I've just met who then reveal their Islamophobia. I was once thrown out of a bar on vacation, for telling off white man who happily told me all about his f*cked up opinions on Asians. (For the record, I told him to kiss my ass, sandwiched between other colorful language).
No, I don't fear those uncomfortable moments, but I do fear the high rates of Covid19 for the African American community, the police state, the thought of 4 more years of a Trump presidency, and silly white men with big guns who want their barbershops open now...
So, what is it that strangles my voice before it reaches my lips?
My pain. Pain of knowing that my truest self, my soul, will always, to some degree, be at the mercy of the way my skin color affects white people, as I am subject to the daily slights that chip away at my core.
Not a single day passes where I'm not made to remember how I look and my place in society. If you wonder why black people are angry, protesting and shouting their rage, well imagine being told, every single day, in small ways that present themselves as annoyances and in large ways that can take your life, that you are less than. That you are scary. Loud. Less intelligent. Unattractive. Worthy of being murdered on the street while the world watches.
Pain of knowing that one day, very soon, I will have to explain all of this to my innocent, sweet daughter, the same way my parents and grandparents explained this to me. (No, being half white doesn't save her from any of this. Just ask Megan Markle; even marrying a literal prince won't save you from the wrath of white hatred).
It's not that I didn't expect to have the many conversations about race and racism that ALL black children are given, a realistic preparation that little by little bursts the innocent bubble of childhood that each child is owed.
What keeps me silent the anguish of seeing the racism of our country play out exactly the way it always has and knowing she will soon (so much sooner than you white folks realize) also be held under the oppressive gaze of racism. Of knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do to protect her from that.
I naively thought that by the time I had kids, maybe things would be a little bit better. That there'd be more allies who would vocally and proudly stand beside us. That the systems in place to keep black and brown people down would be chipped away, one day at a time. That the idea of "protect and serve" could possibly, maybe, begin to be applied to me and my children.
But weeks like this one— with its rubber bullets and its false allegations, tear gas and death, injustice and ignorance— make it clear that the ideal picture of the future I had is not today. I wonder if she too, one day years to come, will find herself looking down at her own child, hoping and praying for a country we can be proud of. Or will she smile, scoop her baby up in her arms and feel the sense hope I'm missing today.