Dear White People,You Must Listen to Black People

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I have been asked via a number of emails what can I do as a white person? My advice is to engage in different communities. Most of the white people I know do not have much interaction with others outside the workspace. White people have privileges due to being white. If you teach at an independent school, college, university, or in a profession dominated by whites from top to bottom — your chances are few, thus you will have to try harder. It is cool to invite folks to your white church — but how about attending a black church. Better yet — invite them into your home. Have you done that? Make your home their home. Breaking bread in your home says a great deal. Often, black people struggle to afford college, have a job that does not allow them to pay their bills on time, and thus have to work a second job. We carry a historical past that plagues us in ways not so pronounced to white people. If you want to be a true ally, you must surround yourself with black people. And, you must understand our narratives. Do not tell us we are wrong. Do not tell us we misunderstood a situation. Just listen to us and support us.

In Ferguson, Baltimore, and L.A., riots occurred after a cop killed a black man. Folks are quick to tell me it is not about race. Yes it is about race. I think about my white boss (es) everyday; I think about my white colleagues as white everyday. Why? [Because they remind me that I am black] Are you doing that? White people with guilt say they do not see color. If you believe in God, please know he/she sees color; if you believe in God, you know she/he sought the beauty of diversity, though white people created race as a construct for systematic and categorical purposes. In each of the aforementioned communities (Ferguson, Baltimore, LA), segregation and black inequality played a major role. We are not an equal society. Years of Jim Crow cannot vanish because King gave a speech. White people hold power. For example: the white upper-class part of North Baton Rouge tried to succeed from the poorer black community of South Baton Rouge just two years ago. They viewed the black community as dangerous and having an economic impact on their way of life. Instead of reaching out with the power white people have — they sought to separate. Do your kids travel to the other part of town to play? Do you make it an effort to find ways to have your kids interact with blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, etc.? Are you will to break bread with folks in the hood? So, if you want to know what you can do, my advice is to do what you are not doing. Telling me you do not see race is your first mistake. That is just your privilege talking. Do something.

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4 thoughts on “Dear White People,You Must Listen to Black People

  1. Thanks, Eddie–this is a good start. I’d also add that white people need to correct other whites who assume we’re in racial solidarity with them when they made a racist joke or comment. We don’t have to be confrontational – we can just say, “that doesn’t sound right” or “it makes me sad when you make jokes like that, because I think you’re a good person and I know you wouldn’t want to hurt other people.”

  2. Eddie, thanks for constantly helping me see from a different perspective. So here’s an interesting challenge: what if you mentally switched “black” with “white” in your post? Parts may seem nonsensical, but if you find yourself uncomfortable with what might now seem racist… then consider that an opportunity for fine-tuning? I love the challenge to invite each other into our lives; the problem with passivity is that gives away one’s power to experience the fullness that God has for each of us. I say that as a recovering coward. 🙂
    Peace.
    Jim
    http://jimkelley.blogspot.com/2016/07/left-handed-in-right-handed-world.html

    • Jim — I am late here; I do not think you can do (switch) such a thing. Privilege provides safety and a sense of norm for those but people of color. For black people, that is simply not the case. I cannot be what I am not, nor can others; however, as I noted above, we invite white people to walk with us in understanding of our plight — as we aim to do the same.

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