Friday, July 15, 2016

Dear White Friends

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: hot, humid, desert sun, cactus, polar cap, Marmaduke

They were submitted by:

This post is going to be controversial for some people. All I ask is that you keep an open mind while you read, try not to get defensive, and do some research. Perhaps this applies to you or maybe it doesn't. And for the time being, I will be turning comment moderation on just in case. I consider myself an ally and I want this to be a safe place for people of color as well as the people this was written for... For my POC friends, if I have something wrong and you would like to see a change in what I have written, please feel free to contact me. 


Dear White Friends,

Some of us, maybe all of us, have charged into the issue of racism, systemic racism, and police brutality like Marmaduke in perhaps every single comic strip ever written about the often lovable and well-meaning but clumsy mess of a Great Dane. Sometimes our good intentions keep us from really taking a look at how our actions, words, or lack of both affect others. I mean, you can be “liberal” or “progressive” or claim “I’m not a racist, but…” all day long, but none of those labels and sentence starters mean anything if you aren’t willing to take a look in the mirror and evaluate yourself and your own biases every now and then.

So, look, I know that it’s probably hot where you are. It’s certainly a humid version of literal hell here in South Georgia, weather-wise. Maybe the desert sun where you live has you feeling as prickly as a cactus and in desperate need of time on a polar cap in order to make you give two shits about any issue that doesn’t affect you directly, and who can blame you really? Life is hard enough when you have to worry about yourself and your own family much less the lives of people who have, quite possibly, a different culture, religion, sociopolitical stance, and socioeconomic stance than you do. Life is fucking hard without getting involved in social media debates about whether a black man that you have never met in a state you don’t live in was to blame for police killing him or not…

But here’s the thing, and it’s a really huge thing: People who aren’t white can’t shut it off. People who aren’t white can’t do what I did this past weekend and decide to turn the news off, to escape from the harsh reality that is American violence, and be absorbed by the comedy shows I love. That doesn’t ever or in any way imply that White people can’t have tough lives. I just said it for all of us, for every human—life is fucking tough no matter what. It’s pretty much tough by design from the simplest of creatures up to the most complex. But, it’s always going to be at least a little tougher when you are pre-judged for jobs, loans, housing applications, on social media, by friends, by people in the neighborhood you live in, by the police, by the court system, by the entirety of our capitalist society just because of the color of your skin, something you are born with and about which you have no choice.

I like to use a work room cafeteria analogy. If you go into a cafeteria where everyone pays the same amount for a tray of food and notice that, for example, all of your coworkers who belong to a union are given 2/3 of the amount of food as those who don’t, would you speak up? Would you notice? Would you say, wait a minute…this isn’t fucking fair? That’s what oppression is (in a nutshell), and that oppression/systemic racism exists in a myriad of ways in this country. Women see it in terms of social treatment, rape culture, and the wage gap, among other ways, but it is not just enough to demand equal pay for women without acknowledging the fact that racist policies and procedures exist that devalue the work and jobs of people of color. It's not enough, then, to see the strides that have been made since the beginnings of civil rights activism and think the fight is over just because you have a few black friends on your Facebook feed...

I get that you want to scream ALL LIVES MATTER. It’s a defensive reaction. But, the idea that it’s necessary is absurd. Police brutality is an issue for all races. We see the numbers. Police officers have killed over 500 people this year alone which pales in comparison to other nations with similar social structures and policies—even countries with as prevalent or more racist populations than we have. White people are dying at the hands of our overly militarized police far too often. No one would deny that. Across the board, police brutality is an issue. And we know it’s a police issue and not just a population issue because in places that use body cameras consistently and places where police have undergone more extensive de-escalation training, incidents of police shootings have declined. BUT, when you statistically break down the numbers of shootings by race and population percentages, people of color are far more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts while a large part of our society fails to see that a problem exists. There is an implicit “too” at the end of Black Lives Matter and not an implicit “only” at the beginning, and that’s where the issues of both accidental and intentional misunderstanding come in. When Jesus said “blessed be the poor” no one in the background shouted “blessed be all” because everyone already understood that Jesus was speaking for a fucking population that the majority failed to recognize as worthy of blessings… What is being asked for…no, what is being demanded rightfully and understandably right now is that folks acknowledge the problem and stop dismissing it as an isolated incident or derailing the conversation with bullshit like All Lives Matter or “well, why don’t you care about black on black crime?!?!” The hashtag, phrase, idea, organization, and sentiment is Black Lives Matter because for far too large a portion of the population, when a black person is killed at the hands of police, it is always, always assumed that he or she asked for it (sound sickeningly familiar?) and nothing is done about it.

Since I mentioned it, let me just go ahead and say that if you’re one of those people who think it’s okay to shout “black on black crime” as some sort of battle cry on social media, you’re an ass. I’m in no way sorry for saying so; feel free to take issue with it as you will. There are three things here that catch phrase, when hurtled like a dagger, fails to realize. One, there isn’t a dichotomy here. People can care about both police brutality against people of color and also care about intraracial crime. In fact, if more people cared to actually research, Black Lives Matter organizations across the nation do more in the community than protest when a police shooting occurs. Those are just the ratings-grabbing stories the media chooses to focus on. In Chicago, the key city for most people who argue against BLM, people in the movement and community created an organization of volunteers who disrupted violent altercations in the community before they could actually happen. Two, when a black person murders another black person in a community, the person who unjustly killed the other goes to prison. There's no grand jury that fails to bring an indictment because of the token phrase "I feared for my life." But here is the main thing—almost all crime is intraracial. Most crimes committed against white people are by, you guessed it, white people. And most crimes are crimes of proximity which also explains why they’re intraracial. Human beings commit crimes against people to whom they have easy access. The vast majority of rapists rape friends or family members. The same is true of child molesters. People rob in their own communities or take from family members. Murders often happen with people living in the same house and same community. Hell, even some serial killers remain close to home taking victims within a very close radius to their central home point. That’s just the way people work. It’s not a matter of something wrong with a very specific race as is suggested by black on black crime. I mean that whole phrase is pretty much a bullshit term.

I think, for the most part, there is a failing of understanding at play when people get defensive and shout over the other voices--the voices that are rarely really seriously heard. When people say Eric Garner shouldn’t have had his side hustle selling cigarettes or when people say that all lives matter or even when men shout “not all men” in spaces that women use to discuss feminist issues, it’s a complete lack of understanding of what happens outside your own every day existence. When a person doesn’t have to live it, it’s easy to pretend like a problem doesn’t exist. When men walk down the street in NYC and never get cat called once, it’s pretty damn easy for them to decide cat calling isn’t really an issue of importance. People who deny this problem of race and police brutality exists and who deny, as well, that systemic racism exists, aren’t living it. They aren’t having to talk to their children about how to avoid being shot by police when they’re pulled over for driving while black or thrown to the ground for wearing a hoodie while black. We have to pay attention to the voices of others. People of color need to be heard, validated, and understood. It’s not enough to say “well don’t put the blame on police” when you fail to realize that from the very start police forces have been used to oppress people of color. Police forces were the ones smashing skulls in Selma and all over the nation during civil rights protests and acts of civil disobedience. Police forces that continue to use Broken Window policing to harass the poorest and often minority neighborhoods that only exist because of discriminatory housing practices to begin with… It’s easier, ultimately, to pretend the problem lies with a group of people that have never really been respected as equals in this country than to understand the reality is that the policies and procedures and, perhaps, the very foundation of that country are broken.

We have to be better than this. I see exceptional people every day lending their voices to the cause. Lend yours. As with Horton Hears a Who, it’s going to take every voice possible to create change, from those with the most power in addition to those with less.

With Love,



Baking In A Tornado

Southern Belle Charm

Not That Sarah Michelle

Spatulas on Parade

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

My Brain on Kids

The Bergham Chronicles

Never Ever Give Up Hope

Confessions of a part time working mom

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Molly Ritterbeck

Juicebox Confession

When I Grow Up

Sparkly Poetic Weirdo

On the Border


  1. It's so much easier to judge those whose shoes we don't walk in. And although much has to change in our society, I do believe this current political cycle has set us back many, many steps. I can only hope that we can start moving forward again, and at a fast pace.

  2. Great post, Jenniy!
    You're so right, we can never know what it is like to walk in other people's shoes, whether they are people of color, members of different religious groups - or police officers.
    We have a responsibility to make a difference in our own little environment, especially if we're in a position to hire and promote people, rent a place to live, support education, etc.

  3. A lot to think about here.
    Great use of your words...

  4. I met a man this weekend who said he had been stopped by police 162 times in 17 years, without cause. One of these instances, he was talking on the phone in his own yard and asked for ID because he didn't look like he belonged there. He spoke rather matter-of-factly about it all. I just can't imagine a white person tolerating this behavior.

  5. I agree with Karen. It is so easy to step back and judge. We must be the change. All of us. Thank you for this!