I have been noticing with this thing, just as in the aftermath of the election, an uptick of posts along the lines of “if you disagree with me about [x], unfriend me!” or, “If you think [Tiki Klan] is okay, unfriend me!”
While I understand the emotion behind the sentiment, I am troubled in general by this ‘unfriend’ me idea re: you don’t think the way I do. It encourages tribe mentality, it encourages ‘us’ vs. ‘them’, it encourages the idea of certain people are throwaway people. Which is what got us here in the first place.
Because there aren’t throwaway people. There are definitely misguided people, there are frightened people, there angry violent people. But these traits are not inherent. And this is a crucial distinction, and one that means we need to keep the channels open between different kinds of people. Too many self-segregating white people is how we got where we are now — which is to say, how we stayed where we’ve always been, long before any of us were alive.
We are in the thick of the fight that is has been long in the process, years and years before any of us white people were noticing. We white people are long overdue to the hard work of dismantling paradigms and address the ways in which this country perpetuates and normalizes racism. And new people are noticing.
Those new people will feel upset and threatened by this. These new people are going to be struggling with white fragility long before they are able to soberly read an article explaining it. These people, newly removed from a self-image of goodness, are going to be desperately seeking belonging even as they fumble in major, obvious ways. (‘not all white people’, asking POC for education rather than educating themselves, etc.,)
We need those people to press on in their journey. And we need white supremacists to start recognizing these truths and begin their own journeys. It is hard uphill work. Especially during an administration that is actively inhibiting groups that work hard to deradicalize extremist individuals.
This hard work was not lost on the friend who posted this ‘unfriend me’ meme.
“I lack the emotional bandwidth to deal with folks in my social media sphere in addition to my professional life and personal life,” my friend told me.
And on the one hand, I get that. This guy is a leftist political radical, and does a lot of good work.
On the other hand, it reminded me of something a very different friend said to me once when I called them out on their racist joke, again via private message. I am too busy raising my family to get mixed up in all that.
And at the time, I didn’t know enough to point out that the ability to not have the conversation at all — the ability to just say ‘no thank you’ to those hard thoughts — was itself a shining example of the privilege they possessed and had all their life taken for granted.
I know now. And I try to bring that to the table now when I come knocking.
The burden of educating ignorant white people is on us white people, not POC.
POC are too busy trying to survive this.
POC aren’t going to be taken seriously by a doubting white person.
POC are too angry.
POC are the ones who truly lack the emotional bandwidth.
It’s spent and spent each and every day in every moment of living in what many call AmeriKKKa.
As white people, to mirror the eugenic rhetoric of “THOSE PEOPLE are BAD” does not make the un-woke woke.
It only makes them more angry.
It only creates more factions.
It perpetuates the disease.
It perpetuates the myth that there’s only enough civil liberty for a limited group of people.
Do whatever you can, every single day.
I am not saying you personally have to radically de-radicalize the alt-right.
But what I am saying is that you need to push yourself to do your part, as a white person.
I am saying that it is your civic duty to use that privilege for good, not evil.
To ignore it entirely, to side-step the fight, to say “meh, if you don’t like what I’m saying just remove me from your precious racial-stress-free internet space,” … that is the opposite of helping.
Indifference feeds the oppressor, and oppresses the oppressed.