Note: This piece was written roughly four years ago.
I received a message on my Facebook timeline today. It read simply, “You know, not all white people are bad”. It was written by a young lady (she just turned 25) who worked for me at a real estate office I once owned. If you couldn’t guess, yes she is white. For the record, we haven’t spoken regularly at all since I closed my office but I remember her being affable and kind with the spirit and energy that comes from being barely twenty. All that to say our interactions were almost exclusively friendly
So, I feel like most, if not all, of the folks on Facebook, know this about me. I do not think that all white people are bad. For that matter, I do not think all people of color are good. I do however feel the need to discuss and highlight the struggles of POC and other marginalized people in America. To put it plainly being pro-minority is not being anti-white.
My great-great-grandparents were born into slavery. My grandparents managed to raise my mother and six other children in Louisiana at the height of Jim Crow. My parents managed to raise two black men (one gay) in the South Bronx at the height of the crack era and gang violence. As my wife and I raise our young son, I often reflect on the likes of Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Freddy Gray,Sandra Bland, and a host of others too innumerable to mention die over things the rest of the country routinely survives without incident (walking in a strange neighborhood, playing a car stereo too loud etc.).
In addition, I have watched as my non-cis and non-hetero friends have been dragged physically and emotionally while being made to justify their right to be treated with the humanity and respect they rightly deserve. Similarly, the consequences of the pursuit of these rights have resulted in needless death.
These are the realities that give birth to the need to speak out and speak up about injustice and inequality. These are the realities that have given birth to #BlackLivesMatter #SayHerName and a slew of others commemorating the victims of violence are born from.
I’m not an activist. I saw activism first-hand last week as two presidential candidates were made to acknowledge and discuss the need for the protection of people of color and the queer community. I am someone however who was raised to be vocal and honest about their worldview. I was raised to not kowtow to popular or easy opinions for the sake of getting by. I am reminded of this every time I talk to my mother and we debate over one issue or another. It is a way of life that has brought me as much freedom as it has frustration and retribution. My scant year and change working in independent media and getting to meet and talk activists and others in progressive spaces have only emboldened my worldview.
If any of this makes you uncomfortable I am glad. The cost of a privilege of any kind is the requirement that you remember that there are those who go through life without what we at times take for granted. While most, if not all, privilege is attained through birthright this does not absolve any of us from the responsibility they carry. I know the comforts of being a man brings me. I know what privilege my skin color brings me. I know what privileges come with my cis-hetero status. If I forget any of these things I discount the humanity in all others I engage and claim to love as friends and family.
If what I am saying offends or disheartens any of you I would say sorry except that I would be lying. On the contrary, I’m saddened by your response to it means that my life and the life of my family is an afterthought. It means that the freedoms of small handfuls of people inconvenience you to a degree that is unsavory. To wit, we were never truly friends anyway. In the end, I hope the people I count in my circle understand that statements like #BlackLivesMatter aren’t said to discount the lives of others but instead it serves as a reminder that ours do as well. That recognition is the beginnings to truly accepting my humanity, my spirit, and my love.
Below is the link to audio a podcast I appeared on where we discussed the piece.