I came from a politically conscious family. My father Ray, “had friends” in the Black Panther Party for Self Defense” and affirmed his racial pride loudly. I am not sure how active he was in the movement but I had been engulfed in the beauty of being black since birth. “I want the white of my eyes to be black” my father would exclaim with a raised fist.
This was how I was reared, which explains the culture shock I felt the first day of high school. It was a different world, and not like the TV show I grew up watching. These were rural-raised white people that had no concept of black pride. Even though I never felt like I fit in, I pushed through with the help of a black special education teacher. Ms. Coulter knew what I had been taught and how the microaggressions of this privileged class hurt. The day I decided to write for the school newspaper changed the trajectory of my path as a writer. A good writer, I learned later, challenges the status quo by asking the right questions. I was proposing a simple idea: why had there never been a black homecoming queen? This question challenged the standards of beauty of the school’s dominant culture, while elevating a black woman as equal, something totally foreign to them. The response was unnerving. First, the editors of the paper, rewrote the article misspelling every single word, completely distorting its message. Secondly, those that did read it reacted with passive-aggressive acts of violence.
Rewriting the article was a microaggression. The hate letters I got in my locker demanding me to “Go back to Africa” was a microaggression. The principle refusing to hold the culprits accountable was a microaggression. If it wasn’t for Ms. Coulter, the black teacher creating a safe place “to be black” I would have cracked under the scrutiny.
There is a happy ending. I graduated as a Texas Scholar, went on to a historically black college (HBCU), and spent the next several years writing for national publications. The racism I experienced could be classified as covert. No one blatantly called me a nigger to my face. However, for a lot of black people, (too many to name) overt displays of racism are fatal.
Racial tensions are high following the death of Gearge Floyd, Breanna Taylor and Ahmand Arbery and all across the globe I see people of all ethnic backgrounds showing black people solidarity in protest of unjust treatment.
However, amidst all the microaggressions and deflecting I am seeing from my white counterparts I am also seeing articles and posts of white people attempting to show solidarity by begging blacks for forgiveness, Democrats draped in Kente cloth, and whites washing the feet of black protesters. Conflicted: that’s how I feel when I see these displays. A lot of social media is for show and these actions, in my opinion, are no different. How does any of those actions get justice for people who are dying at the hands of racist cops? How does a politician putting on a Kente cloth change the economic condition of the working class, primarily black and brown people. Does exploiting black culture some how absolve you from the stain of slavery, Jim Crow, crack era, Reganomics, and now police brutality? Or, is this another way to soothe the guilt of having privilege?
So when I think back to my experience in high school and I ask myself what restitution would have looked like, I don’t think my white classmates apologizing to me on behalf of the perpetrators of violence would have sufficed. Now, if they had used their privilege to get the culprits punished, I their actions may have proven to be more sincere. For me to accept the narrative of white solidarity, white people MUST acknowledge how their privilege has perpetuated systemic racism, and use it to put pressure on the judicial system to hold police accountable the same way a black person is for the same crime. Anything other than that is just optics.