5 Things Black Folk Don’t Have To Do For White People In The Era Of Trump (Or Ever)
In the weeks following Donald J. Trump’s election to the highest office in the country, countless efforts have been made to demand that our president-elect “heal America’s racial wounds” by focusing on issues facing people of color, namely Black people. Even more so, many have suggested that placating racists might help to correct the race-d, class-ed, and gender-ed imbalances that seem to have just been discovered by so many white people.
However, I am a strong believer that the work of eradicating racism and dislodging the long-standing commitment that so many white people have to it does not belong to Black people. So, here is a brief list of things we do not have to do now that Trump has been elected president.
1. Educate them on racial inequality.
This suggestion should go without saying, yet I am still flummoxed each day as so many white people reach out to Black people demanding that we guide them through a) where racism and racial inequality came from, b) how come it is still around even though slavery “ended” in 1863, and c) what they are supposed to do about it now. This is probably the most confounding since The Google exists and there are countless online, in-person, academic, and community-based resources to learn about the specific issues and history facing this country. One of my favorite sources is from my friend Jasmine at the Just Jasmine Blog. Check it out.
2. Wipe their white tears.
One of the best descriptions of white tears I have heard comes from Jill of the Jill Is Black blog. In one of her searing and accurate videos, she describes those who use white fragility as racists “who will rely on tears and defensiveness as weaponry…cause they’re really good weapons.”
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In addition to white tears being a good weapon, they are a mechanism that many white people use to guilt, shame, coerce, or manipulate more marginalized people into doing unjustified emotional labor. In this moment, when so many white people have been seeking others to blame for the political choices they have made for generations, it must be made clear that Black people do not, I repeat, DO NOT have to bend, contort, or compromise themselves for those white people who would prefer to do as little work on themselves as possible in this effort toward racial equity and social justice.
3. Confirm that they are “good people.”
I recently addressed the fallacious nature of the idea that people can be racist and “good people” simultaneously. Often, when people make the declaration that they are “good,” it is in direct response to something that they have done terribly wrong. And, there is enough evidence out there to show that white people are deemed less blameworthy for their crimes and racial predispositions against people of color. In fact, mainstream society is structured institutionally and interpersonally to protect whiteness. This is centered in white privilege.
Therefore, the expectation that white people are inherently good is just another way that anti-Blackness operates and organizes daily life. Knowing this, Black folx must push back against the “good people” or the “bad apple” narratives that valorize whiteness. It is up to white people to acknowledge their privilege and implicit racism, hold themselves (and their peers) accountable, and work in their own communities to correct those behaviors.
4. Forgive them.
One of the most enduring features of white privilege is its reliance on a lack of culpability for white people that reproduces societal structures that harm people of color. It is even more pronounced after heinous acts of aggression like extrajudicial murders of Black and Brown people, or targeted racial hatred. We saw calls for Black forgiveness after Dylann Roof massacred 9 churchgoers at Emanuel AME Church after praying with them. We saw this in Ferguson after Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown to death for crossing the street. Time and again, Black people are called to forgive white people for the very actions that show just how deeply pervasive white racism is and how much work we have left to complete.
The fact is: Black people do not have to perform forgiveness just to assuage white guilt. It is not Black people’s job to absolve white people of racial aggression. And even as they work toward being better humans and dismantling their own privilege, we have no obligation to reassure them through unnecessary acts of mercy or exoneration. To believe otherwise is to embrace a type of liberation that is only possible if white people are, once again, deemed special snowflakes for even trying to eradicate their own racism. That’s just not liberation at all.
5. Anything at all.
It goes without saying, but we really don’t have to do anything in this life but (as my dad would say) “stay Black and die…and pay taxes unless you’re rich.” I’m pretty sure that applies in this case too.
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