James Baldwin said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all of the time.”
Though I try to temper and channel that rage, sometimes it is impossible to keep in. The events of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Christian Cooper, and the Covid-19 virus taking out a disproportionate amount of black folks has created a moment that is no longer served by the tempering of that rage. I am angry and in no mood to placate white feelings. As black folks, we need to process our thoughts and feelings in this moment for the health of our community. I have no energy to pacify the needed words for the sake of the white people who may read or hear them. Most of my sisters and brothers and I live lives of measuring and moderating our actions and communications for the white folks in the room. Today is not one of those days.
If you are white and you need black people to be nice to you right now, you are not understanding the gravity of the moment. By asking or insinuating this, you are only asking to re-center the conversation on yourself. I will not. Please do not ask this of the black people in your life. If you ask me to talk with you, I am not sure what you mean. Do you want to ask questions? Do you want a calm demeanor? I have walked with more than my fair share of white people as they get ‘woke’. In those conversations, I can pacify the rage Baldwin so eloquently names. Now is the time, however, for me to talk on my terms.
For good reasons, many black folks cannot make their unfiltered thoughts public. White America is a fragile people group and there are consequences for black folks when we speak. I don’t blame my people; it is a cost/benefit analysis every time we communicate unfiltered.
We will not wait for the story to unfold. We don’t need to know whatever dirt can be drug up on Ahmaud, George, or Christian. Lynching is not back in America, it never left. Too many police officers have evaded prosecution by claiming ‘they felt like they were in danger’. Now this line of reasoning has gone beyond policing. Any white gun owner can justify killing a black jogger because ‘they felt like they were in danger’. Any white dog owner can justify calling in the state execution team because ‘they felt like they were in danger’. This escalation presents an existential threat to all of our black bodies.
Our ancestors, like Baldwin, lived these realities too. They had wished for an evolution in this country so that we would not have to face these atrocities. Their wishes have not come true. It seems like mine will not either. I am losing faith in the America that my grandkids will face. Let’s hope they listen to BLM, Kap, and others preparing them for their moments.
If a white person wants to listen in to these conversations, you need to be prepared to know that it will sting. You can have a place in the conversation, if it is with me, in this moment, but it will be a hard conversation. Do the work of listening to black folks and take those thoughts to the white people around you and consider them deeply before engaging any person of color right now.
If you are a black person reading this, take care of yourself. Come together. You have no responsibility to bring your white friends along. I applaud you as I know that some of you will have the grace to do this. Your anger is justified, your despair is shared, your life is valuable.
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I am white and your friend. I thank you for using your voice and sharing your anger. I will always stand with you and support you.
I’m a Christian Brother. My color doesn’t matter to Christ or me.
Thank you! Well said.
As a white woman of maturity (75) and still feeling young though saddened by the atrocities I have seen in those years with the Blacks and Whites … I will only tell you … having a conversation with you would not be stinging .. you would be preaching to the choir only different skin color … I have witnessed with my heart, my anger, my disbelief and my sadness, growing up in the deep South the hatred that is and has always been taught about the black population.
I was partially raised from the age of 6 by wonderful Nannies; we have wonderful cooks who make me the best collard greens, cornbread, chittlings, cracklin bread and on and on and on ..(to a wonder I don’t weigh 500 pounds now with the lard and butter and bacon drippings). But I digress … I cried and yelled and pitched redhead fits with my family and close neighbors because I could not understand why those that I loved and we loved could not drink out of water fountains (colored only); or order from the same window for take out, (colored only); or go to our churches or schools; or talk to us on the streets; or address us always with “Miss” which I hate to this day and will not tolerate; or toiled in the cotton fields which I witnessed every day picking and pricking their hands carrying those tote bags .. men, women and children; I have and will never get over, witnessing a KKK group putting a burning cross in the front yard of one of our family employees (colored) and sadly have also witnessed the almost hanging of another wonderful black man because he stopped to help pick up a dropped grocery bag for a white lady and was accused of lewd conduct leading to probable rape (give me a break ..fortunately the sheriff was there to stop this)… and I could go on and on and on…. it has stayed with me in my heart all these years and I will never forget the hate and intolerance for blacks (colored folks) that was and still is taught in the Deep south and outskirts of hillbilly country handed down generation after generation.
Fortunately, I am blessed with many wonderful friends of African American descent from all walks of life and they are treasured as are my white friends, my Indian friends, my Italian friends, my many European friends and my Southern friends, etc. I have never yet been able to wrap my head around why the white race will marry anything (any race) except Black … but actually it’s easy … it is taught and accepted
Will that every change … truthfully … probably not …. and it eats away at me and many of the white race that embrace the African American, Black or whatever you wish to designate your own … not until the prejudice, and taught hate is gone forever. But vandalising and destruction and killing one another is not the answer either …actually, I don’t have an answer. Wish I did … but I hope in all of your anger, sorrow and despair now and forever … you will not hold ever White Person as one who does not care or understand. Many of us do and do care and love many who have become fast friends and we feel as much compassion for you as possible and would speak up for you and protect you in a heartbeat … that has been proven over time.
Now, you have every right to grieve, be angry (mildly put), hurt, outraged, and on and on … I cried like a baby and wanted someone to do desperate things the other day when I watched the video .. it made me so sick to my stomach and anxious and angry .. I wanted someone, anyone to jump the POS officer and take him out .. do anything other than do nothing but I also saw the circumstances with the other 3 officers standing by and the taser being pulled … I don’t have the answer …
But … know we are not ALL alike … know that there are those who respect and love you for your heritage and your culture and your hearts and your determination over all these years and will always be there to help in any way we can and to continue to love each of you in our lives. It might not be much … but it is all I can offer from my heart.
God Bless you all with measure in all walks of your life and my he enfold you in his arms and give you peach.
Thank you for your comments.
I am 85 years old and had the good luck to have my sister enter a biracial marriage 50 years ago, but after her death at age 33 my wife and I inherited the good fortune of raising her 2 year old child. Skip ahead 50 plus years and we now have an 11year old grandson who is the finest boy alive, and every time I see a young blank boy/man killed unecessarily I can imagine that happening to him.
I now live in an all white retirement home for comfortable white people who have convinced themselves that they are nonracist and have no “skin” in the game and don’t want to hear any more about the issue, it is just too unpleasant and tiresome. They do have strong opinions about black athletes and standing for the flag. and see no hypocrisy in that position. They drive me crazy!
Leroy, my heart aches for so many things right now and I am grateful for the words that you have shared and look forward to continuing to work and share life with you.
Yes. Thank you. You were extremely measured in this article.
POWERFUL my brother!!!! 🔥🔥🔥
Thank you so much for writing this piece.
This is something that all need to read and embrace.
Thank you for your powerful words.
My heart is heavy and sad for all that you have had to endure. Thank you so much for allowing me to hear your voice. I pray for our nation.