Dear White Girl I Used To Know

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June 2, 2020 by liebestropfchen

A severe drought of critical thinking skills has destroyed my faith in online conversation. Without critical thought, many people fail to discern fact from fiction within a constant barrage of salacious material with which we are daily inundated on social media. I seek details, data, and the ability to break down complex issues into objective observations (which, unfortunately I often cannot do because some overly-confident ignoramus usually swoops in with non sequiturs anytime I drill down on a weak point in the argument).

Too many deviations from one person are taxing to my analytical brain. As a measure to keep a healthy mind and soul, I left Facebook several weeks ago after getting into a very heated exchange with a former high school classmate over whether wearing masks or face coverings is more deadly than the Coronavirus.

Yes, she is one of those.

She’s a fusillade of irrelevant anecdotes, misinterpretations, and sophism. Little wonder, she is also one of those white people who denies the reality of systemic racism.

Though I left Facebook before the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, I already knew what I was (not) missing in Zuckerberg’s morass community pulpit: Ms. Non Sequitur herself would be eyeball-deep in Rush Limbaugh’s racially charged absurdity, spewing it as her own unique perspective. First, I felt relief I wasn’t witnessing her drivel. Then, as the peaceful protests grew more fervent, I recognized I’d failed to honor my duty to educate unenlightened white people about racism.

In case you woke white people don’t know yet, it’s OUR duty to educate other white people about racism. Friends don’t force friends explain their worthiness to Karens.

I know it’s not enough for me to simply identify one person and confront them in their bigotry. Therefore, I am publishing what I wrote to Ms. Non Sequitur (removing extraneous or personal details) as an open letter to ALL white people who still are skeptical about the vast lot of make-up work America must do to guarantee justice and equality for our black citizens. Since her commentary cited in this letter is very popular in certain pockets of America, I know she’s not the only one to whom this could be addressed.

Charged as some of my words may seem, I am tired of arguing with skeptical white folk over the certainty of racial discrimination. As John Adams said in 1770, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Forgive my impatience, but I’m not going to shy away from tough love.

Dear Ms. Non Sequitur,

I understand you have your point of view which has been shaped by your individual life experiences. As a former conservative who voted for many Republican candidates in the past, I recognize the talking points you claim as your own independent thought, and I am saddened at the level of ignorance you regurgitate without any critical thinking. Systemic racism does exist, it runs very deeply, and your words are the primary example of it.

Imagine the amount of privilege one must feel to be a middle-aged white woman who lectures her African American friends on the experiences of African American men in America. The world is filled with hundreds of millions of people who have different challenges, different triumphs, and different life-altering moments than your own…yet your response to real-life examples from your friends who have felt the pressures of systemic racism is to claim you know better than they how *their* world works.

That’s about as insulting as a man trying to tell you that he (who has never had a menstrual cycle) knows more than you do about what period cramps feel like.

Two black men recently commented on your post that there is a reason for the anger so deep it burns buildings, or that they have been the victims of discrimination based on the color of their skin. Your reply to them was that they were mistaken. If that isn’t proof of systemic oppression of people based on their race, then I don’t know what the fuck is.

I understand conservative circles are dependent upon perpetuating the notion of American exceptionalism, the American Dream, and personal responsibility equating to financial freedom. However, those are visions dependent upon systemic oppression of a certain gender, various classes, and race that was built into the fabric of our founding documents. While you have focused on the logical fallacy that “slavery ended 150 years ago” you have forgotten (or willfully chosen to ignore) the FACT that many people could not vote until 1968. Barely before you or I were born, black men and women could not attempt to vote without being harassed, beaten, or lynched. If you feel confident that you – a middle-aged white woman – know more than the expertise of scientists, anthropologists, genealogists, analysts, or journalists who show that racist behavior takes MORE than a generation to un-learn, then I fear you have delusions of grandeur which amount to dementia OR a very unhealthy sense of self which could lead you to feel you also know more about space travel than an astronaut.

Humble yourself. Try listening instead of talking. Hear your African American friends when they talk about what they’ve experienced, instead of lecturing them about how wrong they are about what they’ve seen with their own eyes.

I understand why you’re so resistant to admitting racism is a systemic and widespread problem. Admission of such truths would shatter your vision of American exceptionalism, and the shattering of such a dream means you will have to accept the very bitter pill that you’ve believed a line of bullshit your entire adult life. Don’t dwell on the things you didn’t know. As Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Any good student of history can tell you that discrimination is inherent, and systemic inequities are very hard to undo without sweeping legislation AND multi-generational behavioral change. Current refusal to acknowledge a glaring problem actually makes the systemic discrimination deeper, and more impactful. There are millions of people who never had a choice when they were born into, or raised in, poverty or a broken home, yet I consistently see you judging people who are in such dire circumstances, saying they need to take “personal responsibility” for their circumstances and just get themselves out of it.

“Personal responsibility” as a means to financial freedom and social norms is a lofty ideal, but let me be very clear about what you’re missing: Personal responsibility requires the *choice* of said person to enter into the very thing for which that person is supposed to be taking responsibility.

George Floyd didn’t have a choice to survive his murder, which you’ve rightfully acknowledged. But that one example doesn’t absolve you of the myriad of examples you fervently choose to ignore. Systemic racism doesn’t just deal with a lack of choice – it actually removes the person’s ability to overcome that lack of choice, which then gives an appearance for tone-deaf Americans to believe conservative stereotypes of the black community.

Lack of choice is terrible. Systemic blocking of that choice based on race is criminal.

When you’ve acknowledged a person has a lack of choice to be raised in poverty, you do substantial harm to subsequently hold that person responsible for their plight if they are impoverished as adults and did not have the same opportunities as you did. Socioeconomic movement today is oft similar to the laws of physics – substantial change requires an outside force to come and push things in the opposite direction. By denying the depth of racial discrimination and inherent biases today (which I have seen in the education system, in the work force hiring process, and within your own Facebook posts) you’re obstructing the outside force required to get rid of systemic racism inherent in our laws.

I’m calling direct bullshit on your “I can’t get a scholarship for being white” nonsense. Scholarships for black students and other methods of affirmative action would not even be necessary if discrimination weren’t STILL a problem today. The point of those measures was to level the playing field until the general population stopped overt and covert measures of discrimination against black Americans. Looking at statistics across the board, allowing equal opportunity for higher education still isn’t happening in 2020. Therefore, the presence of affirmative action today is the very proof that those measures are needed.

Rather than pointing the finger at minorities and demonizing the best method they have for counter-balancing the systemic racism, try holding up a mirror and ask what YOU can do to level the playing field so that those measures are no longer necessary.

Bias is inherent, instinctual, primal. We must work against those primal instincts in order to treat all humans fairly. Historians recognize the patterns of human existence and what we see happening now (protests, riots, looting) has happened in the 1700s, the 1800s, and the 1900s. Corporate greed, income inequality, racial disparity, and riots happen as a result of people like yourself who bury their heads in the sand far past the time when mountains of evidence should have been enough to change your mind to see clearly. The peaceful protest can be pushed to violence without de-escalation, violence leads to destruction, destruction sparks change. Improvements fade after a few generations grow up without any frame of reference for what’s been taken for granted, freedoms slowly get etched away, or reverted…. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Your words are being etched into history on your Facebook timeline, and I assure you future readers will see the errors in judgment. I’ve been in your shoes, denying racism. But then I stopped talking and I started listening. I came to terms with the fact that the image of American exceptionalism was created as a defense mechanism to overcome the guilt of doing terrible things to people. It isn’t real…yet.

We have a chance to be exceptional. But don’t for one second try to claim moral superiority by using some false sentiment of exceptionalism – born during a time of slavery, perpetuated for 100 years with Jim Crow laws, and covertly dog-whistled to white supremacists since the 1980s – to codify your fragile ego while our fellow citizens are being treated as lesser-than.

Denying racial discrimination merely labels you as willfully ignorant of your own surroundings, which makes you complicit in the continuation of injustice. To address something very specific you hinted in one of your comments: “Black people are given more opportunities now than whites…It’s 2020 and we’ve come a long way.” Your words are clearly suggesting there should be no reason for black Americans to be protesting or angry enough to break shit right now. Let me remind you the importance of knowing history. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech (you know the one, “I Have a Dream”) in August 1963 with these exact words:

“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”

An unspeakable horror occurred last week. I can name three more unspeakable horrors within the past month.

Dr. King said his work is not done as long as white cops have killed a black man for no reason, so how can our country deem the quest for civil rights to be complete? Therefore, I urge you to see this as unfinished business. MLK did not condone violence, but I assure you that 57 years of being told “We gave you some freedom, what more do you want?” is enough to make even the most demure of persons want to burn the system down.

I wish our fellow citizens weren’t burning cities, but I also wish our country hadn’t been oppressing them for long enough to become that enraged. You and I can’t change our history books, as you said, but we ARE writing our own history now. You can choose to be better than our ancestors or you can choose to mosey along as if you bear no part in making a better society TODAY. Ask not why black Americans aren’t yet satisfied with what they have, and instead ask why our society has not yet finished the challenge MLK set forth on that day before we were born?

I challenge you to listen, instead of talking. Hear your friends’ experiences, rather than lecturing them that THEIR life isn’t YOUR reality. Be grateful that you don’t see what they have seen. Be thankful that your worst day was never enough to make you want to burn a city. Systemic racism isn’t about taking anything away from you, Ms. Non Sequitur. This is about what you can do to help, such that they won’t ever have to burn a city out of rage for just wanting you to believe them.

They believe you when you say this country is great for YOU. It’s time you start believing them, when they say this country hasn’t afforded them the same.

She replied with a non sequitur, of course. I’ve asked for her citations.

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