I was recently asked to write an open and honest letter to white people on how to be a better ally, but I was asked to do this in a way that would not come off as accusatory or would attack anyone. The thought behind this is that potential white allies will shut down when they are faced with those conditions. So I asked my husband, who is white, to help me with this assignment. This is the letter that he came up with instead.
As a white male married to a black female who has gained a following of nearly 20,000 followers across her social media platforms and who actively tries to inform people of subconscious and problematic behavior, I feel that I have a unique perspective on the current social and cultural climate. We have been together 24 hours a day for nearly six years and I mean that literally. We worked next to each other in graduate school and lived with each other the entire five and a half years during our PhD’s.
White people, we are fragile! We have the luxury to go back into our suburban bubbles and escape the reality that is society as well as the struggles that our fellow people on this planet are constantly going through. We need to accept this as fact before we can make any sort of change. You should be honored to be called out for being racially insensitive because it means the person is confident and comfortable enough let you know how they feel. The absolute worst thing you can do in that situation is tell them that they are wrong for how they feel. I get it, you also feel uncomfortable and that is okay but you need to understand that it is not about you. We have been dealt our cards just as much as minorities have. You may not like it but we have to bear the weight of what white people in the past did. It is funny (not comical) to me that here in America we think about how it is terrible that the Nazi’s were committing genocide against the Jewish people but we don’t seem to think twice about the fact that our ancestors did the exact same thing to the native population here when we decided that this country was ours. Guess what, that population is still dealing with the consequences of our ancestor’s actions. So why is it okay for us to not have to deal with it? Why do we have the luxury to sit back, relax, and not think about the problems that are present today because of the past?
We need to realize that we are not innocent because we did not take part in these things. We are only innocent once we face the fact that we are fragile and begin the change that is necessary! Just because you own books about “White Fragility” doesn’t mean anything if you don’t sit down, read, and try to learn. That is just performative behavior and is actually doing more harm. If you don’t want to read those books then don’t hoard them! You are preventing people who actually want to grow and better themselves from obtaining them. These are not shelf pieces to make it look like you are doing the work. I guarantee you that this fragile façade will crumble eventually and you will be left in a much worse position than you are currently in.
It is up to us to read these stories, both non-fictional and fictional, and to learn from them. One thing that we absolutely cannot do, however, is to criticize a person’s story because “we couldn’t relate”. Andy Weir’s novel “Artemis” is about a female smuggler (Jazz) who lives on the Moon and is trying to make enough money to get out of poverty. I absolutely cannot relate to that on a personal level but her story was incredible. Do you see the difference? Not being able to relate to someone’s story is basically telling people that you don’t care and can’t even begin to sympathize. I bet you if you actually dig down deep into your fragile egos that you can relate on some level.
Wake up white people, accept your fragility and let’s get to work!
I was pretty blown away with his thoughts because even though we have these discussions every single day in our household, it was the first time that I really saw his passion on the subject matter coming through. So I’ve put together a list of books by Black authors that I have loved (note: this list is NOT all encompassing) in order to take the journey to being a better ally. Also, these will NOT be the non-fiction anti-racist books, but a comprehensive list can be found here. While I highly recommend those books, I am a firm believer that reading fiction is equally important because it helps normalize own voices books.
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
- Slay by Brittney Morris
- Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
- Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
- The Space Between the Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (coming August 4th)
- The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
- The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
- The Deep by Rivers Solomon
- A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
- A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy
- Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
- Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
- The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
- My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
- They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall
- Lakewood by Megan Giddings