This letter is hard to write because I am married to you in so many ways, as are so many of us racial minorities here in America. You are our neighbors, coworkers, and friends (what a blessing!). You are our beloved country (for many, land of our birth and for others, land of our choice). You are our loving church (the body of Christian believers). For some of us, you are our sweet spouses (wonderful soulmates most of the time). And finally, you are our children (if a drop of black is still black, then a drop of white is still white). The only thing you are not is our Savior. And we’d really like for you to understand that.
So last week’s blog, To My Black Brethren, risked me “letting whites off the hook too easy” and dismissing the anguish of blacks as a thing of the past to get over already. This week’s blog will undoubtedly risk me being “ungrateful” and “a sellout.” Well, here goes!
Whites, you are not perfect. You are not the standard of all measurements. You are not the model for physical beauty or for spiritual good. You are not necessary. Rather, you are a gift to us people of color, just as much as we are a gift to you. When you don’t realize this, you cease to be a gift. You improve us, just as much as we improve you. When you don’t acknowledge this, we have no patience for your ignorance. For many of us, the times that you slip up and show your skin color are the times we feel our deepest need for God–our only hope. He is the only one who fills our longing for acceptance and dignity. He understands us completely, and never behaves unbecoming toward us.
Sometimes, we forget to turn to Him, and we turn to fellow racial minorities to understand us, relate to us, feel our pain, and fight for social justice with us. We advocate for “the least of these” because oftentimes, we feel like that in this world that revolves around wealth, power, and whiteness. But it’s an endless, vicious, draining fight that has not been satisfying. And really, from our perspective, you started it.
Maybe you are not personally racist. After all, you love your black and other colored neighbors. Some of you even married us, which you see as the ultimate gift of loyalty and friendship–and it is, but refer to the third paragraph about what it means to truly be a gift. Maybe you did not come from a family of slave owners. Or you think that was sooo long ago, a thing of the past, “can’t we leave it in the past already?”, forgetting the trail of evidence of lingering racial inequality since then. Or you might be a recent fair skinned immigrant from Europe so you want nothing to do with the opponents of the civil rights movement or the silent majority folks. Maybe you are a fairly good person who pays his taxes, obeys the laws, works hard, never had a hand up from the rich elites, and who gives to charitable causes sacrificially. So you cannot see your privilege, and understandably so.
I’m very fortunate to know many compassionate, humble, wise, understanding white folks in my life for whom the next few lines are not applicable. Yet, there is still a sizable number of you who say and write things that I must address.
For instance, when you say things like, “She has such beautiful olive skin…see, she’s not so dark complected,” you are seeing things from a very white standard. This is also white supremacy because it links normality and acceptability to whiteness. Your heart may be pure gold, but your mind is fallibly human (single lens, limited by the perspectives and experience of your skin color).
When you say, “Look at how classless they behave and you wonder why they can’t pull themselves up,” you really don’t get it. Because then you go around and skewer a fine young Olympian mercilessly for “pouting” and being so “unpatriotic,” because she did not put her hand over her heart like her teammates did during the national anthem, but then you overlook the drunken debauchery of four white American men (the lead one in question is 32 y.o.), engaging in property destruction and altercation, as being “we all make mistakes when we’re young” and “boys will be boys.” This is not exercising color-blindness.
When you say, “They do it to themselves, they bring on their own problems by their negative attitudes, they kill each other at a much higher rate than whites kill blacks (through abortions and homicides), etc…,” true, but you don’t come across as compassionate or knowledgeable about systemic issues. Read Iyanla Vanzant’s Peace from Broken Pieces to gain insight into familial patterns of personal and family dysfunction.
Then there’s the case of the controversial black conservatives: “Look, blacks turn on their own kind and call them sellouts or Uncle Toms. They bully the the ones who want to speak correctly and do well in school as ‘acting white’ when those people just want to improve their own lot, so they get what they deserve.” Your fair pigmentation is showing, really, because you are speaking and seeing from a white lens only. Check out this compilation of race related articles that can help widen your perspectives.
Finally, when you say, “X, Y, and Z (Black famous VIP) have done really well with their lives given their background, so don’t tell me you can’t do better in this post-racial America,” you are still not understanding the debilitating plight of the downtrodden. Or, when you believe things like, “Well, Asians are a racial minority who’ve also suffered discrimination historically, and if they can become amazingly successful, why can’t blacks?” you are comparing apples and oranges (also being insulting and dismissive).
And there is no room in this short blog to explain it all, so believe me when I say I speak as someone who is already married to white. And as your other half, I am invested in your best interest because it is also in my best interest. We are family.
People of color are not putting you down just to engage in “reverse racism.” Rather, when you are so out of place, we try to help you see that, hopefully with respect and empathy. We are not ignorant or uneducated when we passionately disagree. It may appear so to you, but we are not destroying our own good.* Maybe you never chose white supremacy, just like none of us ever voted to be born with our skin pigmentation, but how is your life showing that you see the gross discrepancy in America based on racial lines?** How have you shown that you truly care in your heart, not just care to be right in your mind? Everyone has to survive in this imperfect world. There is no separating, you are in this life with us. So, whether whites understand this or not, we’ll still move onward. After all, marriage is forever, especially the kind that is made in Heaven.