“Dear White People, It’s Time to Check Your Privilege “
With the surge of the international movement, Black Lives Matter (BLM), it’s time for white people to check their white privilege and how they participate in rallies, difficult conversations centered on racism, and how they use their social media platforms. As a WHITE woman, I am in full support of working in solidarity with marginalized groups and being committed to acknowledging and supporting their resistance to anti-Black systems and racism; however, there is a way to work in solidarity without centering yourself in a movement that is not about you.
The purpose of the BLM movement was to center on the lived experiences of Black people who are routinely subjected to anti-Black racism, victimization, in which they are also dehumanized, arrested, and murdered at alarming rates internationally. From the inception of the BLM movement – White people continue to place themselves in the forefront of the discussions of anti-Black racism, which has been highlighted on social media platforms and observed in rallies – e.g. hijacking the original message through posters that state, “All Lives Matter”. Such acts are forms of white privilege and a demonstration of a major misunderstanding of how to be a successful supporter of the BLM.
This section is specifically for the white people who show up to BLM rallies.
Unless BLM organizers have asked for you to come rally in solidarity for protection against police, or as an observer, why are you participating in a protest and occupying space when you are the oppressor? White people, I know you may mean well, but please, stop inserting and centering your voice in places it should be silent. If you do choose to show up, know when to be silent and not further antagonize the leaders and people in these movements. Until you are able to actively listen and respect Black experiences, you will never be an ally. Black people are being murdered, oppressed and violated daily, so before you decide to talk about issues you have no knowledge on, ask yourself: Do I need to speak on this issue? Who are my words hurting? Am I contributing to the Black community oppression by saying this? Black people do not need white people to speak for them or need white saviors – they need acknowledgment. It is not your job as a white person to police or tone down Black protesters who have a right to express their frustrations. If you cannot support what they are saying, it is OK to leave and find a different way of engaging in anti-racism work. In addition, since white people have privilege, think about how you can wield it in a way that benefits Black people. When showing up to a protest, ask yourself: Are you willing to learn everything possible about anti-blackness and the many forms, so you can dismantle it? Are you willing to give up everything you have to make sure Black people can survive, thrive and be safe? If you cannot answer yes to those questions, you don’t need to be at a protest if you are not willing to use your privilege to benefit Black people rallies. Therefore, do not, on any occasion, lead chants – a kind reminder, this is not your moment or your space. Make room for the Black people around you to lead chants. Support them with your voice. Pay attention to the impact of who and what you are supporting, as some words are not yours to say.
Lastly, to bring attention to social media, I would like to unpack what I regard as slacktivism. Slacktivism is when people who identify as activists resort to social media platforms to support a social or political cause but are doing little or nothing outside of that as an activist. Activism does not stop at a hashtag, retweet, or reblog; it is a good tool to bring awareness, but this form of support is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to further action. Just because you hashtag “Black Lives Matter”, does not mean you have done your part as an activist, nor does it relinquish you of the responsibility to do anything else pertaining to anti-racism work. Until you have genuinely committed yourself to helping a cause, whether this is the BLM movement or supporting causes against systemic oppression, you truly haven’t done enough – other than lifting the guilt or burden you may feel from these horrifying acts of anti-Blackness that the Black community continues to experience. To be blunt, if you are not willing to go beyond your computer screen and actually get involved in making a change, you really do not care about the cause. If you are truly convicted by the hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, you need to demonstrate what you are willing to do to ensure that black lives actually matter. So, the moral of the story is – get out and get involved, because signing a petition, tweeting a hashtag, and sharing a video is not enough and will not truly make the world a better place for Black people.
Instead of being proud of your hashtag, your shared video, or your username that states “Black Lives Matter”, do things outside of your virtual world that actually matter and contribute to the BLM movement. By doing so, it then authenticates your activism and is proof that you care more about the cause than yourself. If you really want to fight anti-Black racism, you would not only use a hashtag on your twitter feed. You would make a donation and you would do it without any expectation of recognition. By demonstrating you need a gimmick to give only demonstrates that you are not convicted of anti-black racism. If you want to help, give money or time because otherwise, your efforts are the only reflection about your own gain. My take away is: The “good” that you do doesn’t need to be known by everyone. The only one that needs to know is you, and if others find out, that’s a bonus.
Hopefully, this piece has been useful for White allies.
-Do good things for people, without the expectation of praise!
Cettefeministe is an Intersectional Feminist and activist.
You can follow her via Twitter
Disclaimer: This essay has been approved by BR for publication on RebelliousRebel.