When You and Your Whiteness Betray Us/ Holding A Space for Us
How quickly you (White Women, or Accomplices, or Allies in training or whatever the fuck you are and want to call yourselves) use that ever present whiteness weapon of yours — that one right there that is always just within your reach — to endanger our lives, dismiss our souls and create violence in the name of your white comfort.
When I develop and foster growth and revolutionary beauty. When I use my powers to create and heal and inspire and change. That comes from me. That comes from my humanity. It is nothing, not a single thing that you are entitled to in any way shape or form no matter how much you may like it or take comfort in it. It is mine, it is my birthright and it is mine to share or hold back on. To invest in or deny. It is mine.
And when your whiteness shield and swords come out, the first thing you do is try to take what is mine and claim it as yours. Distort my humanity for your benefit, try to deface my beauty into garbage. Turn my hope into idleness. Trash and garbage, and despair. You try to make yourself entitled to my comfort, or complicit in your entertainment. This is what your whiteness means to you. Get whatever you want, however you want it, to do what feels good to you. Put an insufficient bandaid on that racial wound so you can stop thinking about it while blood is gushing out. Make yourself feel helpless so you walk out, while I’m stuck in that room without an exit door battling injustice on my own. And then when or if you walk back in you chastise me for not being more grateful for you showing up. These battles keep raging on and I’m having to absorb the costs of them, while you’re thinking about what they mean for you and your feelings and debating whether this is actually something you want to choose to do or not.
I want you to know something. I want you to know the personal cost of how your whiteness operates. I want you to know the personal cost to my trust and I want you to know the personal cost to my love and my hopes and my dreams. I want you to know about me because it is unbearably awful and unbearably painful how quickly you lose sight of me, — the person, the hurting — the instant you have a chance to think about yourself.
Before I go into this, I want tell you something. I hate you and I distrust you and I have every reason for that. And it’s not just for the 400 years of slavery and the value systems and norms embedded in society that allowed you to steal my children from me when they were only babies because they/we were your property. That you could violate and rape us and our ancestral mothers, because that was just wise business sense to increase the labor on your plantations or just because you wanted to or were bored. Or how you dehumanized and killed our ancestral fathers for refusing to be the “property” you wanted our ancestral human beings to be. And it’s not because of all the laws you’ve put in place to strip us of opportunities, or restrict us. It’s not because of the lies your people have made up about us to make it easier for you to devalue us. No it’s not because of all of that. It’s because after all of that, once you learn that, once you see that, once you start to digest that… after hearing and seeing and maybe feeling an ounce of OUR pain you have this magical ability… no this need to make it all about you. I am rolling in pain, open, wounded and bloody, raw and vulnerable, scared and sad and you’re thinking “wait does this make ME a bad person?” You retreat to “oh I feel too guilty, I need to think more and more about me,” or you say “I feel guilty, let me lash out at the nearest non-white person to make them make me feel better about myself” and I’m sitting right next to you and my vulnerability is out to you and my sorrow is open to you and you examine my guts to see what you can take from me to think more about you.
And I turn around and I turn away and I remember I never should have trusted you anyway. I remember my pain is my own. I remember I did not cause it but I have to be responsible for it. I know I have to be responsible for opening all my stuff up and for finding ways to heal myself again. So I sit quietly, I figure out a way to restore my guts, find a way to swallow my sorrow and sit with my pain. My pain that is carried with me, that is ever present. My pain whose exposure is always a requirement in your “ally development.” My suffering, which is always an assumed entitlement on your part. “Oh, well you just have to teach me” “let me understand you” “let me take more stuff from you.” No.
All the countless ways you betray us and then you want more from us. Its demoralizing beyond belief because in those little moments where you tried to look like a good person through “allyship behavior and performance,” in those moments before we knew not to trust you anymore. We did. We felt like we looked more human in your eyes. And if we could be human in your eyes, maybe we could be human in theirs, and if we can be human in theirs maybe they can value our lives, and if they can value our lives they can stop trying to kill our children… our mothers… our sisters… our brothers… our fathers….And if they can stop killing our mothers and fathers, our ancestral souls who were stolen and brought here to be repeatedly disgraced and dishonored and…. That they could be vindicated… that those pieces of humanity could be restored.
But no. When you have the opportunity, you take all this hope away. And you remind me of whiteness and you remind me of the ever present entitlements that you always have and how they are always at our expense. All those moments where racial injustice becomes visible to you because of something that happens to me, and you turn it into an opportunity to think about yourself. All the moments where I have bared so much of me, the rawness and the hurting and you take it as an opportunity to say “well you’re not going to attract allies like that” as if my very real pain and suffering exists only to seduce you into not being a shitty human being. As if my survival was a game to you, and my humanity were optional to you. Only on your conditions for when it feels good to you.
I don’t exist for you. I exist for me. I don’t trust you. I trust me. I trust we. I know that I actually know you very very well despite the fact that you know nothing and care nothing about me.
And this is not a letter to you white woman, white person. This is not speaking to you. We are not here for you. I’m acknowledging you because your whiteness is ever present and I know that. And I know that you will try to intrude yourself upon this narrative to find aggressive, abusive and violent ways to try to make this about yourself.
This letter is for my brothers and sisters who know these feelings. These words are for all those exhausted, and betrayed and hurting people of color who have to expose themselves over and over again. This is for you. You took those risks and you made those lessons and you pushed them to grow. And maybe they did some good along the way but it does not happen without a personal cost — sometimes a very personal cost. We wrote this piece to hold that space for you. To hold you. To let you feel seen and heard and known. To know that we hear you. We see you. We love you. And we are here with you. In those quiet moments of sorrow, disappointment and despair. We know you and we love you.
White person reading this, here is a betrayal test for you: After reading this what question are you asking yourself? A) what does all of this mean about me as a white person and how can I not have to feel bad right now? Or B) asking nothing because you are actually listening to the pain and caring about the human beings writing it.
Yet again our vulnerability and guts are on the floor, and I’m almost positive that right now all you did, white person, was think about yourself.
Do I keep having tiny hopes that you’ll figure out how to show up for us? Somehow yes. And while that may make you — white person — feel good about yourselves that there still might be hope yet, it makes me feel despair. I know there will be countless moments that I am required to expose myself yet again for you to come in even closer to me and gain even more access to me just just so I can feel your whiteness betrayal sting again. So go ahead, have your “yay I can still find ways to be a good white person!” celebration party while I take a deep breath in preparation for how much work and labor and countless disappointments that is going to cost me for you to feel good at your “white person identity protection and salvation party.” Just go ahead, since that’s what you seem to think I’m here for.
*This is the collective product of women of color and allies, and this piece specifically comes from a woman of color voice