Five More Ways To Help The Mental Health Of People Of Color
Welcome back. So you still have aspirations to be one of the mythical Good White People that people of color hear so much about but are rarer than a Super Blood Moon. This is so exciting. Stupendous even.
Taking the time, energy, resources to educate whites who claim to want to learn but have no intention of doing so can be an exercise in futility at best and another form of gaslighting at worst for PoCs. But you reading this piece illustrates that you’re serious about being a fabled good white ally. Here are five more ways to aid you on your journey. By no means a comprehensive list, but they will certainly help you in avoiding gaslighting and other forms of abusive and problematic behavior.
1. Acting Brand New Is Not A Good Look
And the Oscar for best performance in a racism discussion goes to…..
It’s as frequent as it is nauseating. Whether it’s healthcare discrimination, economic disparities, or harassment from law enforcement, whenever PoCs discuss institutional oppression, you can always count on a Meryl Streep clutching their pearls and feigning shock and surprise that racism exists and people are treated unfairly because of the color of their skin.
“Are you claiming that African Americans are incarcerated at a higher rate for lesser offenses than white Americans?”
“Are you saying racism is the reason that there’s little diversity in the media?”
“You’re claiming I have white privilege? How is that possible? I was never given diamonds and pearls and jet rides around the world.”
It would be one thing if that shock and surprise translated into whites taking action. Alas, a world of no. Yet funny how there’s never confusion when these same caucasians are paraphrasing the stand-up routines of Dave Chapelle or Chris Rock that call out white privilege. Funny how bewilderment was not on the faces of colonizers when they’re quoting Jay-Z lyrics that call out societal racism.
This ultimately translates to insincere whites running a gaslighting con job and a lousy one at that. They think by pretending to be naive they can convince us that they’re one of the good ones and thus innocent and untouched by the evils of racism. Or, they think that by acting confused they can outwit PoCs and prove that we’re too crazy/dumb/deceitful to know reality.
By engaging in such dog whistle politics, gaslighting and making discussions of our struggles all about them, they’re ultimately telling on themselves.
This is yet another example why we never mistake for ignorance for that which can be explained with malice. Because when it comes to racist whites, it’s almost always malicious intent.
Peekaboo, we see right through you.
Not you obviously fine reader, because you’re one of the good ones.
2. If It Doesn’t Apply, Then Let It Fly
When it comes to discussions on marginalized issues, there’s an unspoken rule. When minorities are calling out a privileged group and speaking in general terms, if what’s being said doesn’t apply to you, then we aren’t talking to you. So do everyone a favor and don’t make it about you.
For example, when I’m on a feminist/womanist forum and they’re calling out male privilege, I know there is a difference between calling out men in general as opposed to I am a man and therefore the enemy.
It would be immensely arrogant for me to demand womanists to acknowledge me as a special snowflake. You earn that title as an ally or as a good person by stepping up and doing the work in good faith and earning women’s trust and respect.
What’s infuriating is that when I make post after post after post about the racist oppression people of color endure, I never hear a peep from these alleged good white people.
But let me put white culture on blast and legions come out of the woodwork, trying to silence myself and others with this #NotAllWhitePeople nonsense.
That which is understood doesn’t have to be explained. Of course, there are good white people. If we’re looking at a world population of 7 billion people, statistically speaking there has to be, 40 on the planet.
Okay 4400 and that’s only because I loved the tv series. But seriously, no one is disputing that. However, it does stand to reason that if someone is attempting to derail a discussion on race with #NotAllWhitePeople, then they aren’t good people themselves. The derailing is also emotional manipulation and a passive-aggressive cowardly attempt at unearned validation.
Defensiveness is often a reflection of guilt. Or as we say in the South, hit dogs holler.
But that’s still not fair, someone might say. You know what else isn’t fair, racism, white privilege, misogyny, transphobia, poverty, anti-blackness, homophobia. Thems be the breaks. Welcome to our world.
3. Your Opinion Matters Not
You have an opinion. Stop the presses, everyone! Let’s end the discussion on racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, or any other conversation about anti-oppression. This trolling, white derailer, who couldn’t be bothered to read the original post, the comments, the corresponding links to other articles or posts, and who knows virtually nothing of the issues being discussed, has an opinion.
Of course, they are white; only white people think their opinion has the same weight as the Constitution or the Bible. Of course, they’re white; white people they think reality revolves around their opinion. As far as they’re concerned, their opinion is fact, religion, and law.
It is true; you do have the right to have an opinion. It’s also true that you are entitled to your opinion. However, not all opinions are equal. In fact, in many cases, your opinion simply doesn’t matter.
I’m always amazed that when discussing racism with other people of color online, a white narcissist will show up, uninvited and unwanted, admitting they are unfamiliar with the topic or issue at hand. Being uninformed or uneducated on a subject is certainly no sin, but white privilege confuses white people by teaching them that they can be experts on any given topic, regardless of whether they are informed or not. The discussion is over because, that’s right, they have an opinion.
Just as so many of them are of the opinion that racism is a myth and its existence is contingent on people of color changing their opinion about their experiences and histories. Just as they are of the opinion that their opinion (uninformed as it is) is magically on par with that of an actual expert opinion. Yes, even though I’ve worked as an equal rights activist for well over a decade and have written two books, countless essays and op-eds with more than a few going viral; even though I have traveled the country speaking on diversity and social justice, some random white person believes their opinion magically carries the same weight as mine – because, you know, they’re white and they have an opinion.
Let me explain why this logic doesn’t work in this little place I call reality.
While there are a myriad of topics I discuss on my blog, there are even more topics that I don’t address because of a few reasons: namely, I’m unfamiliar with the subjects and others have discussed them far more thoroughly than I ever could.
When I attend conferences and conventions, there are times when I’m sitting in the audience taking notes and listening to the speakers. On other occasions, I’m sitting in the front speaking while the audience is paying attention and taking notes. These are the instances when I’ve been deemed an expert in the subject I’m discussing and I have the education, experience, and skill-set to support my positions.
When I’m invited to do guest blog posts and op-ed pieces for various websites, it’s because my expertise and my opinion carries weight. Primary reason: My opinion is an informed one.
You still look lost. Let me guess, you’re having a hard time processing that your opinion isn’t as vital to the continuation of human existence as say, sunlight or oxygen? Fine, let’s do an experiment. Go log on to a forum where PoCs are discussing racism and white privilege. Now for this experiment to work, under no circumstances are you allowed to comment. You’re only here to read and observe (or lurk, as the kids on the interwebz say). After you’ve read for an hour, log off the forum, wait exactly 24-hours before logging back on. Upon logging back on the next day, take a moment to observe how the planet did not implode because you didn’t comment and/or derail the discussion with your “opinion.”
Isn’t science magical?
You certainly have the right to be of the opinion that your opinion supercede facts, history and firsthand experiences. You have the right to be of the opinion that you can use your white privilege to silence PoCs when they call out racism. You also have the right to be of the opinion that gravity is optional and you can fly. Just as your grown ass would look real foolish jumping off the roof of your house with a red blanket tied around your neck like a cape, trolling PoC spaces and pretending that racism/white privilege are non-existent will wield a similarly unpleasant outcome.
But thankfully you’re one of the legendary Good White People so this is a non-issue.
4. I Don’t See Race
Oh yes, this one is a classic. The discussion of racism comes about, those of the caucasian persuasion have to profess how colorblind they are and how race doesn’t matter to them at all.
Now to be fair, I can see how this trips up otherwise well-meaning and good-hearted white people such as yourself. You recognize that racism is wrong (and this puts you ahead of many) and genuinely believe that you are treating people equally and not allowing race to be a factor in your dealings with others. And God bless you for that. Because at least you’re trying.
However, we’re don’t live in a colorblind, post-racial society. I wish to God we did. If it were true, you wouldn’t be reading this piece. The institutional oppression that is racism is immensely prevalent and ignoring the problems and the issues will not make them go away.
A lot of people believe that if you ignore racism or don’t talk about it, it simply won’t exist. But when racial incidents pop off again and again, too many of us are scratching our heads wondering why we’re still dealing with these issues centuries later again and again and again.
So yes, continue to judge people on the content of their character and not their ethnicity but also be cognizant of the realities that too many of us face and those realities is that we live in a very racist and hateful society where discrimination is the status quo and do your part to change it.
As you’re doing now by reading this article and educating yourself.
5. Critiques Are A Sign Of Good Faith
Look we get it. Unlearning bigoted and problematic behavior society has ingrained in you is taxing. Discovering that you’re not as evolved and progressive as you thought you were is disheartening. Being called out for bigoted behavior is unpleasant. But what is most painful is having your loved ones of color think less of you, lose faith in you, and believe you to be a racist monster.
Or do they?
When a person of color is taking the time to enlighten you, more often than not it means that we think you are worth the investment. We are taking the time and energy to teach you because we believe you are worth the effort. Best analogy would be the demanding coach, drill sergeant, parent, or spouse who knows you’re capable of being an amazing person and demand nothing less than your very best. So if PoCs are delivering you a teaching moment, take it as an honor and a rare one at that. Otherwise, we simply wouldn’t waste our breath, our time or our energy on you.
Most people don’t understand that people of color take a huge risk discussing the subject of racism, much less calling it out. Our sanity, intelligence, and character are called into question. To be non-white in America is to constantly worry if your job, freedom, even your life is in danger if you tell a caucasian something they don’t want to hear.
So if we’re taking that big a risk, that leap of faith in believing that you’re the wonderful white person you want us to believe you to be; show it through your actions. As the kids say, don’t talk about it, be about it. You do that by understanding that calling out racism IS NOT worse than the racism itself. You do that by accepting the critiques and the knowledge and striving to be the best version of yourself.
“But what if I screw up?”
It’s not a question of if but when. You will, I will, we all have fallen short. None of us on this planet is perfect, with the exception of the Goddess known as Gina Torres. True facts, true facts. It’s not just your mistakes that define you but how you take responsibility for them.
If doing the right thing was easy, a lot more people would do so. There’s a reason why being a Good White Person comes with a legendary status. One that I have the utmost faith that you will attain.
Don’t prove me wrong.