Here's the calculus we're living by in the United States today:
white comfort matters more than black and brown lives.
That it may make you too uncomfortable to see and acknowledge this does not change the fact of it. There's no gentle way to say it because it is a horrific reality. Either you are willing or becoming willing to see this, or you are contributing to a social pattern of violent erasure and denial whose aim, whether conscious or unconscious, is to maintain your sense of comfort at the expense of — ultimately — others' lives.
Part of the code in white culture is don't tell the truth, hell, don't see the truth, if it's too ugly or too disturbing. Racism is not primarily about consciously hating The Other. That level of hatred does exist, and it is a disturbing thing. But I honestly believe the deeper problem is that well-meaning white people who are not overtly racist and who do not see themselves as part of the problem are still unwilling to look more deeply at both themselves and a society built on systemic racism (among other deep systems of exploitation, oppression and marginalization) because that would be really uncomfortable.
So forget about taking action, we're not even at a point where we're willing to acknowledge what's really going on. Everywhere you look the same tropes, distortions, denials and deflections derail conversations on race. We haven't even gotten to GO yet. And these debates at their heart are disingenuous, even if not consciously so. By that I mean that many white people come to these conversations reluctantly if at all, locked into defensive narratives with no genuine desire to see what's really true, or simply, a profound lack of awareness of what they do not know and do not understand about the lived realities of people of color.
There is unawareness and innocence of that unawareness. There is a conviction that we get it, that we really do know how it is for them because it can't really be all that different than how it is for us, right? and dominant culture supports that illusion, protects us from the discomfort of confrontation with our blindness.
At a certain point, there is enough evidence to invite consideration that we don't really get it, and, if the choice at that point is to keep defending what you think you know instead of to open mind, learn and listen, that innocence starts to look like willful ignorance and indifference.
My questions for my white peers:
Are you willing to get more honest with yourself than you ever yet have?
Are you willing to learn how to be with uncomfortable emotions, and to grow into deeper capacity in this way, ongoing?
Are you willing to take responsibility for your own reactivity (whether you tend to act it out or keep it to yourself), and get more curious about how you're subtly participating in and invested in maintaining the status quo?
Are you willing to recognize your participation in this equation — white comfort matters more than black and brown lives — and not use guilt as an excuse to shut down? To let guilt simply be the signal it's meant to be, an invitation to recognize that you're part of this fabric and to begin seeing how you can presently make some changes, be more accountable?
Are you willing to be present in uncomfortable social situations and to learn how to navigate these more gracefully?
Are you willing to be wrong? To be seen in your ignorance? To work with all of that, not just shut down all possibility of change by refusing to risk your pride and comfort?
Are you willing to learn what you need to to be able to to take good care of yourself in and through our encounters confronting our deep social diseases together?
I know this is a confrontational post. Sometimes love and pain has to get all up in our faces before we're willing to change. And we have to change. Tipping point is here. A long time coming, and it's here. Our priorities, such as they are, are immoral. Comfort and a (false!) sense of safety at such a cost!
We have to grow ourselves, and we can.