In the Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luter King Jr. wrote, “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
Similarly, to Dr. King’s thinking, while the KKK and other racist groups exist, I am not overly concerned with the Richard Spencer’s of the world. In fact, if I may be honest, on some level I can respect Richard Spencer for saying exactly who he is and exactly what he stands for. There is no in between or gray areas with Spencer. He wears his beliefs about race on his sleeve. Please do not misunderstand, I do not agree with any of the racist rhetoric that spills from his mouth, and I certainly do not condone any of his tactics or the tactics of others that seek to harm and disenfranchise people due to their race. However, when it comes to racism, I like racists to be the same way I like my Kentucky bourbon, straight with no chaser.
It is not the Richard Spencer’s of the world that are causing me any problems. It is well-meaning White people that believe they could never be racist, that think because they are married to a Black man or woman or have Black friends they are not like “them.” It was well-meaning White people that owned slaves. It was well-meaning White people that remained silent as Black people were lynched. It is well-meaning White people that read my blog and send me messages that say, “I should speak about love and not hate.” It is the well-meaning White people that say, “I understand slavery but y’all should get over it.” It is the well-meaning White people that believe they are not racist because they do community work in Black neighborhoods, donate to the NAACP and know all the dance moves to Single Ladies. It is well-meaning White people that believe there is nothing wrong with Confederate statues, trying to convince Black people that this issue of removing them is truly about history. It is well-meaning White people that will cheer for their NFL team powered by Black men but refuse to understand why Colin Kaepernick is kneeling. It is well-meaning White people that chose race over humanity when they voted Donald Trump into the highest office in the land. It is well-meaning White people that refuse to believe the statistics about the election results because they are too embarrassed to look in the mirror. It is well-meaning White people that can look at a video of a police officer saying, “We only kill Black people,” and try to convince Black people that have suffered under the weight of police brutality that he was “only making a joke.” For the mere fact, well-meaning White people are trying to convince Black people that this officer was making a joke, means they never understood our fight against police brutality. If so, they would understand that there is no humor when it comes to the death of Black men and women at the hands of the police.
When it comes to racism, well-meaning White people are a part of the problem.
While I applaud well-meaning White people for marching, tweeting, sharing an article, attending anti-racism meetings, if we are going to combat racism, it must be a little bit more personal to you. There is no benefit of continuing to preach to the choir. The choir is not your audience or your amen corner. It is time for you to decide which side you are on, friend. And should you choose the side of righteousness, compassion, liberation, and humanity, it will mean having some uncomfortable conversations, some that must start at your dining room table. There are conversations well-meaning White people need to have with their husbands, wives, children, girlfriends or boyfriends. There are neighbors that you will need to address. There are jokes that cannot be tolerated in the coffee break room. There are words you cannot tolerate in your presence or out of your presence. There is Facebook friends and family that you need to educate about racism. There are policies that you must speak out against. There are sacrifices you will have to make for the good of the many. There are Black people fighting that you must stand with on the front lines. Liberation will not be won in the shadows. Liberation demands the spotlight. It is time out for hidden allies. If you stand with us, stand with us in word and deed.
Well-meaning White people have stood by long enough. Well-meaning White people have remained silent long enough. Well-meaning White people have wavered in the winds of justice long enough. In the words of Florence Reece, “Which side are you on, friend?” The line has been drawn in the sand. And for those well-meaning evangelicals that believe they are doing their Christian duty, like Paula White, let me quote Revelation, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Make a choice. And if not, at the very least, stop pretending.