A few months ago, I wrote a blog entitled Dear White Women, It’s Not You, It’s Me. I’m Breaking Up With You. While many White women read the blog, and could not argue with the content, some White women were upset about the article. The blog was shared in the LEO Weekly, a free urban alternative weekly newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky and some White women quickly became defensive and in what I would call typical fashion, made the blog about them and not the totality of what I was saying. I am a firm believer in speaking the truth as well as I can and what most White women did not realize about me is that before I ever take anything back when it comes to speaking out about racism and White people, I will add more to it.
When I started my blog, I understood it would be controversial, and I counted the costs. For me, I had nothing to lose. This was the moment to use my voice, and perhaps I am here for such a time as this. My very first blog, Becky, UGG Boots, and Pussy Cat Hats, reminded this nation that White women had been asleep at the wheel. And while most wanted to quibble about not being part of the 53% eventually some begin to see and you heard words like inclusion and intersectionality being sprinkled throughout talks on race relations in America.
Still, White women floundered. When it seemed as if we took 2 steps forward inevitably, we took 10 more back. And the constant writing and posting about White women was draining at best, especially when time and time again, election after election it seemed they just didn’t get it. Or they got it but didn’t really care. Their concern for Black women was performative and merely allowed them a way to have interesting afternoon conversations over moscato with their friends. Black women were just a way to pass the time. For every hashtag White women shared about Trust Black Women and Let Black Women Lead, it seems we never could quite find our rhythm. I wrote the blog in such a way that I knew it would cut and I wanted it to cut. Sometimes a surgeon has cut you to heal you. I do not make any apologies for how I write, and I will never be concerned about a White person being uncomfortable when they read my blog. In fact, if you are not uncomfortable, I have not done my job.
A few days ago on Facebook, I was tagged in a post by Rani Whitehead. Her post is below, and I have copied it in its entirety. I believe this conversation was more significant than me responding to her on Facebook and I wanted to share it with my readers so they can see two women have a conversation about race.
“A few weeks ago I started paying closer attention to the posts and poetry by the black, female poet Hannah Drake. She is a beyond important activist for the black community and she does not hold back, her words cut to the quick and she is not interested in staying on the surface, she goes straight to the bottom and drags up the mess that we have been ignoring or blind to.
When I first started paying closer attention I found myself getting upset, thinking wow this doesn’t pertain to me, this is reverse racism, and I am not THAT kind of white person. I wanted to be recognized for being a different kind of white. It became about me. I almost stopped reading. I told myself, Rani, you are uncomfortable, that means there is growth here. Pay attention and LEARN. I speak out often to misogyny, sexual abuse, domestic violence, the patriarchy and I am not interested in staying on the surface, it is the underbelly of vile behavior that needs a beating, it needs to be brought up into the light. That is where I like to focus.
I thought, how Hannah is saying what she is saying is no different than how I like to speak out about the blatant mistreatment of women in our culture but, what is different for me is that I felt attacked. That was what finally got me. Why do I feel attacked? Why do I feel uncomfortable? I SAT DOWN and SHUT UP. I needed to pay attention to Hannah and learn what racism actually is, where it lives, and be willing to see where it lives in me. I needed to see beyond the obvious. I like to think of myself as NOT racist but, what conditionings do I carry around in me that make those words “I am not racist” null and void? If my conditioning that lives unseen under the surface is racist then me believing I am not racist is a lie. I owe it to myself and to the black community to look at myself in a brutally raw way.
Seeing this was and is HARD BUT, is not as hard as living in a society that chokes out your life, literally and figuratively, every day for years upon years, being beat down, ignored, raped, killed, drugged, and dehumanized. Me learning to look into the bowels of my conditioning and seeing how as a white woman, I carry entitlement and racism is HARD but, it is not as hard as being a black woman trying to not only LIVE but, be SEEN and HEARD every day in a world where the only thing reflected back to you is white. I SAT DOWN and SHUT UP. I am learning how to not be racist in EVERY way. I am learning how to replace my conditionings with real life, with the truth. I am learning how to be a vulnerable white woman and understand that all women have it hard but, as a white woman I don’t have it as hard as a black woman and my experience is different.
I am learning that Hannah HAS to write the kick you in the teeth way that she writes because the truth is white people want to HIDE from the truth. White people want to make excuses. White people don’t want to look at the underbelly because we are the underbelly. I don’t care how racist you think you aren’t, dig a little deeper and I guarantee you will hit something that goes bump in the night. I guarantee that you carry entitlement and racism. I want to help so much and often feel helpless because I don’t know what to say or do. I feel that I don’t have a right to engage when I don’t even understand the intricacies of what it means to be white and what it means to be black. What I can do is educate myself. What I can do is listen. What I can do is hold space. What I can do is learn to see my conditionings and work to let them go. What I can do is get uncomfortable with being white. Can you? What I can do is reread this and look for ways in which my white entitlement eeks out and learn from it. What I can do is reread this and look at the WHY behind writing it and learn from that. What I CAN do is SIT DOWN and SHUT UP and keep learning from Hannah Drake. Thank you, Hannah for making this white woman uncomfortable.”
I was out of town when I read your message but I pulled over to read it and admittedly I was touched. You never know who is watching you or reading your work and truth be told there are some days I think, “Hannah, why do you even bother?” But there is something on the inside of me that just won’t let me quit.
All the things you have listed in your post I have heard a million times.
- Reverse racism. (By the way this is not a thing.)
- I am not THAT kind of White person.
- I want to be recognized for NOT being that “kind of White person.
- I feel attacked.
- I feel uncomfortable.
The list keeps going and going. However, what is different about you and some other readers is that many people stop at the, “I feel uncomfortable” part. When someone feels uncomfortable, their first instinct is to alleviate the discomfort. I remember when I first started running my shins hurt so bad to the point of tears. I tried to buy every shoe or item that promised to help alleviate the pain of the shin splints. Nothing worked. And finally, it dawned on me, “Hannah, the way to alleviate the discomfort is by going through it.” And it wasn’t just one day, and I would feel better, but it was a daily process of fighting through the pain and continuing to push through even when I wanted to quit. There were days when everything on the inside of me was saying, “Hannah all you need to do is sit down, and the pain will be gone.” And that is true. But what would that benefit my health and my body? I was going to have to fight through the discomfort and the pain. And one day, I can’t tell you when it happened Rani, but one day it didn’t hurt so badly. And the next day it hurt even less. And when new people would join the workout group I could see them suffering, but it was my job, because I had fought through the pain to show them there is a way to get through this and it will not feel good. I do not have a magical potion. It’s going to hurt. But if you can fight through the discomfort now, you will come out better on the other side.
That is how I view reading my blog. Go into it KNOWING this is not going to feel good. This is going to challenge me to go deep and see all the ugly in me that I tried to dress up with donations to Black organizations and claims of being colorblind. This is going to make me look at myself, my husband, my wife, my partner, my lover, my children, my father, my mother differently. This is going to make me see myself differently because I thought I was not like the tiki torch racists. But racism is just racism there is no racist lite, Rani. Being kinda racist is like being kinda pregnant you either are or you are not. And many people have racist thoughts they have never said out loud that is why a man like Liam Neeson that seems relatively quiet, hasn’t been in the news before with any scandals or racist tirades, can casually be in an interview and basically say, I was looking to harm a “Black bastard” because a Black man raped his friend. Now it would be ONE THING to say, I want to harm THAT MAN-the actual perpetrator. I am not going to pretend any of us are above wanting revenge no matter the race when someone harms someone we love. But to say he went out looking for ANY Black man shows somewhere deep on the inside of him, he is racist. And he cannot see that. He thought what he said was just fine. He is not doing the work to acknowledge that he needs to look deeper inside of himself and not just excuse it away. And most people don’t want to do that. Why? Because it doesn’t feel good. Because it goes against them being “not those White people.” And it is easier to disregard my blog or send me an email and tell me “my feelings were hurt,” then it is to do what you did.
See it is not the KKK, tiki torch waving White people that concern me so to speak. They are CLEAR on who they are and what they stand for. They don’t like me because I am Black. Period. There is no guessing. No wondering. But it’s the people that genuinely believe they are “not those White people,” that is the problem. It is the “not those White people,” that are afraid to fight through their discomfort and I am glad that you did. And you came out on the other side of your discomfort a better person, one that is willing to see herself and challenge others to do that same.
AND THAT, Rani, is why I do what I do and if I have to write it in a “kick you in the teeth” way, I will do just that for the end result to be justice.
I am glad we had this conversation and thank you for allowing me to share it. I believe it will help continue the conversation about race in America. Fight on!
Rani can be followed on Facebook at this link and follow her on Instagram @raniwhitehead