I don’t think I’ve had white people treat me this nicely in my entire life.
I mean, it’s everywhere. I get smiles and hellos where they used to not exist. My social feeds are full of memes in support of upending the white patriarchy and in support of Black Lives Matter. Everyone is posting images of themselves protesting, others protesting alongside just about every pro-Black quotable known to man.
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It’s even happening on a national scale. Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are enjoying a much-needed retirement from feeding Americans pancakes and rice. Same goes for the guy who urged you to buy Cream of Wheat, a personal sadness for your boy coming from Jamaican descent, where if you didn’t have porridge on the breakfast table at least once a week, it would be tough to prove you’re really a descendant of the islands.
Even in my own profession, just last month the Associated Press added “Black” with a capital B when referring to a person to its style guide — as if a writer needed to wait for the AP to give people of color a capitalizing reference.
It’s clear the aftermath of the last month or so has lit a fire under so many people who placed race relations in the back of the brain, because, well, as white people, it really didn’t affect them much. I personally love that the struggle of a collective is on full display right now and so many white people are getting educated. I recently had a friend I’ve known forever reach out a while back to personally apologize if he’s ever made me feel marginalized. I couldn’t think back to a specific time, just those common overarching microaggressions, ones that have always been easier for so many POCs like myself to just laugh off or change the subject.
I told him I appreciated the call before I flipped a microaggression I could recall from our childhood — reminding him that even at my age, my Blackness still does enable me to run faster and jump higher than he can — and then I hung up.
What’s perhaps weirdest about this current state of newfound wokeness is as a POC it’s really hard to ascertain if all of this outcry via social media is legit. Will this fight continue long after people put the impact George Floyd had on the movement in the back of their brain? Is this just for the clout of siding with the cause on social media? Is it the guilt of feeling as if they have to post or reach out to not look as if they don’t care?
You probably just snickered at that last one, but I’m telling you, it’s a thing.
“I just feel like if you don’t say anything my [Black and brown] friends might think that I don’t care,” says Sean Golden, a friend and former colleague who lived in Fairmount before making a move to the rural, lily-white confines of the Poconos. Sean and I chat regularly and when we caught up over text chatting about this very subject, this was his sentiment. “I don’t have the time to sit around and post memes and s---, man. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. But when people call me out for not speaking out, I’m just like WTF? Why do I have to announce my feeling about racial injustice on social media?”
It’s a great point. This movement is one of those actions-that-speak-louder-than-words-type moments. There’s no need to show POC how enlightened you’re getting in the aftermath of all this. Do you want to help? Vote with us in mind. Shop with us in mind. Advocate beyond a cool quote from Maya Angelou on your Instagram story or Facebook feed.
A few weeks back, I wrote that POC currently reside in a unique situation: For the first time people are listening and we’re seeing the action that’s occurring as a result. It’s imperative we continue to share stories that shed light on situations we’d otherwise brush off. One example is an Instagram account I’ve been following called Black Main Line Speaks, where students of color past and present are sharing stories of marginalization while receiving a quality education.
It’s a really eye-opening page, one I encourage you to give a follow.
At the end of the day, many POC like myself just want you to listen to what we have to deal with and do your part with the God-given privilege some now realize they truly have to help bring a bit more equality to the main stage.