In the illustrious words of Sir Drake of T-Dot, where the f*** do I really even start? The past couple of weeks have been, how do I say this, really horrible. I mean, maybe not for everyone, but for the Black community, it hasn’t been a wave of cookie-making and wellness-focused Instagram posts. It has been hard. Scary. Anxiety-ridden. Mentally and emotionally exhausting. If you are Black and work in corporate America, it has been even worse, because for the first time, everyone is looking at you to see how you feel. Random coworkers you don’t typically even talk to in the break room are reaching out. And suddenly, you’ve become the person that gets to speak for the entire Black culture and tell everyone how to “fix” it. Except, you can’t.
If you don’t know what I’m referring to, congratulations, you have successfully blocked out the world and live in a bubble. If this is you, please go to bbc.com to learn what’s happening in the world so you can relate to this post. For the rest of you, come a little closer so we can discuss this. If you’re a Black person and you’ve been asked to speak at a meeting, not to share your experiences, but to help non-Black colleagues find a solution on how to fix racism, raise your hand. Now tell me, how do you feel? Have you found the solution and just haven’t shared it with the rest of us? I’m sure you haven’t, and I’m also confident that your new-found role as Black spokesperson has made your anxiety even worse. If you’re a white person, have you found yourself nervous about what to say to your Black colleagues? Are you second-guessing every borderline potential racist stereotypical thing you may have said or done in the past? If so, I’m glad, because that means you have become aware of the reality of racism in America. How you missed it for the last 400 years is beside the point; the fact that you’re here now is a start.
As for me? I’m struggling quite a bit with this new “blinders-off” scenario that we’re now entrenched in. I’ve shared this with friends, but I’m having the most difficult time trusting the authenticity of this new outrage. I am so, very, very, VERY (did I say very?) cautiously optimistic about this great awakening that is happening right now. The optimistic side of me is feeling confident that change will start to happen, that people will begin to fight for change and a dismantling of the current economic and political system of oppression that has existed in America since its inception. The over-weighted cynical side of me? That side doesn’t believe a damn thing that’s going on. That side feels like this push for equity (not just equality, dammit) is the new trend, and just like every trend, will die out when short attention-spanned Americans are bored with it.
Pardon me if I’m viewing the tears of non-Black people with apprehension. Because as a bi-racial woman who grew up knowing next to nothing about my white, very racist maternal family, I don’t trust it. As a BLACK woman who had to listen to my white mother cry at home because in the 1990s, coworkers thought it was okay to refer to the pictures of her children on her desk as “lil’ n*ggers” in liberal old CT, I question it. My apologies if I don’t understand how you couldn’t believe this was happening, even though my father was born into a country at a time in which his parents and grandparents didn’t have the right to vote, and he’s only in his early 60s. I’m sorry if the tears of my Black male family members who are exhausted with always having to worry about being harassed by police when they are minding their business supersedes the pain you feel right now in your realization of your latent complacency. Excuse me for ignoring emails from your company with the canned statement about standing against racial injustice (except for Ben & Jerry’s, because they’ve clearly been ’bout it ’bout it for a while now). How could you blame us for not believing the hype?
I’ve always done my best to see the good in people, to a fault. I’ve always tried to maintain the belief that most people are inherently good. But this? I just can’t bring myself to get excited about this yet. Theatrics of kneeling in solidarity, even if well-intended, are weak and pointless in the grand scheme of things. The only thing that will make me feel hopeful is consistent and intentional change in policies that oppress Black people. I know this is a start, but I need to see not just a commencement, but a journey and an arrival. For once, Black people don’t want the burden of having to be a resource and a token to fix what we didn’t create nor break. We need the people who benefit from this system to do the work this time around. If you want to be an ally, a champion for change, then we need you to pick up the load. We are tired.