This video was inspired by the words of James Baldwin and the famous debate he participated in at Cambridge University in the 60’s. In that debate, James Baldwin spoke of ‘the mill’ that people of color are exposed to from the time they are children through their adulthood. As I listened to that part of the debate, I couldn’t help but see myself in the mirror of Baldwin’s words. As a young child, I spent a great deal of my time with White friends in predominantly White spaces. Even though my acquaintances diversified in high school, I still did not have a strong sense of self in regards to my Blackness. It wasn’t until I went to a predominantly White college that I finally understood the challenge of being Black in America.
Everyday White privilege has the uncanny ability to silence Black voices and make us feel as though we are less than good enough. As a result of ‘the mill’, I was subjected to racism at its worst causing me to doubt myself and wonder if I was the problem after all. It wasn’t until I began to embrace my Blackness that I found my voice and eventually had the opportunity to share my journey to unapologetic Blackness at Harvard University.
This video is my way of speaking truth to power as it relates to race. This video is about being my authentic self and refusing to allow ‘the mill’ to silence me. Interpersonal and institutional racism have been used as tools to sustain unearned privilege for too long and that needs to change. We should not fear sharing our authenticity in the places we live, learn, and work just so our White counterparts can be comfortable. My hope is that this video is used to remind well-meaning White people to check their privilege and inspire Blacks to speak their truth as unapologetically as I’ve tried to in this video.
This letter is addressed to:
The white police officer who told me I was difficult because I was just trying to do my job.
The white colleague who “has my back” in private but is eerily silent in public.
But, most importantly, this is to my colleagues of color. May these words be there for you when you need them most.
My Dearest White Fragile Colleagues,
Enough is enough. There are too many of us who live with your bullshit on a daily basis. We deserve better, and as they say, you can’t create change if you don’t have the conversation.
So in complete candor, I need you to know that, if I’m being honest, dealing with most White people gets on my damn nerves. I mean, my last damn nerves. When I think about it now, I find it funny how much time I spent as a kid trying to be around White people.
I find it hysterical that I wanted to ‘fit in’ and be just like the White kids around me in college. If I could only go back and tell myself that it wasn’t worth it. If I could tell my 18-year-old self to go anywhere but a predominately White school in Michigan, better yet, to avoid schools like this all together? Believe me, I would.
If I’m being honest, I am sick and tired of White women and their tears. I’m sick of the ‘Poor Me’ method to sustaining your White privilege. Newsflash boo-boo! Everything is not about you and your needs! We understand that since you were little girls, every fairytale you’ve read has put you on a pedestal. We get that all of the history books have made your purity and your safety the number one priority. Just because White society makes you and your feelings number one doesn’t mean that I have to.
Now, do I sense the familiar sound of you accusing me of ‘reverse racism’ followed by the crocodile tears? The tissue box is over in the corner as far away from me as possible.
If I’m being completely honest, I’m tired of my concerns about racism being used against me. It is one thing to have my viewpoint on racism deemed as ‘not a big deal’. It’s another when those opinions are weaponized to characterize me as having an attitude problem or ‘not a team player’. You’re not slick. We know this is the office speak for ‘You’re being too Black, shut the fuck up.’
When will you understand that I don’t owe you anything? I don’t owe you the comfort of speaking ‘White’ because you can’t handle anything else. I don’t owe you being less than my authentic self because it makes make you more comfortable. I went to school and got a degree just like you did. You’re not better than me. Remember boo, the title doesn’t make the person, the person makes the title. Rest assured that outside of these walls, I’m not the one for the bullshit. The only reason I allow you to come at me sideways is because these bills need to be paid.
If I’m being honest, just because your culture didn’t expose you to anything, or anybody other than yourself, doesn’t mean I should have to alter my life because you’re scared of Black people. In all seriousness, I have more reason to be scared of you than you are of me. It was White people who kept slaves. It was White people who made lynching a public spectacle. It was White people running around in white bed sheets burning crosses. I pay taxes just like you, and I can’t even call the police for fear of being shot in front of my own damn door. Your fear of Black people is irrational. If you picked up a history book, you’d clearly see that.
If I’m being honest, what the fuck are you so angry about? Everything in this country is made with you in mind. The vast majority of our cultural norms are centered around your way of being. In order to survive, you don’t have to learn anything about anyone else. Why do some of you feel the need to carry around tiki-torches, wave the confederate flag, and complain about ‘reverse racism’.
Let me tell you something, there is no such thing as reverse racism. Racism is not just about people, it’s about institutions and laws that impact people of color and their daily quality of life. You know how you can go pretty much anywhere and be confident you will find people who look like you? The rest of us aren’t that lucky. When we shop, go to the bank, visit the doctor or do anything else, we have to constantly think about how our race will impact those daily interactions. Many of you have no idea what this is like for the rest of us, so please, just stop with the unnecessary rage.
If I’m being honest, your White fragility should not be my problem. Your White complacency should not be my problem. Your White fear should not be my problem. Your White rage sure as hell should not be my problem.
Unfortunately for me, you make it my problem every day and if that’s not White privilege, I don’t know what is.
With Warm Regards,
A Tired Black Woman