This Strange Fruit Isn’t So Strange At All, Extrajudicial Police Killings Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg

I’d like to preface this by saying, 

Black people, I see you, 

I love us,

In all the ways we exist.

You are worthy. 

You deserve a life free of prejudice and racial discord. 

Your grief is real. 

Your trauma is real.

You deserve carefree joy. 

I care for you, 

I love you.

Throughout this pandemic there has been an onslaught of violence against black bodies; disproportionate deaths by COVID-19, beaten for not wearing a mask, removed from our homes, lied on by white women in Central Park, beaten by police as a 14-year-old child, harassed by white men in our workspace, assaulted while collecting mail as an 11-year-old child, killed while working, killed while jogging, killed while sleeping, killed while in crisis, or killed while fighting to breathe. But this is our normal, pandemic or not, racism has no days off.

And as per usual, there’s our harmonious chorus of ‘how could this happen’ or ‘I can’t understand who would do that’ but it’s not some long-held secret. White and non-black poc have the privilege of oblivion. You avert your eyes and take part in the nuanced, subtly racist things and behaviors and allow them to go on without issue. You choose to focus on the loss of property and disregard the loss of life. You choose your silence, and that makes you complicit and perhaps worse. 

So when white and non-black people of color think about race and racism they think of it in the ‘concrete’ or ‘overt’ ways that they can and quite frankly, choose to see; N-words, hate crimes, police brutality, lynching and etcetera. There’s rarely ever mention of how the interpersonal, abstract, or ‘subtle’ racism that permeates through society is the seed that fosters the more ‘concrete’ or deadly racism, or why it continues to thrive because of it. This ‘subtle’ abstract racism is the palatable, socially accepted version that is doled out regularly, but it is also just as deadly too.

People tend to overlook the correlation of blatant prejudice and racism, with the subtle, unconscious, not-so-overtly malicious racism. It’s the attitudes and systems that go on without a second blink that leads to our deaths. It’s the choosing to take another elevator, the gentrifying of neighborhoods, the calling the cops on black and brown people for literally anything, the inability to trace our ancestry, it’s the weaponized white tears and white fear. It’s the tone-policing, it’s the children and families still in cages, the lack of clean water, it’s the stolen native land, it’s the ‘Karen is a slur’, it’s the changing of our names, it’s the black people being pushed out of jobs, it’s the lost language, it’s the culture of profiting off of black talent, black labor, and black features, it’s the inequitable education system, it’s the plantation weddings, it’s the lack of diversity in schools and staff, it’s the silence when these things slide under your radar for what ‘little’ racism you can perpetuate and tolerate. These things contribute to the more ‘overt’ ways in which racism shows up for you, but it shows up for us every damn day and it is very overt and clear when it does.

A dear friend of mine (who happens to be white) asked me a few weeks ago why I talk about race so much, and I’ve been thinking about it since.  I’ve had time to realize how much of a privilege it is to be silent on racial issues and be unbothered with how racism changes dynamics, disrupts lives, and alters how black and brown people walk through the world. It is a privilege to exist in a world where you never have to view yourself as the other and a privilege to have a life where your race doesn’t adversely affect every aspect of it.

I’ve had so much trouble reconciling with the fact that so many of my white and non-black friends, bosses, and coworkers have that privilege. Some of them are aware of that privilege and act accordingly, but most do not. It’s a luxury to be silent on racism and never needing or even feeling inclined to use your platforms and voice to speak and actively work against injustices whenever there is harm done to black and brown bodies in any space. Our music, our talent, our food, our culture, even our bodies are up for consumption, but there is an ear piercing silence when we need your voices and action to save our lives and prevent our deaths.  Yet you can carry on as if there isn’t a stench of rotting flesh in the air because racism isn’t something you have to experience personally. It doesn’t show up in your coffee or lay next to you at night whispering into your ear. You don’t have to suffer the discomfort; the community felt grief, the paranoia, the deep stomach-wrenching heartbreak, or the trauma of watching your loved one’s murder circulated across all media platforms over and over again while people try to pick apart and justify why they deserved to die. That is not your daily lived experience. 

So when Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Douglas Lewis, Steve Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd are victims of racialized violence, that is when you choose your upset. That is when we find the reactive cacophony of anger and grief amongst the crowd. That is when people become activated to demand justice because incidences of racial violence have little to no value if there is no death. Rarely are black people believed when they are victims of racial violence and often are our voices discounted as fallacies or at best half truths or misunderstandings, and even in our deaths must we prove that we were ‘good’ enough to live.

So, save your apologies and performative social media outrage, those condolences and prayers do not save our lives. It does not make you the other or clear you of your guilt. 

It is not enough. 

It is not enough. 

It is not enough! 

In order for you to be vigilantly and earnestly anti-racist, ‘white progressives and allies’ must stop believing that you are of the other, that somehow you are absolved of holding any racist ideologies because you are nice, or that you empathize with black people, or because you vote liberally, or because you went to a diversity seminar. Realize that you have access to the same information that we all have access to. Your discomfort or lack of knowledge is not an acceptable excuse for ‘recently’ learning of this violence. Your refusal to see this racism until now in 2020 has cost so many black and brown people their lives. This blood is on your hands too, ally or not.

So how can you as a white or NBPOC person show up for black people and other people of color?

  • Listen to black people and be willing to sacrifice your beliefs and your power to actualize tangible, measurable change. Remember to hold not only your peers accountable but yourself too, it is not the responsibility of black people to identify what you need to change to be anti-racist, that onus is on you. 
  • Don’t be a Karen, know that for centuries and even now white women have wielded the power to kill and alter worlds daily by cowering as a victim when a black person stands up for themselves, creates boundaries, or asks them to follow very clear rules. Stop using your power to police black and brown bodies. 
  • Ask your employers and businesses you support what they are doing to be actively anti-racist, it is not enough to be diverse and inclusive. Understand that often these companies operate on a savior complex and that those terms mean grant monies and profit for these companies which capitalizes off of the plight of racial adversity.
  • Agitate your local representatives for the public acknowledgement and apology for slavery and demand that reparations be made.
  • Call for the dismantling of the prison system, decriminalization of marijuana, and the release of residents incarcerated for nonviolent offenses.
  • Donate to the commissary of incarcerated individuals. Prison labor is legalized slavery and pays incarcerated residents pennies a day for their work. Abolish prison systems!
  • Don’t give your money to Shaun King, instead research vetted sources to donate to. Ensure that your donations go directly to the causes it intends them to go.
  • Support black and brown business and banks.
  • Give to the indigenous community that is also catastrophically effected by COVID-19.
  • Listen to black people and stand in solidarity with them in public and loudly. RESHARE their stories with their permission.
  • Get informed and read, read, read!