Now you know and you can’t pretend you don’t

By Mungi Ngomane, Advocate for Human Rights, Business Operations Manager for Outvote,
Author of Everyday Ubuntu and granddaughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Atlanta, Georgia
———–
Yes, as a white person you’ll never fully understand but you must, at THE LEAST, stand
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely
disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion
that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White
Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to
‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a
positive peace which is the presence of justice…”

I did not feel the impact of these words as much as I felt them in November 2016, until
now. I felt the weight of these words in November of 2016 and again the day George Floyd
was killed by officers in Minneapolis.

Everyone has woken up to something. I am not sure what that something is because it has
been in plain sight every day. Even on the days when the White House occupant has
not tweeted something nasty about a marginalized group, it is still there – even in the
silence. Maybe even more in the silence.

Everybody and their mother is acknowledging the reality or at least a small part of it
now. Influencers are caveating posts saying, “I don’t usually like to wade into politics but
this isn’t about politics, this is about a human issue.” This is both true and untrue. To a
certain extent people are still not listening entirely.

When it was about Trump’s election in 2016 and we told you how it affected us as humans,
you told us it was about politics and we shouldn’t let that ruin our friendships. Now we are
telling you that everything is political and it is a privilege to avoid the reality of how politics
affects our daily lives. You say it is a human issue, but it is both. It has always been both,
and until we fix it, it will continue to be both.

Speaking up is political and staying silent is political. Everything is political, and if it isn’t to
you then your privilege is showing. When we cried the day after the election we were not
crying because Hillary Clinton lost, we were crying because we knew what his win meant.
We tried to warn you. Things have not improved since 2016, in fact they have
become much worse and now you know. We will try not to dwell on why it took so long,
why our voices and tears were not enough, and rather focus on what we need you to do but
we are tired.

Black people built this country for free. Black people give this country the benefit of the
doubt every day. Our people are dying but we’re still showing up for work, we’re still
showing up for our white friends who want to know how they can help, we’re still showing
up for people who barely thought about racism until they saw the video of George’s Floyd’s
murder. It’s heavy and it’s exhausting.

When white people gather in groups armed with weapons, we as a country may scoff
briefly but we say nothing. When black people gather in groups unarmed to protest for
their lives, we as a country remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. would not have wanted
this. A few weeks ago white protestors, in states with stay at home orders or Democratic
governors, stormed government buildings because they needed the country to open back
up for haircuts. Many of these individuals were armed and yelling in the faces of police
officers, even encouraged by the White House occupant who tweeted, “LIBERATE
MICHIGAN!”. Yet they somehow made it home safely to their families that night. Black
people don’t know if we will make it home safely from a protest, a jog, or a fast food
restaurant. Even if we make it home, we are not safe. Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free.

“Racism is so embedded in America that when we protest racism, the average
American thinks we’re protesting America”. – Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Protest is allowed for one and not for the other. Safety is allowed for one and not for the
other. Freedom is allowed for one and not for the other. Life is allowed for one and not for
the other. Dissent is allowed for white protesters but not for black ones.
Today, we are in the midst of a reckoning. On this Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day
or Emancipation Day, we are coming to collect on that promise of freedom from 1865. We
must acknowledge that Juneteenth came almost two and a half years after the
Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it took this long for the news of freedom to reach
those enslaved in Texas. It is time black people are truly free and for that to happen white
people must be active in dismantling the white supremacy they’ve created and continue to
benefit from.
In her acceptance speech for the President’s Award at the NAACP Image Awards, Rihanna
said,
I mean, how many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other
races, sexes, religions? Show of hands.
Well, they want to break bread with you, right? They like you? Well, then this is their problem,
too.
So when we’re marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown juniors and
Atatiana Jeffersons of the World, tell your friends to pull up.”
Here are ways to pull up:
• Research. If you feel inclined to ask your black friend something, first ask yourself if
it is something you can Google and answer on your own. If it is something that you
don’t think you can Google, try googling it first anyway.
• Donate. Find organisations to donate to and make it a recurring donation, not just a
one off. Organisations like Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice Initiative, MoveOn, Color
of Change, Black Futures Lab, The Bail Project and the American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU).
• Keep reading. One weekend of reading is not enough. Read James Baldwin, Toni
Morrison, Maya Angelou, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Zora Neale Hurston, Roxane Gay, Reni
Eddo-Lodge, Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, Ibram X. Kendi and W.E.B. Du Bois.
• Wear a mask. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, one that
disproportionately affects black communities due to years of inadequate health care
and implicit bias. Part of pulling up includes flattening the curve of COVID-19.
• Speak. Speak to your friends and family who make racist jokes, who never talk
about race or “don’t see colour”.
• Protest. Protest alongside people of colour and when you can, put your body
between them and the police.
• Boycott. Boycott and divestment worked in apartheid South Africa, and it can work
here. Boycott those beauty and fashion brands that are paying lip service to the
movement until they pull up for all their customers.
• Vote. Voting has always been a guaranteed right for white men in America but every
other group has had to fight for that right. If you can vote, vote because voter
suppression is prevalent in the U.S.
• Listen. When your black friends do want to share their experience or correct you,
listen.
This is not an extensive or exhaustive list, it’s just the beginning of an everyday struggle.
Welcome. We’ve been waiting for you.
It is no longer en vogue to be ignorant or oblivious, we are in an age of information and to
not be aware is a choice. The history of Black Americans is American history, and the two
cannot be separated. And now you know.

 

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