I talk a lot about how I wish that the white people in my life would do more. I call out white people daily. I speak of whiteness often, and I realize that I speak of it in the same way that some speak of an illness. Apparently, that makes some of the white people in my life uncomfortable; apparently I don’t care. Silence is violence. We say this as a constant reminder to our ally friends, that when they don’t speak out they are showing us that their fight doesn’t extend to action. It doesn’t leave comfortable conversations that happen behind closed doors.
I have spent years of my life listening to the “pain” of white people. I have lived a life amongst very loud white people. My family are white Jews from the Bronx and Long Island. My grandfather can grandstand for as long as you can tolerate his tone; about what being a Jew means. For years of my existence, I saw a Black person in the mirror, but I did not compute what my Black skin meant. My family history lessons were about my grandparents parents, about Bubbies and family recipes. About being called a kyke, wanting to change our last name so that it didn’t give way that we were Jews. Suffering was spoken of; but it wasn’t mine, it was theirs.
In listening to my family speak of their history for my formative years, I was numb to the violence of my own history. I adopted their pain. I adopted their past. I did so while feeling like an outcast to the other Jews I grew up with. I did not look like them, but our families looked the same; how could they know that on the playground? And to the Black kids? God I could not relate, and lord knows I didn’t know how to. I spoke like “a white girl”; and so by the default of elementary school law it was with them I hung-out with. I allowed years of letting comments like “you’re the whitest Black person I know” trickle off of me. In our youth those words were fairly harmless. We were not educated yet of how our system worked. We had not yet been filled with the words of Lorde, Als, and Baldwin.
On my grandfather’s patio last summer I sat and listened to him critique Between the World And Me. If only Black people could do as Jews had done. If only we could get it together enough to realize our worth. I sat there and realized how someone I loved, looked up to, and went to for advice was part of the problem. No, he wasn’t KKK racist, but he was #AllLivesMatter racist. The white person who reads Black works, is liberal in the voting booth, applauds that we finally have a Black president, but thinks that our system is just for all, that we all have access as long as we seek it. He is bound to the anchor of being a white man in America.
Is it dangerous for white people to raise black youth? In our classrooms, is it problematic for white teachers to enter Black spaces and “educate” Black youth? Yes and no. And that is where I find myself. Constantly in the crosswinds of a world where those I love more than anything are the same people who I think are inherently fucked up. I can’t go home and cry about my fears of being Black without hearing about how similar that is to be scared as a Jew. My pain can not exist on its own. It has to be linked to the pain of white folks. And that is the plight of every POC in this country. Our pain can not exist on its own. And because of that #AllLives – will always matter in the U.S. Your pain can exist while mine does.
Separately but equally.