In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, I was completely stunned by how many of my white neighbors showed up and showed out for our local Black Lives Matter protest at City Hall. Not only were our streets lined with protesters for miles and miles, but there was also an immense outpouring of support in our community Facebook groups. And while I truly believe that the efforts of most came from a genuine place, once the momentum died down, I was quickly snapped back to reality.
Attending a protest or two is nice. Writing a couple of Black Lives Matter Facebook posts is great. Donating to a social justice organization is cute too. However, none of that means anything when it’s coming from white people who refuse to acknowledge their privilege, check their biases, and stop burying their heads in the sand when it comes to racism in America.
Just two weeks after our local protest took place, a woman posted in our neighborhood mommy group to vent about a racist experience at a local business. It was fairly evident that some form of discrimination had taken place based on the story she shared with us. However, instead of simply sympathizing with the person who had the experience or not saying anything at all, several members of the group attempted to whitesplain, dismiss, and discount her story. So many went to painstaking lengths to rationalize the incident and convince the woman that she had perhaps misinterpreted the situation that it made me sick to my stomach. Surely, these cannot be the same people who were hollering “Black Lives Matter” two weeks ago.
People who call themselves allies but then turn around and attempt to deny the presence of racism when it doesn’t look how they believe racism should look or it doesn’t check off all of the boxes on their “What Qualifies As Racism” list are a major part of the problem and we don’t talk about them enough. In fact, they may be worst than the people who make blatant racism-laced statements and holler “All Lives Matter” because at least you know where you stand with those people.
Racism manifests in many ways. Sometimes it’s blatant. Other times, it’s subtle. So-called allies who attempt to cast doubt on the experiences of the very people they claim to support play an important role in racial gaslighting, which helps to uphold white supremacist structures in this country. It is not your job to verify, validate, or downplay the experiences of an oppressed group. At most, you listen and ask what you can do to help. At the very least, you shut the hell up. But at no point should you attempt to question or cast doubt on the validity of their experiences.