Yesterday, I wrote on Facebook about what it feels like to be me when I'm isolated. Which is a lot. Being a White person who thinks like me and talks about it the way I do puts me consistently on the outside all the time. This is what I wrote:
"After 45 years of fighting White Supremacy in every way I can imagine, I am getting more discouraged by the day over where we are in this country (and the world). I know that a few White people are not enough. I rant though my courses. I can hardly face my blog on race because I want to scream at the top of my lungs. People think I'm a nut case because I never let up for a minute. But what good does it do? I get some love, but most folks think I'm crazy or too over the top or pushing too hard or trying to be something I'm not or a "traitor to my race" or...other things too wrong-headed to print. I don't know what to do and I see what the White power structure is doing and it's a SYSTEM not a bunch of individuals, so it's like trying to collect smoke in a sack.
"I've been depressed ever since Ferguson because I see that those with the power to define in this country have created a situation where Black people have to risk and lay down their lives for what already belongs to them and I am so angry, so hurt, and so helpless in the face of it all that I'm borderline suicidal off and on, but I can't quit because I'm needed.
My only son was murdered two weeks before his 23rd birthday so I know what it is to lose a child, but every time a Black child is killed or incarcerated or beaten up or disrespected, everything Africans have suffered since the first slave ship left port for the Western Hemisphere rolls over me like an ocean wave of grief. All I know to do is to work, to fight, to stand, to write, to speak truth, and not stop -- till I die."But this morning, I want to clarify something. This struggle is not about being a conscious White person who feels alone. It's about what the White Supremacist system does to People of Color in the world and most particularly for us, here in the U.S.
I can walk down the sidewalk and -- if I'm alone and I keep my mouth shut -- "pass" for an ordinary White person. I can get treated with deference. I can avoid a ticket. I can return a shirt without the receipt. I can get testy without being threatened with a call to the police or having it said that I'm testy because I'm White. I can demand respect (whether or not I get it). I am not seen as an immediate threat to those around me. I receive sympathy when I need help. And -- above all -- I am listened to, at least as a rule, at least by most people. This is what White privilege looks like in the life of a White person who's woke. And People of Color at this point in history live all their days not being allowed to take any of this for granted -- as I do.
As if all this was not enough, on top of everything else, I have a special niche just for me. A White person who says and writes the things I say and write stands out -- way out -- and doesn't have a bunch of people trying to take their spot. So I can feel special whenever I want to, though not without paying a price on a daily basis.
I don't think Whiteness is about skin tone. I think it's a mindset. One I fight daily. Not just in the world or in my country or in my community, but in myself. It's like the diabetes I must also manage daily. If I don't, its complications will kill me one way or the other. So I grieve over the sorrow, the pain, and the daily experience of People of Color, yes. And sometimes I feel alone, not just physically, but psychologically and emotionally. Nancy Friday wrote, "Loneliness is not a longing for company; it's a longing for kind."
Regardless, pain is part of life. As is growth. And I'm not sorry I'm who I am. My skin tone and my peculiar mindset that fights oppression like a mongoose fights cobras (instinctually!) is my favorite part of myself. It gives me purpose. It gives me a platform. It gives me parameters. And it gives me a battle plan.
As I routinely tell my students, there have always been people who looked like me and fought White Supremacy. There have been White people who died in this struggle. And there are right now White people buried in the dungeons of this country who virtually volunteered to be there by standing shoulder to shoulder with Black sisters and brothers who wake up every morning facing a reality White people will never have to know.
If we were all born a thousand years ago, we would not be in this situation. The United States would not exist. Africans would be crossing the Atlantic to trade with people in the Western Hemisphere while Europeans would still be trying to figure out how far it is across. Most of us would be dying decades before we do now. Most women would rank somewhere below cattle on the property scale. And the vast majority of humans would be living and dying in the condition in which they were born and close to the geographical location of their birth.
Today, things are moving so fast and witnessed by so many, even if we only had a year to live, we could count on seeing technological and social changes so great in that year, few of us could have imagined them in advance. We are here, my brothers and sisters. For whatever reason, in whatever social location, in 2016. We may not know what happens next. But we can decide the role we play in it. Indigenous North Americans have been quoted as entering battle after saying, "It is a good day to die." None of us knows how long we have. And battles aren't always recognizable as such. Sometimes, the most important ones are inside our own minds and hearts. It is a good day to die. It is a good day to die. It is a good day to die.