We don't like it, but one small choice — like deciding whether or not to wear a hood, or the speed at which we reach into our glove box — can be the difference between life and death. When I am in a parking garage and walking behind a white woman, I intentionally cough or walk a little louder so she turns and notices me. Because when I don't, that same white woman will often clutch her purse and occasionally let out an audible gasp as I pass her. This is something my white friends likely don't realize I have to do. Some of them may even be the pearl-clutchers in the parking lot.
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But to maintain white comfort and to avoid having the cops called on us, we often have to tamp down clothes, modify our speech and volume, even do our hair differently. We have to have "the talk" with our kids about how the world sees them, and how act in order to make sure they come home alive. No, it's not fair.
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No, we don't like it. But so long as this country and its institutions are built on a solid foundation of white supremacy, it's a grim reality. You need to know that, and take it up with your fellow white people about how to dismantle it. There is no denying it. And yes, I love seeing her iconic looks on Instagram too. Dip a toe outside your comfort zone and try new new artists and genres you may not be familiar with. Go listen, see it, and experience it for yourself.
When you wear that braided wig on Halloween, or use your "blaccent" when you're around me or other black people, it hurts. It's not cute or charming, and it definitely doesn't make you seem cool.
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Our culture and heritage are not costumes you can slide on and off at your convenience. We don't get to be black only when it suits us. Neither do you. Having white friends and seeming to "fit in" with the majority can feel really alienating. You can feel too "white" for black people, and too "black" for white people when all you want to do is find people to eat pizza with. As Passmore wrote, "He is lost in this contradiction, and held responsible for it. Our concerns are urgent and real. We're getting subpar health care. We're disenfranchised. We're over-policed.
We're thrown in jail. We're killed by people sworn to protect us.
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It's exhausting, but we have to keep talking about it. So do you. Our white friends and allies need to step up and gather their people. Have the tough conversations. Speak up when you see racism, discrimination, and microaggressions. The time to talk about it is done.
Be about it, or find yourself a new black friend. Comedy legend Carol Burnett once said, "Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head. Going through childbirth is widely acknowledged as one of the most grueling things a human can endure. Having birthed three babies myself, I can attest that Burnett's description is fairly accurate—if that seemingly impossible lip-stretching feat lasted for hours and involved a much more sensitive part of your body.