I would guesstimate about 10% of White people are full out, active racists. They see anyone who isn’t White as inferior and actively works to oppress them at every opportunity.
I would guesstimate another 10% are appalled by the racism of the world and actively fighting against it. They speak out against discrimination and microaggression whenever and wherever they see it. They seek diversity and inclusiveness in every aspect of their lives. They recognize their privilege and use it to help others achieve equality.
And I would guesstimate the other 80% are generally oblivious to racism altogether. They aren’t full out racist and they aren’t fighting against racism, either. They know racism exists but they don’t see it in their circle of friends and family; and they definitely don’t see it in themselves. They agree it should be stopped but they aren’t doing anything about it.
If they wanted to, the 80% could go their whole lives never befriending a Black person or any other Person of Color. They would see nothing wrong with it if they did. They don’t notice when diversity is lacking in their environments or, if they see it, they assume there’s a logical, non-racist reason for it; they don’t do anything active to change it. They don’t see racism as a systemic issue; they believe all people have an equal opportunity to advance if they just work hard for it.
If they have Black or People of Color as friends, they rarely talk to them about racial issues. And when the topics come up, they keep their commentary as neutral as possible to avoid offending their friend or expressing any views which could be seen as controversial. However, they do ask about cultural and physical differences without consideration for how uncomfortable that might make their friend and without fully recognizing their friend doesn’t speak for their entire group.
When they say they don’t see color, they mean it. Black people are just darker White people, with all the same rights and opportunities. Our Blackness is irrelevant and invisible. They will not notice or celebrate our difference because they don’t see it.
80% of White people are so steeped in their Privilege that they don’t even see us.
Let that sink in.
So why do we care so much about what they think? Why do Black people waste so much of our time seeking their acceptance and approval? Why do we shy away from speaking our truth for fear of upsetting people who don’t even notice our existence or our struggle?
The simplest answer is Supremacy. We’re conditioned to believe White is better and that we haven’t truly accomplished anything until and unless they approve of it.
The next simplest answer is survival. Whites once controlled our access to everything so we had to have their approval to accomplish our goals and live our lives.
Contrary to what we see on the news, the times have changed and are still changing. It may look like we’ve regressed to the 1960s, but we really haven’t. White approval and acceptance and understanding and participation is no longer needed for us to advance as a people.
Black people can vote now. We have economic independence and power now. We drive what goes viral and what trends across the major social media platforms.
We are not our ancestors.
We are their wildest dreams. We don’t need anyone’s approval to show up and be as we are in this world. The only permission we need is our own.
That’s not to say we just ignore the systems put in place to hinder us. That would be foolish and dangerous. We should actively be working to dismantle systems of oppression and remove from authority and influence the people who support these systems. We should continue to work to succeed within the current oppressive systems to the best of our abilities in the meanwhile — and we should reach back and help others like us each time we level-up.
But we can do all these things without the 80%. We don’t need to convince them that our views are valid or that our experiences are real or that our concerns are legitimate in order to push our agenda forward.
We don’t need their support. We don’t need their approval. We don’t need them to like us. We don’t need them to speak on our behalf. We don’t need their apathy or enervation masking as advocacy or enthusiasm. We don’t need their fragility masking as friendliness. We don’t need their curiosity masking as commitment.
If they don’t see the issue, so what? If they don’t agree that it’s a problem, so what? If they don’t join in the fight, so what?
If they don’t want to listen, stop talking.
If they don’t want to understand, stop explaining.
If they don’t want try, stop striving.
Focus on working together and with the 10% who are committed to being allies and accomplices in the struggle. Leave the rest behind.
For our health. For our culture. For our future … Stop.