Dear White People

I’ve sat down at my keyboard a hundred times by now. I’ve sat, staring at my phone, wondering if I should post about life these days in St Louis and then feeling frozen because my heart was too heavy to be trivial. I’ve thought about my white friends, and my white clients and hesitated because this moment feels like a line in the sand and I don’t know yet whose gonna wind up with me on the other side. I’ve thought about being quiet, but then I remembered the words I wrote in another post about no longer playing small. I considered keeping my head down, and then I thought about my mother having to keep her head up when she rushed past boys and girls and parents yelling Nigger at her as she desegregated her Queens. NY school. I thought about that and I said Nahhhhh. I, WE, need to be heard.

2 weeks ago, John and I spent time in Moab, Utah. On a rainy Saturday, and in need of WIFI, we pulled into an open parking lot, with no No Parking signs, and parked for the evening. Around 11:00pm police lights surrounded our bus and we heard them knocking on our door. Ana- Mae, our dog, was barking and getting anxious so I took her in the back and asked John to go outside. I saw a look cross his face, and it was too late before I realized what it was. It was fear. 

I listened to their questions. I heard their tone. I felt their ignorance. And then they requested an ID. And I knew in that moment, that I had made a mistake. I had forgotten what country I was in. I had forgotten for a brief moment that we are black and as black people we are not afforded the same rights. There was no reason to ask for an ID. To tell John that the sheriff had been watching us. To ask if we “had the means” to drive out of town. I had forgotten, and we are never allowed to forget what color we are in America.

Realizing that things were going left, I called outside and asked for John to watch the dog. I yelled out to the cops that he would be switching places with me. (Lest he move too quickly and they get “nervous”)  And I walked outside barefoot and prepared. I had flashed on a conversation a black cop in Chappaqua NY told me once. We were, safe to say, the ONLY black people in that town and in high school I was good for winding up at whatever party was getting busted. One night, he pulled me to the side and told me to “cut it the fuck out”. That I was not my white friends and that it would serve me to be clear on that. “You can’t do what they do and you’re gonna get yourself killed thinking you can. These white cops don’t care about your black life.”  

I’m grateful but sad when I think about that conversation. These are the lessons our elders are forced to teach us.

When I walked out of the bus, to see two cop cars and 3 cops and flashing lights, I heard that cop’s words and so I smiled and tap danced and shucked and jived to make them feel comfortable so that they wouldn’t kill us in the middle of that Utah desert. I preened and rambled and kissed their ass until I could see that I had convinced them that we were an acceptable fit for their empty parking lot and they finally left us alone. It took an hour. We were making no noise and breaking no law. We were just black, after dark, in their town.

Afterwards John took a shot of tequila to calm his nerves and I sat and cried. I cried because I saw in that moment that I was no longer that high school girl. I wasn’t rolling with rich white girls whose very presence prevented me from winding up in a jail cell. I am black and 40 years old and rolling with a KING whose very color makes lesser men nervous and trigger happy. I cried because I recognized my new role as his shield and that’s really scary. But necessary.

I’ve cried every day this week. I cry for my black women who are also acutely aware that on top of life  and it’s heaviness they must also be their man’s protection. I cry for my black men who have to wake up every day to be told they don’t matter here. I cry for my community who are scared to run, walk, drive, or sit at home on the fucking couch for fear of being murdered. And I cry for YOU white people, because you still haven’t figured out how valuable you are to the discussion. 

Let’s be real REAL for a minute. This country is racist as hell. Our government is racist as hell. There aren’t enough fireworks on the planet to ring in Independence for people of color in America. WE are not heard. WE are not considered. YOU are. So help. 

Help by asking us if we are okay. Have the conversation. Be uncomfortable. If you are my friend, and we aren’t talking about this then we are acquaintances. If you’re not able to have an honest conversation about what’s happening right now then why are you friends with black people in the first place? It’s a lie that you don’t see color. Stop saying that to yourself and to us. You do. You ignore color when it gets uncomfortable. 

Your silence in your home says that this is okay. Imagine, if when growing up, Black cops were killing Jews? And getting away with it. What if Black men, in charge of their neighborhood task forces, were shooting little white kids in hoodies? Now, what if my mother didn’t talk to me about it? What if my father never said a word? When I become the 40 year old woman I am now, what do I think about the value of Jews in this world if I’m never taught how wrong those cops were and what racism really is?

Start stepping into your privilege. As a woman don’t we know ours? I know I’m a beautiful woman. I know I have big boobs and a cute butt and that I can get away with a lot when necessary. And when necessary, I’ve used it all to my advantage. White folks? Use your skin color to your advantage. 

It was a white teacher who walked my mother into that school in Queens that day and yelled back at those heathens who threw things. It took the courage of white people, who sat next to us at Jim Crow counters, and protested with us on the front lines, to propel the Civil Rights Movement forward. And it’s taken the actions of our white comrades today to have these cops arrested, let along tried and sentenced. 

I am asking you…Stand with us. Speak up for us. SEE US. Or miss us with the bullshit. I hope as the black community, we all draw a line in the sand. I hope all of us require that our friends and tribes have our back. I hope that we didn’t just come together to sing and pray when Covid hit. That we weren’t just seen as part of your community because people are sick and maybe your people die too and now you too are scared. I hope that if nothing else, you’ve read this and sat back to wonder where you fall in all of this. THIS requires work. Self work and that sucks but you are a mandatory ingredient in our survival. 

Black people… You are so beautiful. So magical. And so valuable.  I love you. I love you. I love you. Hold yourself tight and your families tight. We always rise.

28 thoughts on “Dear White People

  1. Tarsha McNeil May 29, 2020 / 2:14 am

    So powerful and so beautiful. I literally cried while reading it. Mostly from frustration but also from sadness. I am raising 4 black men and I worry everyday!!!

    I was talking to my husband today and realized that for Eidan, my 4 year old, this is the last year he can be an oblivious kid. His world of rainbows, friends, and fun will have to come to an end because I HAVE to start talking to him about the harsh reality of his life. Like that cop, I have to start telling MY BABY that his precious life doesn’t matter to certain people in authority. I have to try to explain to his innocent mind why him being black makes people think he’s less than. Eidan is extremely tall for his age. He already looks like he’s 7. They are killing our children at or around that age. He is rebellious and doesn’t always listen, like most 4 year olds. But bring black, that can be considered a threat and end his life.

    My white friendships don’t have to have this conversation or even consider telling their sons that they aren’t worth life in main stream society. It hurts like hell, but this is the reality of my life.

    I’m so sorry you and your husband experienced what you did. Stay strong sis.

    Like

    • sundaribliss May 29, 2020 / 6:15 pm

      I can’t imagine what this must feel like as a mother and the fear that you must carry daily. Your boys are lucky that they are being raised by an amazing woman like you. They will be prepared 🙏🏾

      Like

  2. quinnierose May 29, 2020 / 2:45 am

    I see. I listen. I am screaming for you, for all black people. You are magic.

    Like

  3. Siddeeqah (Sidd) Foster May 29, 2020 / 10:26 pm

    My 40 year old son works from home and lives in Jersey City, his job encourages them to do some mid day exercise so he talked to me as he was on his 1-2 mile walk. On his way back, realizing it was getting late for his 12:30 business call, he started jogging, we got off the phone when he was 3 blocks from home and I was laughing when I was re-telling the call to my husband until I thought about Arnaud Aubry……This just shouldn’t be

    Like

  4. Shana May 30, 2020 / 5:12 pm

    Thank you.

    Like

  5. Terry Gibson May 30, 2020 / 11:57 pm

    I made a comment here yesterday and realized today that I didn’t utter one word about the terror you all faced. I apologize for that. My heart is with all black people. Clearly, I can’t express my feelings well but I am listening. I am feeling your pain. I want to feel it. I feel powerless but want to help. I love you all. So very much.

    Like

  6. Laura June 1, 2020 / 7:04 pm

    This is so powerful. Lump in my throat and sickened that black voices have not been heard and respected. I do not understand but I stand with you.

    Like

  7. Michelle June 2, 2020 / 5:53 am

    This was beautifully written and so important. Thank you for writing it. I’ll be sharing it with my friends and family.

    Like

  8. Emily mafham June 2, 2020 / 6:58 am

    I just read this with tears in my eyes.I have to say that as a white woman living in the UK I never really knew what sort of fear black people lived in.I was ignorant.I’d never imagined the sort of conversations parents are having with their children about how to make sure they are not killed by the police.I don’t know how things will change but at least now I know.

    Like

  9. Emily mafham June 2, 2020 / 6:58 am

    I just read this with tears in my eyes.I have to say that as a white woman living in the UK I never really knew what sort of fear black people lived in.I was ignorant.I’d never imagined the sort of conversations parents are having with their children about how to make sure they are not killed by the police.I don’t know how things will change but at least now I know.

    Like

  10. Nancy June 2, 2020 / 10:43 am

    Such a powerful post. Thank you for making me want to be better. I would love to get it out there and be seen- maybe a Facebook post to be shared?

    Like

  11. Kathleen Calamunci June 2, 2020 / 12:17 pm

    Thank you for your words. As a white woman I want to better understand your experience as a black citizen in today’s world and this piece of writing helps me do that. There are no easy answers for this systemic problem of racism and inequality but I want to personally figure out what I can do to help make a difference. You give me a starting place.

    Like

  12. Suzannejc June 2, 2020 / 12:25 pm

    I hear you. I see you. I am here in support. Listening, reading, learning.

    Like

  13. Carmen Shenk June 2, 2020 / 1:32 pm

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. The unfairness of it is vivid to me. Sending you so much love from me and my immigrant husband. 💚💙💜

    Like

  14. Sarah June 2, 2020 / 2:25 pm

    You are beautiful. You matter. Your words are magic and you are a queen! I’m sorry and will stand with you forever. ❤️

    Like

  15. Amy M. June 2, 2020 / 6:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing. And, for the opportunity to listen. I appreciate you!!!

    Like

  16. Leanna June 2, 2020 / 9:50 pm

    I happened upon your IG and into this blog post and every word you so beautifully wrote and the painfully expressed notions of your past and present. I won’t ever know what has been and is your reality but I want think I can feel and use your story towards a conversation with myself and also my children. As a Jew, I have felt the sting from jokes and strerotypes. I have felt embarrassed and unsure at times to admit my religion. It’s not okay. It forms a self separate from our truth. I loved your words, your honesty, your hurt and I want better. I will fight with my color and my voice for yours. ❤️ Please let me know if and how I can share your blog post. It’s worthy of many shares.

    Like

    • sundaribliss June 18, 2020 / 7:05 pm

      Thank you for this beautiful message…I hope the words landed where they need to and yes, please feel free to share.

      Like

  17. Rebecca Crow June 4, 2020 / 8:08 pm

    You and your husband were made in God’s Image. Period.

    Like

  18. rligans June 8, 2020 / 2:44 pm

    As an African American single mother caring for two kiddos in a tiny house, I often fear that city dwelling in mobile home parks, for racial safety, will be my only option for tiny home living. It is fact that urban city council groups have not been Tiny friendly since this movement has taken off. This leaves tiny house folks with rural living options for land ownership.
    My worry: rural communities, particularly in the south, predominantly white, not welcoming to blacks!
    To own a slice of rural land would be a dream – to live in fear that white neighbors may HATE in such a community would be a nightmare! Jesus showed love to ALL communities, let’s model His teaching.

    Like

  19. Kenzie Shreve June 9, 2020 / 7:16 pm

    My heart breaks for you, for Tarsha, and for all black people who have to live in a world where their lives are not valued like mine or any other white persons. I see you all and I’m here for you. We will not turn a blind eye. Stay strong, I pray for change. I pray for your families and all the babies out there hearing their lives don’t matter as much due to their skin color. They matter. YOU matter.

    Like

  20. Katie Trotta June 10, 2020 / 2:03 am

    Your mom would be so proud of you! I am so proud of you! Xoxo

    Like

  21. marta jarosiewicz July 18, 2020 / 10:16 am

    I’m so happy that you do speak about it. White people we have to educate ourselves about our white privilage and use it against racism. If we won’t stand up against racial discrimination, the one that we white people created, then who will?
    I hate to hear from white people when they so to their non white friends, who suffered discrimination (whether from the authority or just a random look on the street) : are you sure? Don’t you exaggerate a bit? It’s not tha bad, is it? This is not USA, we are more tolerant in Europe. If you don’t like it, then leave. Get over it.
    I can go on and on.
    It’s time to open our eyes, and soul, and get over our guilt and shame.
    Thank you again for speaking your feelings. I’m aware how frustrating and helpless you might feel. How much energy it takes. I can’t feel what you feel, the clostet thing i guess would be my struggle with male privilege over woman.
    Xxx

    Like

    • sundaribliss July 31, 2020 / 4:42 pm

      Thank you for your support Marta and your understanding

      Like

  22. Karen Graff July 19, 2020 / 3:46 am

    Hello Iana,
    When I first glanced at the e-mail with the photo of your bus and adventure I was so excited that you have been traveling. After reading your Dear White People post, I am now snapped back to reality that the tone of your skin puts you in peril. Not just just in a parking lot in Moab after dark, but in bed in the middle of the night in Louisville, or the full light of day in Minneapolis. This is who we are – a country steeped in racial inequities that has never been fair or safe for Black people. These stories have got to be the catalysts for change. I am long sick of the racial injustice that plagues this country. We all have to pick up a shovel and commit to doing the work to become anti-racist and balance the scales of opportunity.

    Like

    • sundaribliss July 31, 2020 / 4:41 pm

      Karen I love your imagery of us all picking up the shovel and doing the work! It’s necessary

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s