Let me start off this post by saying Black Lives Matter. I have stated this fact in many previous posts on this site, but I am not certain that I have said those three words in that order and I feel that it is important that I do so here and now. Saying Black Lives Matter is only the beginning, but if I don’t start there, I am doing the whole movement a disservice and I wish to honor the past and help to build a better future in the present.
As a White person, I am actively learning and growing in my anti-racist practice each day. I am interrupting racism in White spaces and attempting to surface and destroy my internalized racism. I make mistakes, but I do not let those mistakes hinder my progress. I admit when I am wrong or uninformed and I keep working on it. This past month has been yet another learning experience for so many White people, that I fear will fade with time. I am hopeful that we can continue to self reflect and grow and I hope to engage more here, in addition to my social media presence with a specifically intersectional, anti-racist message.
Having said that – let us now discuss safe spaces and how White people can learn to be better co-conspirators in the overall struggle for racial and social justice.
At the beginning of June, there was an increase in the follower counts for Black creators online. This, on the surface, seems like a positive outcome. During this moment (after millions of preceding moments that came and went after Black people were killed for no reason) White people are saying we want to learn, but wanting to learn is the only first step. Follow through is also extremely important.
The hope is that White folks will follow these Black creators and take in the information presented to self reflect and become better individuals. White people should be working on interruption of racism in their personal lives, with other White people. If you are a White person trying to learn about systemic racism for the first time, in this moment, my question is ‘where the fuck have you been?’ and my advice in the search for information is to continuously check yourself.
I am glad that so many White people are finally opening up to the possibility that our privilege is the problem, but I am disheartened by the stumbles I see in online spaces. When a Black creator puts up a boundary, White people need to recognize the boundary and adhere to it. You know, the whole, do unto others thing. Yeah – that wasn’t just meant for White people comfort.
Last night, I saw an interaction online that made me question my own presence in a Black creators space and after self-reflection I understood that my feelings on that matter were moot. Not all spaces are for White people, contrary to what White people seem to think. Let me say that again for the people who weren’t quite listening: NOT ALL SPACES ARE FOR WHITE PEOPLE.
When a Black creator puts up a message on their social media account that specifically asks White people not to interact with them, White people need to BACK OFF. When a Black creator voices a boundary that they would like their space to be for Black women only, White people need to step away. But please – don’t use that boundary as a ‘reason’ to stop self-reflecting. Don’t go back into the comfort of Whiteness and stop paying attention to the information that is presented to you from other Black creators. Don’t use it as a way to be lazy, yet again.
Safe spaces are important and when a Black person creates a safe space online, we, as White people, need to honor that space. If we are invited in, we can quietly listen, but we should not engage in discourse in a space that is not meant for us. Safe spaces are sacred and White people cause harm to Black people just by our presence in space. I know that sounds like a lot, but if more White people would really do the work of learning history and engaging with materials on our own, we would come to see why our presence is damaging. We all carry a history with us, whether we like it or not, and that history can bring up psychic trauma for Black people that, although we may not intend it to be the case, can be painful.
Again – we need to honor the spaces that Black people deem as safe and only interact when asked to. When asked to be quiet and reflect, BE QUIET AND REFLECT. And when asked to leave or not come into the space in the first place, honor that request and leave. Don’t come back with a ‘why I’m leaving response’ either. Just. Leave.
We can still do the work of interrupting racism in our everyday lives. We can still do the work of surfacing all the internalized racism that we carry with us from centuries of conditioning to shine a light on it and destroy it. We can still continue to protest and donate and sign petitions and share content that is meaningful for racial justice. But we should tread lightly in spaces meant for discourse between Black people (or Indigenous people or People of color) and White people. We should honor the safe spaces of those who are putting boundaries in place.
After all – they wouldn’t need to put up boundaries if we weren’t still living in a world of White Supremacist Patriarchy. Have a little awareness of your surroundings and proceed with knowledge. Check your privilege, squash your fragility, and stay informed. Don’t just tag out of the game because you feel like you cannot win. Winning isn’t the point. Or – rather – winning for White people isn’t the goal. The goal is to dismantle a system of oppression that has ravaged the lives of Black, Indigenous, and people of color for decades. So keep fighting. We all deserve to live in a world where we are equal.
Black safety matters. Black excellence matters. Black contributions matter. Black Lives Matter.