Dear white people,
It’s me again.
You haven’t heard from me since the Ferguson street actions ended. A lot has happened since 2014 but not a lot has happened to actualize your commitment to racial justice. We still need to create the regional transformational change called for by the Ferguson Commission report.
A major political and cultural shift to the right came with the election of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. president. We’re coming up on the fifth anniversary of the Ferguson Uprising. This year will mark the 400th anniversary of my people’s kidnapping to these shores. How are we assessing our past and applying the hard-learned lessons to our future?
In my Dear White People letter to you in 2014, you got a compressed history primer on how racism infects all of us. I encouraged you to challenge the racist status quo particularly as it is manifested in police and court practices. I reminded you that the social justice movement is as much about changing hearts and minds as it is about changing laws and policies.
The incidents of white supremacy have reared their ugly heads too many times in the last few years. And there’s been a bit of backsliding by white folks who said they wanted to confront the systemic evils – until it meant confronting their own implicit biases and white privilege. All this compels me to revisit the part about “changing hearts and minds” in my first letter.
The day after the so-called election of Trump, hate crimes made a jump and are now up 17 percent. They’ve been increasing every year since, but these are only the reported incidents. The general public sees the few that receive national attention like the neo-Nazi deadly attack on non-violent protestors in Charlottesville.
The president has encouraged hate and violence from the White House bully pulpit (emphasis on bully). Anyone who is not a white, straight Christian has a bull’s eye on their backs. People of color, Muslims, LGBTQ community members, activists face serious, life-threatening risks on the streets and on campuses, and at their workplaces and places of worship.
White supremacy and hate of “the other” is being normalized by Trump, emboldening white folks who already shared his views on making America white again. You know these people. You are related to these people.
Your mission is to courageously engage family, friends, co-workers, church members and your other associations in civil discourse and education around the difficult issue of racism and white privilege. Don’t underestimate the importance of this mission.
There are more comparisons of our current president and circumstances to Hitler and Nazism than with any other president in my lifetime. This country is at the precipice of a slippery slope towards fascism.
The racist fear-mongering and scapegoating by Trump – along with putting people and policies in place to carry out his ideological, demonic wishes – are not new. Repressing free speech and controlling a national narrative is not new. These are actions of dictators who fear democracy. This should be scary.
The mantra of white people waving the anti-racist banner is to work towards a re-alignment of political power that’s fair and inclusive. This means a rejection of policies and practices that harm black lives.
In my first Dear White People letter, I assured you that what black folks want for their families is no different from what you want for your loved ones. That’s still true.
Black Lives Matter can’t just be trendy or rhetorical. It’s easy to post a yard sign or wear a button. We’re talking transformation here, from the micro (personal) to the macro (societal). It means challenging the criminalization of black bodies and black communities. It means divesting in the over-policing and mega-incarceration of Black people and investing in black communities and black futures.
There’s a movement underfoot led by Rex Sinquefield, Republican billionaire, to create a regional apartheid structure. The city-county merger will be up for a statewide vote. Missouri voters are mainly white, and they need to be fully informed of the measure’s consequences for black and poor people.
To date, the progress of white folks towards building an equitable society could use a boost. Racial disparities abound in every quality of life facet. It’s time for some meaningful breakthroughs.
This a time for white allies to be bold and unflinching. Black folks got your back.