Deborah L. Plummer posted To My White Friends Who Know Me on Medium. I related to it a lot, although I intentionally forged a different path.
She is self-described as a “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging professional.” I tried to consciously avoided roles such as being an affirmative action officer. It’s not because I thought it was unimportant. My father served that function, among others, as a vice-president of J.A. Jones Construction in Charlotte, NC. And he was involved in civil rights starting back in his days in Binghamton, NY. Still, I found that some people, mostly white, but a few black folks as well, thought that such positions reeked of tokenism.
This is why we are having a moment in America. As Plummer noted: “I have a lot of White friends. Obviously, they have always known that I am Black. The amount of melanin in my skin hasn’t changed… They have claimed me as their Black friend.
“Yet, during this time of aggressive push for racial equity, most of my White friends are now just seeing and experiencing me as a Black person. Having witnessed a startling, violent 8 minutes and 46 seconds of video, they now see me and other Blacks as the recipients of systemic racism. They understand that the murder of George Floyd represents the weight of how Blacks in the United States have been treated for decades, and they struggle not to see themselves as participants in anything vicariously related to what Derek Chauvin did.
They try to be supportive
“My White friends are now on an emotional roller coaster as they read Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste. They are making personal racial equity to-do lists and signing up for accountability partners after reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist…” I feel the need to keep up myself!
“They know, acknowledge, and make no excuses for the fact that Trump is racist and are genuinely horrified by his long history of racism.” (Finally!) “They know that race is strongly correlated with voting preferences and that the vast majority of Trump supporters are White. They are afraid of the disparate impact on me and other BIPOC if Trump is reelected and are actively working to prevent that from happening.”
This is especially true. “My White friends are apologizing to me for things they said, might have said, or could have possibly said that did, could have, or might have smacked of racism. They are doing mental rewinds of situations where they showed me support.” Yes, some of that. “And writing mini memoirs sent to me in emails as proof that they really are and have been antiracist pre-George Floyd. Some of their stories I vividly remember, and some stories I do not recall at all.” Yup.
Time has come today
Perhaps I didn’t talk enough about race to my white friends prior to the end of May 2020. I hadn’t avoided the issue.
Maybe Probably I thought they just wouldn’t understand. Perhaps I underestimated them. Or, quite likely, circumstances have allowed a conversation where I didn’t see an opening previously.
Even things I wrote about before, like Tulsa in 1921, which I wrote about in 2016, seem to have a new resonance. Before it was, “Oh, that a terrible thing,” but a singular event. Now it’s seen as part of a systemic flaw in the country. There is a line that runs from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, which I discussed in 2014, BTW.
At church, I have been involved in Black History Month events for over a decade. (Some people say I’m in charge of it, but I vigorously deny it.) The Anti-Racism Task Force, of which I am NOT a member, has been running adult education at church, via Zoom, all summer, and will continue to do so once a month going forth.
This reminds me of a story, but that’ll have to be for another time.