Proximity to Blackness is Not Going to Solve Racism

Proximity to Blackness is Not Going to Solve Racism

Maybe the Black person in your life is the one closest to you. Your very best friend. The one you sleep with, have cultivated a family with and your view of the future always includes them.

Maybe you’re not THAT close, 😉 but you do have some amazing Black friends, or acquaintances, or you attend the same church and even sit together on the same pew!

Whatever the dynamics are, have you ever thought that you were somehow excused from that whole “race conversation” because of the Black people/person in your lives and their proximity to you?

Have you ever thought (or spoken) “OF COURSE I don’t have a racist bone in my body. My family is super diverse and *enter name of Black person* is my oldest, dearest friend!”

Have you really, truly listened when they attempt to share the fullness of their Black experience with you, or do you speak over, ignore or tokenize them, all while calling them your bestie, ride-or-die, mentor, mama-figure or confidante?

Maybe these are questions you’ve thought of often, or maybe they’ve never crossed your mind.

Either way, Kristina of @blackwomenplantseeds and I are inviting you to join our live conversation at 9 PM EST tonight to discuss Proximity to Blackness.

Tune in, lean in, and share with your friends!

Last night my friend Kristina and I did an IG Live, and the above words (originally found here), are the synopsis of what we were there to discuss.

As Black women, we both know what it’s like to have white friends and family members who value and appreciate the fullness of who we are, and we also know what it’s like to be tokenized.

We know what it’s like to have white people grateful to have us in their church, on the job or a personal relationship because of what we do, but shut things down before truly seeing us for who we are.

We are not shields to be used to protect any white person from confronting the sin of racism, and how it has impacted the interactions in their own lives. 

There is a lot to be said, but our hope in having this discussion is that it will propel people forward into more conversations like this, and into a place of self-interrogation, rather than waiting on the BIPOC in their lives to do it for them.

Here’s a recap:

After a brief introduction and sharing how Kristina and I first connected, we felt it most appropriate to make space to lament the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We expressed how we see parts of ourselves and the people in our lives in these victims, and how Black people share a collective trauma that we never seem to have the opportunity to recover from.

It was also mentioned that while yes, we were encouraged and maybe even a bit hopeful to see so many white individuals speak up and speak out, particularly in the wake of Ahmaud Arbery’s lynching, it begged an important question:

Do Black people have to die before the injustices we’ve been talking about (with some of you for years!) are finally believed?

The truth is, there are many white people (whether they’ve directly thought of it or not), who aren’t pressed to lean in and listen to the experiences of their Black friends. Most would rather state their proximity to them because it feels as though they have a “get out of racism” pass.

This is not so.

I went on to share a couple personal stories of life-long friends who changed on me once I declared my intent to attend an HBCU and no longer fit the code-switching, assimilated “safe black girl” box they’d put me in. It was as if loving and embracing my Blackness  was somehow a problem or made me anti-white.

In very real and painful ways I came to recognize that rubbing shoulders with the Black people in your life isn’t magically getting anyone any closer to checking their biases or living into the work of dismantling white supremacy. And I don’t want to be that shoulder you rub up against if nothing is going to convince you to change.

This is true (and incredibly disheartening) of the Church too. Both Kristina and I have numerous stories of experiencing racism from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, being tokenized under the guise of “diversity”, being told to stop whining about racism, and being informed that we were the only Black individuals a person liked, as if that was supposed to make us feel better.

Kristina went into a more detailed situation involving a white pastor who wanted to control the narrative of a conversation around race that she had been asked to lead. Several white women were upset by what they heard, and in the process blew things out of proportion. The program was ultimately shut down.

His reasoning?

He has that one Black friend so he was suddenly an expert.

White friends…don’t do that

We continued to dialogue through personal stories and getting honest about how these interactions make us feel, and we ended with a call to action for our white audience who chose to tune in.

I love what one such listener, Jodi @jodi.hyer shared as her key takeaways:

  1. Your Black friend, boyfriend, or spouse doesn’t mean you can’t have racist beliefs.
  2. Don’t tokenize Black people in your life. If you care about them, embrace them fully for who they are and not who you want them to be to make you comfortable.
  3. Being anti-racist is a life-long work.
  4. Move beyond awareness to action.
  5. Speak up when you witness racism in your daily life. Silence is dangerous and perpetuates racism. 

All of the above are true, and we fully acknowledged that there is no easy button available to navigate through any of this. There will be pain, discomfort, times you’ll say and do the wrong thing. You’ll maybe feel embarrassed, called out/in, and some of your current relationships might not stick. 

We get that, we really, really do, but we’d ask you to heavily consider that your discomfort is not death, and that is what we are dealing with.

There’s so much more but if you missed the live you can view Part 1 and 2 here and here.

I hope this has been beneficial for those of you who are more inclined to absorb information by way of the written word.

Lastly, I shared this quote from the brilliant Austin Channing Brown.

My challenge to you is to meditate on this. Then ask yourself how you can actively engage in ways to make it untrue.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. You are doing an amazing job. I’m proud of you, in awe of you, and your biggest fan! Very few walk the talk, you are doing a full-on marathon. I respect the way you don’t just present an issue, or problem, but always have thoughtful ideas on solutions to the problems. I know it’s very stressful, but I hope you continue to show people how to educate themselves, instead of being their teacher.

    1. That means the world to me. Nothing will get better if we’re not deeply challenged to make a serious change. I’m prayerfully doing my small part!

      Love you!!

  2. Can you elaborate a bit on the second topic you mentioned?

    1. Hi there! Thank you so much for reading. In short, we, like anyone, don’t want to be used as a simple place holder. We want to be embraced for all of who we are. I share more about this on my Instagram page @patricia_a_taylor.

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