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  • Writer's pictureEdward Rhymes

To My Lighter-Hued Sisters & Brothers

Every so often I have to talk to my brothers & sisters who don't quite understand where I stand. So, instead of writing over again that which has already been written, I'm re-posting this from 2014.

"The National Black Day of Silence has passed and I guess I can now speak my piece regarding some of the nonsense that I've seen and read.

1. It's not my job to explain to my fairer-skinned brothers and sisters that recognizing and observing a day of silence, for what is OVERWHELMINGLY happening to Black people, is not hate speech. And stop saying "love doesn't see color." As well intentioned as you might be, it's wrong. Love sees ethnicity, but doesn't discriminate against it. Seeing color isn't the problem, how we value or devalue it is.

2. Why is there a problem with the mere mention of Black people, well, being Black.? I've lost count of the "kiss me I'm Irish t-shirts, mugs & buttons; Italian flags, knick-knacks & keepsakes; Swedish memorabilia & what-nots and somehow that show of pride, solidarity and unity is perfectly fine, but let Black folks talk about organizing to face obvious injustices and tragedies, as Black folks, and somehow that's viewed as out of step with humanity. Your refusal to accept that certain things are, disproportionately, impacting a certain group of people is what excludes you; that is what causes the division that you erroneously ascribe to events such as this.

3. If this aint (yes, slang was necessary here) your experience stop trying to tell those of us who are experiencing it how YOU think WE should respond. It sounds like a man trying to tell a woman what it feels like to be pregnant. It's condescending and frustrating - Stop it.

4. Please stop acting as if the shooting of unarmed people is happening at the same proportion in every community. It simply isn't the case and intimating otherwise is dishonest, disrespectful and insulting. Yes, I have hurt and wept for many of every hue whose lives have been impacted by violence, but even in saying that it feels like I have to give some sort of disclaimer as a Black person that I unequivocally recognize the humanity of other ethnicities, when for me, that's never been a problem.

Nevertheless, in our country and society, historically and currently, it's the humanity of people of color that seems to be a constant and nagging open question (can you say Native-American genocide, The Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese Internment and slavery). And your failure to recognize that history and reality IS the problem, not our addressing it.

5. Why go to the National Black Day of Silence page to talk about why you won't be participating in the event? Like any other event, we'll know you're not there, if you're not there.

6. There is a difference between being a victim of police brutality (which can include any and all ethnic groups) and being a victim of police brutality because the color of your skin has been criminalized (Black & Brown folk).The declarations of peace that you seem bound and determined that Black people heed, needs to be aimed at some of our trigger happy and militarized brethren in law enforcement.

7. How is that I can understand that when October rolls around and multitudes of individuals are wearing pink, running in Race for the Cure marathons and airing commercials and PSAs talking about women and breast cancer, that they're not dissin' ovarian, rectal, lung, prostate cancer - or even MEN with breast cancer? But when some of my lighter-hued sisters and brothers whose ancestors hail from Europe, read, see or hear Black people talking about addressing something that is from 7 to 3.5 times more likely to happen to them (being killed by law enforcement officers - many times unarmed) than ANY other ethnic group, they go into panic mode and go into accusations about Blacks being separatists and segregationists? It is an attitude eerily reminiscent of the old slave codes and Jim Crow laws prohibiting Blacks from assembling. Why is this so hard, for so many, to understand? When you continually fail to acknowledge a people's REALITY, you'll have to deal with their REACTION."

8. It is an insult to equate your feelings being hurt by people of color, to people of color - Black folks in particular - being KILLED by law enforcement. And although it may have been wrong for you to get your feelings hurt, you do realize that DEATH is something a whole lot more serious than hurt feelings... right? To give those two phenomena the same weight, is White privilege at its finest and White supremacy at its most brutal.

9. Addressing the history and reality of White privilege and supremacy is not hatred of WHITE people. That particular canard is a deflection, a distraction; a detour from a real conversation. This aint (there's that slang again) about making you responsible for what your ancestors did or may have done. Nevertheless, it is about putting that HISTORY in context to address how we arrived at this PRESENT. We don't get to choose what we inherit. If you can keep celebrating the 4th of July because you believe history matters, then history matters ACROSS the board... warts and all.

That wraps it up for me, I'll end with the words of James Baldwin (My Dungeon Shook):

"Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that, for the heart of the matter is here, and the root of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born, and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being.

You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth , you have been told where you could go and what you could do (and how you could do it) and where you could do it and whom you could marry.

I know that your countrymen do not agree with me about this, and I hear them saying “You exaggerate.” They do not know Harlem, and I do. So do you. Take no one’s word for anything, including mine—but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence your came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you.

Please try to remember that what that believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, though the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration.

There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously.

You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.

They have had to believe for so many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of identity.

Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shinning and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is our of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations."

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