There is no doubt that 2020 is a shit show of epic proportions, but if we’re being honest, things haven’t been good for a long time. And if we’re people of color, which I am not, “long time” means FOREVER. During Obama’s presidency the overtly racist knuckledraggers were present but slightly muted, and the opaquely racists were dormant. These people are very much the problem both then and now, and it is undeniable that Trump gaslights America’s stupid in incredible ways. But a different problem is taking center stage as we speak.
The White Savior is a problematic trope in good times, but an absolute menace in times that are bad. Times like right now. The Black community needs like-minded people to step up and speak out. People like the police officers who stood by and watched their colleague extinguish a life by using unequivocally excessive force on a handcuffed, unarmed man. I have no insight into the moral compass of those men, but I have to imagine at least one of them saw what was happening as against his moral code, but failed to speak up.
There are many other situations that aren’t life or death, where white people need to speak up for what’s right. Not for likes or retweets, but because in that moment, it is the right thing to do or say. This is not being a “white savior.” It is simply being a human being.
But right now, the white attention mongers are coming out in full force and more than just a little bit, they are exaggerating or flat out fabricating the truth in order to get credit for being woke. The message might be powerful, and possibly even effective, but things are bad enough for real, that it doesn’t have to be done. When these made up stories, and photoshopped images, and cleverly edited videos are brought to light for what they really are, it hurts the cause way more than it could ever help.
My friend called me up today and shared a FB post some white woman had tossed up in a discussion about the current civil unrest. The post shared a story that a friend of hers had posted, and she was using her platform as a white woman with a keyboard to affect change. Here’s a screenshot of the post:
Now, I blacked out the name of the town, but I’ll tell you that it’s a very small city and the details (plus additional evidence such as who the original poster is friends with) gives me a pretty strong indication that I am that judge’s son. And while I am steadfast in my belief that I didn’t name any names, I have no desire to exonerate myself. Rather, I’d like to point out a couple of inaccuracies.
First of all, while we were no doubt the benefactors of white privilege, the police officers did not treat us like co-workers and buy us lunch. In fact, they were probably bigger assholes than usual. We were treated like frat pledges, which I acknowledge is still way better than people of color are typically treated for doing far less or nothing at all.
Secondly, the anecdote about all of the black people coming in to dispute tickets is straight up bullshit. Never happened. At least it didn’t happen while were there completing our community service. Not to my knowledge.
So why make this up? Well, I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe he was confusing stories. Or maybe I have some sort of amnesia. But then I think back to the first part about how he wasn’t caught, but rather “ratted out.” There is an obsession with sounding superior. Like, he’s such a good thief, he could never be caught on his own. Why even mention that part?
It brings me back to my original point that these problematic white people are encouraged not by saying what’s right, but by getting credit for saying it. The overall message of the post is good. There are two different realities. Injustice is happening every day. People need to wake up. But the content is fabricated and exaggerated. And that is not necessary. These things really do happen, just not that day.
So let’s stick to the truth. Point out injustice when you see it because it’s right, not for likes. I’m way more impressed by someone I find out has been doing charitable deeds when no one is looking than by the loudmouth who tells everyone he gave a homeless guy five bucks and says he doesn’t even care if the guy buys booze with it. Sometimes it’s ok just to listen. So if you don’t have anything real to say, just open your ears and listen to those that do. You can still make an impact.