Dear White People, Stop Making Racism All About You
When it comes to social media etiquette, we are all still learning how to interact with each other while respecting boundaries and the spaces we give ourselves.
What has translated straight over from our in-person interactions are racist, sexist, and ableist micro- and macroaggressions. How do we navigate those? Well, it would help if folks with privilege recognized the ways in which they are routinely demanding labor from marginalized people online.
In regards to White folks and their anti-Blackness, here is a list of 10 ways they can stop annoying people of color on social media.
1. When we post about racism—like being called racist names, racial harassment, feelings about being called racist things, or being racially harassed—stop saying you’re shocked. Don’t say, “I can’t believe this still happens.” Don’t tell us all the ways you’re surprised, because you’re either lying or haven’t been paying attention. Don’t show us how much you don’t listen when we talk by carelessly stating “shock.” Think about what it says to us about how you see us before you say something.
It’s not about you personally unless you personally caused the problem.
2. When we share whatever flavor of racial pain we’re in, don’t proclaim what a good White person you personally are and then go on to tell a story about that time you rescued a poor Black child from the ghetto. We don’t want to hear about that time you bought some jammy pants that gave 5 cents to an elephant in India or whatever. Just don’t do it because it’s not about you personally unless you personally caused the problem. If you want to tell your story about what a wonderful White person you are, take it to your own space because we’re not here for it.
3. Related to number 2, say you come across a post on Facebook and there is a lengthy thread where people of color are going off about how terrible White people are: Don’t be the White person to #notallwhitepeople the thing. If you are personally offended by the “stereotyping” and “generalizations” of a group of people either sharing their pain or cracking jokes about Whitey, calm the hell down. There is not a comment thread long enough. You, singular Good White Person, cannot be the savior of Whiteness.
4. Not all conversations need your stories about something tangentially related. For example, a group of Black folks on social media are talking about hair issues. Maybe we’re talking about things like little Black girls being threatened with suspension from school for wearing their hair natural or wearing braids. Maybe we’re talking about living in majority-White cities and not being able to find certain products, whatever. Mind. Your. Own. Business. The time someone told a Blonde joke that hurt your feelings or the glossy lady-rag article you read that says curly hair isn’t serious—please do not insert yourself. Stay in your lane.
5. If you don’t understand a Black colloquialism, African American Vernacular English, or other brown people slang, do not start yammering about the demise of the English language and how terrible slang is. AAVE is among the most vibrant and ever-changing dialects of the English language. So don’t. If you don’t understand, Google before you ask or just deal with the fact that it isn’t for you.
You don’t have to be confrontational, you don’t have to ride to the rescue.
6. Related to number 5, think about how you use AAVE. Do you use it when you want to feel sassy? If the only use for Blackness you have is to consume it and regurgitate it, skip it. Quote Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry or somebody until Blackness means more to you than two seconds of cachet or sass.
7. Stop letting your white friends act like a-holes on your friends’ posts. You don’t have to be confrontational, you don’t have to ride to the rescue. You can say to your friend, This is not appropriate, here, I am sending you a message so that we can talk. Handle your own people.
8. If ignorance suddenly turns you into the sort of person who leaves 4 inches worth of a comment on a Facebook thread where you police tone, demand emotional labor, and refuse to do your own research—just stop. Your anti-Black biases are making you perceive our responses as aggressive thanks to racist tropes like the Angry Black Woman. There is nothing gentle about racism, and our responses to it don’t warrant subtlety or kindness in return.
9. Don’t ask us why we hate White people. Just don’t. Please stop. Don’t commend us if we decide to say not all white people, don’t demand to a light on you for being The One Truly Good White Person.
10. If reading this list has you furiously writing up a long comment to explain to me how you’re not the problem, how racism is bad, how I don’t really know the struggle, if you are earnestly going to #notallwhitewomen and/or #notallwhitepeople me—you ain’t ready. If you believe this is directed at you personally—it definitely is.
This article was originally published by Wear Your Voice. It had been edited for YES! Magazine.