“Two friends and I set up a rule — no more white women for 2017. We are not accepting friend requests online or in real life. We don’t have the energy required to vet people and then wait for the other shoe to drop.”
Earlier this year, at work, I overheard a coworker, a white woman, complaining about her family’s struggle to pay for her eldest child’s college education. They had applied for many scholarships, but either hadn’t received enough or any at all. This woman, in her frustration, and with no shame at all, told a room full of people, “If my child’s last name had been Gonzalez, things would be easier.”
This woman didn’t understand that when it comes to private scholarships, white kids tend to get them more, and public ones, like the Pell Grant, are need-based, and minorities tend to be poorer. So, it has nothing at all to do with race and more to do with income. The fact is, this woman makes too much money, and her kid didn’t meet merit-based requirements, that is why she didn’t qualify. None of this is the fault of anyone named Gonzalez.
Now, I already didn’t like this particular woman, but what killed me was all the other white women around her nodding along. Women I’ve known for years who swear they are not racist, who swear that they don’t see color, who swear that times have changed and we all need to come together in love and cooperation. White women nodding along to a racist statement like that are in fact racist themselves or cowardly. Neither type of woman is one I want, need, or have time for in my life anymore.
This isn’t an isolated incident either. Things like this happen around me all the time, and no amount of running to HR or speaking up stops it. They never stop thinking people of color are lazy, or getting something they aren’t. They never stop assuming darker skin means you don’t belong here, or that you are guilty, or stupid. They never stop blaming everyone else when a little of the suffering and hardship of the world touches their lives lightly and for the briefest moment. I am tired.
There have been so many white women I counted as friends, women I thought of as open-minded, tolerant, understanding, and compassionate. I never knew they were racist until it was too late. That is, not until after I’ve become emotionally invested in the relationship I had—and subsequently lost—when they expressed their true feelings. I don’t mean to say this is everyone’s experience, or even that it is typical, only that it is mine and many others and that it is hard.
My anger has been bubbling, I will admit it. It was on a slow burn before but this last election cycle has left me angry, bitter, and even more than that, exhausted. And now, between the hate I hear on the news, the voting demographic breakdown, and the kind of crap I hear and see from white people on a daily basis, I can’t take much more. I just can’t.
This is anger, not hatred. I do not hate white people, I do not blame all white people, but I am exhausted by white people, even the allies, at times.
It’s been bubbling for a while, and I am trying to find a way to care for myself without saying or doing things I will regret later. I am weighing what is best for me against what people will think of me, and I realized the latter shouldn’t matter. I am the one who has to live with me, and I am the one who has to carry the pain of my past and the anxiety of my future in this country, alone. I have to do what feels right, for me.
Last week I read a story on Medium by Graeme Seabrook about her own anger and exhaustion and her need to do what was best for her regardless of the feelings of white women in her life. She, like me, isn’t full of hate, she just hurt and tired. She said something in that story that has stuck with me, she said her and her friends have a rule: “No more white women for 2017”. I read the story, and I couldn’t get those words out of my head.
Those words frightened me. This is not how we are supposed to react. This is not how we are supposed to think or feel. This is not the “right thing.” We are supposed to be bigger and better than that, right? But the more I mulled it over, the more I understood it. It wasn’t about hate, it wasn’t about exclusion or racism, it was about prioritizing. It was about the kinds of people, connections, and even media that we seek out and demand. It was about who we let take up space in our lives and minds. It’s about diversifying your life for a while.
I have many white friends I adore. Friendships I would never give up because they add value to my life. Hell, I am half white myself. I was raised by a white woman. I am engaged to another half white woman who was raised by a white mother too. I couldn’t exclude or hate whiteness without hating myself, my loved ones, and where I come from too. It’s possible but it’s not me. Instead, what I aim to do, is to stop making whiteness and white voices the default, the norm, the prized, and the protected, in my life.
In 2017, I am not entertaining white questions, concerns, or criticisms especially on the subjects of race, gender, sexuality, politics, or religion. I am not letting them think it’s okay to be ignorant anymore and I am not letting them force me to educate them in exchange for their compassion. I am not letting them slid by doing the bare minimum or nothing at all. I am not accepting ignorance, fragility, or innocence as excuses. I am not accepting apologies so easily anymore.
This year I’m looking for new friends and new connections with women of color, from all cultures. I want to read more from women of color. I want to donate money to and buy more from women of color. I want opinions, advice, and stories from women of color. I want to follow, reblog, retweet, and reply to more women of color. I want to be among more people who look the way I do, feel the way I do, live the way I do, and suffer the way I do too. I want to help people who need me.
I think all of us should seek these voices, regardless of our own race, gender, or sexual orientation. Let’s make women of color a priority in our lives and see what we learn about ourselves and the world.
But even as I write this, even as I feel so sure this is what is right for me, I feel that familiar guilt. I am making assumptions. I am not giving the benefit of the doubt. I am dividing people. I am accusing people of feeling things they don’t. I am judging books by their covers. Except, I don’t think all white women are racist, but I know some of them are and I just don’t have the energy to wait around to find out who is who.
I know it may sound harsh, and I may be hurting some feelings, but I’m only working out what I need. I want to try something new. I want to change the way I see and experience the world and the people around me. I want to find safer spaces, different spaces, and hear new points of view. I want to know what the world might be like if whiteness didn’t command so much of my time and attention.
So, sometimes when someone is hurt, vulnerable, and maybe even a little afraid, or at the very least just tired and in need of a little space, we should give it to them, even if it hurts us to do it. I’m, not cutting anyone out, I’m just cutting different people in. I’m not trying to hurt anyone or hate anyone, I’m just trying something different, for me!
And I am not apologizing for it.
I do not have the time or energy to accept you now and wait for you to hurt me. I have chosen to put myself and my emotional safety first. I have chosen to center women of color in my life in every way.
I do this BECAUSE I have been judged by the color of my skin every day. Suffering does not automatically make me a bigger person. It just hurts.
P.S. I am sure many of you will have thoughts on this post, and I do welcome them, but please remember this is a place for me to express my feelings. I am under no obligation to reply to hatred or harshness. I reserve the right to delete and block, and you have the right to create your own internet spaces to write how you feel too. Thank you for reading.
Featured image via The Root