By Tim W. Shenk
In the days since the murder of Black father #GeorgeFloyd by white cops, I’ve seen “woke” white folks saying “if you don’t like what I post, delete me or I’ll delete you.”
Now is not the time for white folks to abandon our white brothers and sisters who are saying and doing ignorant and hurtful things.
As hard as it is to see ignorance, hate or clueless whitesplaining by white friends on our feeds, it’s reality. These too are our people. This shit doesn’t stop just because we don’t see it, and it can’t get better if all the so-called woke white folks are too busy being woke to have hard conversations that need to be had.
Deleting people who aren’t correct also isolates us and sets us up to not see or understand reality. It’s impossible to organize for a cure if you don’t correctly diagnose the disease.
This isn’t a plea for civility or dialogue or understanding of other points of view. This is not a call for moderation. We are so far beyond the need for moderate change. You don’t negotiate with systemic racism or state violence — you out-organize and overthrow them.
So don’t tone yourself down to “make nice.” Be as furious as you are, just as heartbroken, just as exhausted. This hurts. Our white friends need to see how much this violence against Black people affects us, too, as white people. How much it hurts us to watch our brothers and sisters killed and traumatized over and over. How much it infuriates us that we, working and “middle” class white folks, have been used and tricked and worn out by the owning class to be the counter-revolutionary force in society that has kept the deeply unequal, deeply violent power structure in place.
If we abandon other white people because of a wrong word or opinion, they are more vulnerable to the extremist white supremacists who want to scoop them up. Trump is using fear to raise a ton of money these days and build his re-election campaign. Police benevolent associations are using images of burning cop cars to fund raise for their deadly agenda.
Ultimately, the extremists don’t have an answer to the material needs of the people they’re recruiting. Their views and vision for society don’t solve the problem that before COVID, there were 140 million poor and low-income people in this country, 66 million of whom were white.
Our solution is that there is enough for everyone if these 140 million plus can unseat the billionaire class and make a government that truly is of, by and for the people. White folks can learn that this is our best interest, our best chance of survival. But we can’t learn it if we’re not in real relationship with people who can show the way.
So please don’t cut folks out of your life. Instead commit to the long haul.
Tim W. Shenk is coordinator of the Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (cuslar.org) and serves on the coordinating committee of the NYS Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (nysppc.org). He lives with his spouse Alicia and their daughter Emma in Ithaca, NY.