A letter to White Artists

White supremacy on trial

As you’re well aware, the horrors of police violence in the US is not a current event, but an ongoing poison and building block of our current society.

As a white artist, I’d like to say a few words to my white readers, though anyone is of course welcome to tune in. The bullet points:

1. The key mechanism of keeping us white folks playing the role of an oppressor, or remaining silent, is by keeping us numb.

None of us want to be numb, never asked to be, but here we are. Every white person in this society is brutalized into numbness, and it’s on us to fight it and un-numb ourselves. This is not about being “a good person” (I know you’re a good person). It’s not about being nice or “charitable.” Our survival as a species is dependent on us un-numbing ourselves in regards to racism.

For a shot at defying the numbness, I encourage you to watch: Daunte Wright’s aunt and cousin speak.

Their talks opened the floodgates of tears for me, and it might do the same for you.

2. I encourage you to learn as much as possible about the difference between systemic oppression and individual cruelty.

For help, watch Trevor Noah of The Daily Show explain.

If you live in New York City, I also invite you to learn about NYC mayoral candidates’ positions on defunding the police.

Wherever you live, it will have an impact to vote out candidates who are equivocal about this issue, and vote in those candidates whose actions and policies (not just words), demonstrate that they’ve taken a stand on defunding the police.

3. Feelings of guilt are not useful; they keep us powerless. Replace guilt with the determination to end a racist system that dehumanizes and endangers all of us.

Any time I get on my soapbox, I remind my listeners to trust your own thinking. Best I can do is share what I think, but I encourage you to adopt only those parts of what I say that make sense to you. You have a good mind, and we need you to trust it and rely on it.

There are no bad people. There are bad systems that hurt and set all of us up to either oppress, be oppressed, or remain a “silent witness” while we stand by as people get hurt. It’s a system that serves no one, not in any human sense.

The primary job of the police force is to protect wealth.

There are many good people who join the police wanting to serve and protect communities, unaware that their role will become to protect wealth.

You can’t protect wealth without protecting and perpetuating racism. Racism and white supremacy are the bedrock of building a system of have’s and have-not’s.

The economy of the United States was built on the backs of queens, kings, artists, scientists, family members, and friends, who were stolen from their countries and enslaved. Our economy continues to be built on the backs of people of color in the form of poverty wages (in the US and abroad), prison labor, human trafficking, and billions of hours of unpaid (and mostly female) labor.

Racism is not about human nature, and it’s not about anyone being evil. It’s a necessary part of protecting and defending a system in which a few individuals own and control the world’s wealth and resources.

4. To heal, we need to listen to people who’ve been targeted by racism, and we need to listen to each other as white people.

I encourage you to never turn to a person of color to listen to you talk about racism. (If you have a very close relationship and received their permission to talk about it, that would be the only exception.)

If you’re speaking with a person of color about racism, the only thing you should do is listen.

If you’re speaking with other white people (and I encourage you to), take turns listening to each other. As white people, we won’t heal, and we certainly won’t un-numb, without a chance to talk. That’s fine. We just have to be vigilant about turning only to white people to listen to us on this.

Thank you for caring as big and as deeply as you do. We are all devastated, and rightly so.
Ela

3 thoughts on “A letter to White Artists”

  1. “If you’re speaking with a person of color about racism, the only thing you should do is listen.”

    It’s way past time to get this–now is the time. Yes, it’s hard. But if not now, when do we plan to start making a difference?

    Reply

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