I got blocked by a white woman that I created a boundary with a couple days ago. For those remaining, I have 20 suggestions that will help you navigate relationships with your non-white friends:
1) Ask permission before asking about racial issues or their experience being Black.
2) Know that what you think and feel and our daily reality are most likely night and day.
3) Give us the space and opportunity to say no to engaging with you in a potentially difficult for us conversation.
4) Don’t tell us you are really sad about racial issues in America. We really REALLY don’t care about your feelings right now because our literal sanity and lives are at stake.
5) Never come with an agenda or pre-planned objective where we will be backed into a corner or coerced into responding in certain ways that will in turn support your feelings of high self-value to the detriment of our psychological well-being.
6) Do not randomly slide into our DMs or casually saunter over to us face-to-face and expect us to drop everything we are doing and thinking about to have a conversation with us about our Black experience and perspective.
7) Do not barrage us with 97 hot button topics and expect quick answers that support what you already think and then get mad when we disagree or have data that gives a counter-narrative.
8: Do not be surprised that we have changed our thinking in regards to vvhite people since you have known us—especially if you have never asked or truly listened to our perspective before. Literally living in America has forced my generation to change our minds in how we connect or choose not to connect with vvhite people.
9) Know that after difficult conversations about race, you will probably be unscathed, but will leave us reeling and emotionally destabilized for unprecedented amounts of time. This most recent “conversation” resulted in me not sleeping well for 2 days, very tense body, waking up with balled fists and hunched shoulders, emotional binge eating, shortness of breath when engaging in regular daily tasks, absentmindedness, significant fatigue, and overall body aches.
10) You may say or feel as though you “come in love” and deeply care or have concern about us, but you must allow us to have a differing view and perception of said “love.” When you are in a position of power socially, ask if what you are doing and saying and your approach is being received as love. Ask us how to love us best. Never assume.
11) Proximity to Black and non-white people does not make you not racist. The goal is to be anti-racist, not “not racist.”
12) You cannot know if you are or are not being or acting racist if you have not done serious introspection, research, and if you ask your other nice vvhite friends if you are being racist. You need an outside verifier to check you and keep you accountable. Nice vvhite people are racist ALL the time. It is what it is. If you casually ask a non-white person with whom you do not have a strong relationship with if, when you did or said X, if that was racist, you may not get a genuine or accurate response because we are not interested in having a conversation with you or dealing with your vvhite tears at that moment.
13) It is not our job to be your teacher on racism. Go find another white person who is further ahead of you on your journey to chat with you about racism BEFORE talking to your Black friend. Or pay your Non-white friend real dollar bills for their time, energy, and potential rehashing of racial trauma. Or, better yet, support and follow Black and Brown scholars, activists who do this work for a living and give them real dollars.
14) Know that it is incredible difficult for us most days to get out of bed and go outside because we know there will be a barrage of micro- and macro-aggressions that we will have to face and stand up to and wipe off our shoulders and smear off our faces. A small thing you can do is make your negative impact in our lives less by trying and researching and being a support and creating safe spaces for us. This is the least you can do.
15) Quit praying for the rectifying of all bad things in the afterlife. That’s a copout and we are 0% interested in this response from you.
16) Never tell us that you are tired of fighting vvhite people in conversations about racial matters or the few things you’ve done in your life that you deem as not racist—especially with the intent of getting us to give you a high-five for you doing the least.
17) Let us have whatever emotions we will have on any given day in regards to us living in our skin color. Some days it’s absolute elation and love and pride beyond belief. Other days it’s rage and deep sadness. At any extreme or anything in between, our feelings and emotions are valid and need to be heard. We can feel all of these at the same time and it may be hard for us to articulate that to you.
18) It is not our job nor should it be your expectation for us to explain our feelings to you whenever you want us to. Forcing us to talk about our identity or lives for your enjoyment is disrespectful, toxic, and basically a minstrel show in the year of our lord 2021.
19) If you see us talking with our friends of the same hue and we have code-switched into vernacular you are unfamiliar with, leave us to have our safe space away from whiteness and quit sticking your nose into our conversation. We are not interested in translating our code-switched language for you to be a part. It is not our job to translate our culture for you in order for you to feel wanted and appreciated whenever you are around or want to be included.
20. Our culture is not to be consumed for your enjoyment, pity, and entertainment. Do not expect us to explain all the non-white things you see around you whenever we see you. Ask first. Some things in our culture are for us only and we guard them highly because of the colossal number of things that have been stolen, pillaged, plagiarized, and assumed to not come from us because they are excellent and the brilliant.
**If my Black and Brown and non-white friends have others they would like to add, please do so in the comments and I’ll add them to my list and give credit where credit is due.”
Dr. Jenaya Perdue