On a number of occasions, I have been in the presence of White people who want to learn more about the “struggle.” But their desire to learn is not motivated by the fact that they have done any self-reflection and therefore understand their role in being complicit in the oppression others. Rather, it is motivated by the fact that they have had some contact with a marginalized community and decide that it is now their job to save them.
But here’s the thing: We don’t need your saving. Nor do we need you to flaunt your privilege by demonstrating what it looks like to be subjected to a system of oppression that is keeping us down, but which leaves you relatively unscathed.
I recently had an especially traumatizing encounter with a White man who reacted to my comments that Muslims were inherently more vulnerable to targeting due to the current atmosphere (and well, the last 15 years of the War on Terror), by responding that he would do whatever it took to get attention from the government and that he would beg to get arrested.
Not recognizing his privilege in any sense of the word, this individual didn’t seem to even begin to understand how offensive his comment was; that while the rest of us have to wake up and live in fear, others like him have to beg to be targeted. Despite his proclamations, what this man also didn’t understand or didn’t care to understand is that this “valiant” act that he was proposing would have virtually no impact on how the rest of us fare and therefore provide us with no utility to our struggle. Heroism, after all, must come at the expense of real sacrifice, not privilege that you give up knowing that it will be returned in form because of that very privilege.
What’s worse is that alongside such individuals, the struggles that many of us face as Black and Brown folks are often couched in ways that make social justice more palatable to White people. Thus, our quest for social justice becomes centered inadvertently on White people.
What makes White people feel good then becomes the driving force behind the work that we do because they either want to participate in the movement or need to be convinced its worth participating in. This comes at the expense of centering our own voices in addition to push back against our refusal to collaborate with fallacious narratives that obscure the cruelty of White colonialism and imperialism.
It’s not my job to get my people free and offer solutions for how white people can do better, they need to exert their extraordinary privilege and find a way to do better, without asking for the labor or black and brown bodies.
I offered some thoughts on how White people often dominate social justice spaces at the expense of the people whose very lives are at stake. This must be changed and it must be rejected. We must develop categorical principles of justice that bind White people or send them on their way. There’s no more time for coddling or providing comfort and if you’ve read this post and are still going to beg to get arrested, then you are no comrade of mine.