Hey, All You “Black Square” Allies From A Few Months Ago…Where Y’All At?: The Dangers of White Fatigue.
Being an accomplice is hard work. Real hard work. It is a constant study in educating yourself, checking yourself, and using whatever privilege you may have to amplify the voices and causes of other marginalized people especially if you have a platform. But it is also the heart work. The work you do in therapy sessions; When you chat with your diverse friends and ask them to check you if you ever say something that is offensive or ignorant. Having the courage to do this work daily is legitimately hard. But it is necessary. It is required of everyone.
I’m not exactly sure why some white people seemed to think that throwing money at this problem was going to make it go way. I am constantly seeing and hearing stories by Black people in interracial relationships talking about their partners having “white fatigue,” a term primarily attributed to University of Illinois Professor Joseph E. Flynn, Jr. based on his book White Fatigue: Rethinking Resistance for Social Justice. The fundamental understanding of this term is “white fatigue occurs for white people who have grown tired of learning and discussing race and racism, despite an understanding of the moral imperative of anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices.” This seems to be a pervasive theme not just in interracial relationships, but also in friendships with diverse groups of people where maybe these issues were never discussed before. Now that they are front and centre for most people, there are all kinds of conversations that are only now being had after people have known each other for years.
This in many cases is bringing up huge divides, as many white people seem to be getting triggered without actually doing the work to understand why some of these comments are being made. I saw a lot of “allies” posting black squares a few months ago, white anchor women crying real tears on air about “how horrible” this all is, corporations pledging millions to “anti-racism efforts”…yet I haven’t seen any real changes. I haven’t seen en masse where corporations are making different and more diverse hiring choices at the C-suite level in these Fortune 100 or 500 companies. I haven’t seen more Black people being hired in tech and finance leadership positions; I haven’t seen Black women being hired into senior management as anything other than the Heads of Diversity and Inclusion, whatever that means. I understand that for most white people, their response may be to say that well, this only started a few months ago, but let me stop you right there. Because this didn’t just start this year.
This has been 401 years and counting. The fact that there are some white people who are already “fatigued” after 4 months of hardcore protesting and hearing about what they and their ancestors have contributed to for 400–600 years is laughable to me. I’m trying to wrap my mind around how you expect us as a people, or any marginalized group to believe that you will help be a part of the solution…when you’re collectively tired after 4 months. This is why the Black community needs accomplices and not allies. While I can appreciate the sentiment and passing affection some white people have for my community, there are real lives at stake. This is not a game for Black people. We don’t have another 20 years to wait for all white people to get on board. The climate and the planet don’t even have 10–15 years before we cause some irreparable damage that the baby boomer generations doesn’t seem to care at all about because they’ll all most likely be gone within the next 20 years. I’m not saying any of this to be overly harsh or radical. I’m simply stating facts. Look at the news. Listen to Conservative and Republican media, whether it be in the United States, Canada or the UK. For the most part, both parties majorly deny climate science. Their selfishness is setting my generation up for major climate disasters that will affect the economy and financial stability for all Millennials and Gen Zers for our entire lifetime. The same goes for racial justice. Black people, Indigenous people, the LGBTQIA+ community, and all marginalized people…we don’t have another 10–20 years. We need change and real actions now.
When white supremacy and patriarchy continue to operate out in the open every single day while we fake like we are trying to make changes, it is an insult to every Civil Rights activist who has shed blood for this cause everywhere. There are real people who have given their lives, some in the prison systems that continues to incarcerate Black and Brown people at higher rates than Caucasian people, and some to brutal endings at the hands of law enforcement, racists or homophobes. This continues to happen every day while we say we are “making changes.” So clearly the changes are not being made fast enough. Therefore, no white person should be tired until all required changes to make our society fair and equal are enforced.
I find it very interesting that there are white people who would legitimately consider themselves “good people” either because of their religion or their upbringing, who are not enraged enough to help marginalized communities seek and get justice. I know white people who care more about animals than they do about people of colour or the LGBTQIA+ community. Human beings. There are white parents who raise their kids to fight for animal rights, will tie themselves to trees and will donate all kinds of money to Save The Planet organizations…but will not help the Black family in their community. They have no Black friends, only associate with Black people via work or school. Take no active interest in expanding their circle, and if they do, they have one token Black friend. Yet they would have us believe they are true allies, they really care about the cause and plight of the Black community and that with their help, we will solve this problem? I think not.
If the last few months have been any indication of the good faith of corporations run by white men and good ole regular Caucasian people, we are in for the long haul of protesting. It saddens me that there are a variety of polls taken from white Americans that say that the majority of white people think that there are “cities under siege” by protesters. That shows me that the majority of white Americans would rather jump to conclusions and make assumptions than actually learn what the protests are about and join us. As I said at the top of this article, this work is hard. It is not easy to stand up to injustice. It is not easy to face the things we’ve said and done to contribute to the problem. Shame is a real feeling and something we all need to find the courage to work through, because we will end up in a very dangerous place as a society if white people do not get on board with social justice in a very real way. We are beyond posting Black squares and giving platitudes. We need real accomplices. Anything less is unacceptable at this point.