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— anonymous 

Dear white people,

I am one of you. I am a white cisgender woman. I am a white cisgender woman with a mental illness. I am a white cisgender woman with a mental illness who writes and creates art to get by. I have struggled finding my voice as well as being proud of that voice. I’ve criticized myself for not being different enough – for not being smart enough. This imposter syndrome manifests itself when I’m trying to create. It is a voice multiplied in hundreds of sinister, malicious snarls.

I didn’t know how to write this letter about the #blacklivesmatter movement. At first, I thought about saying, “Check your privilege! Donate! Protest! Discuss racism within your family!” Focus on the action of uplifting and amplifying black voices. I thought about saying, “Read black literature; listen to black artists; do everything to support black creators and businesses.”

I was scrolling through the endless feed of the black lives protests, dwelling on these snapshots of history, when my sister sent me a video on Instagram from poet and author Sonya Taylor. The title is pretty self-explanatory: “Why Talking to Your White Family About Black People Is Wrong.”

Taylor calls out white people for their participation in systematic racism. She gives an example of a white girl named Haley debating with her racist parents about how black lives are worthy of living. 

 “That is your privilege speaking,” Taylor says. “You’re sitting around the table, talking about how my life is worthy? The conversations should not be about why black people live in a ghetto; it should be about why white people made a ghetto in the first place.”

Back when I was studying Latin American politics, I had to take a survey course on Latin American history. We watched a documentary called “Guns, Germs, and Steel” which was adapted from the book by Jared Diamond. It was about how Western civilization succeeded because of their geographical luck and their able bodies; they believed that with this combination, they had power and jurisdiction over people who didn’t have that same luck or ability.

I could spew more facts about conquistadors stealing land, spreading germs, and killing innocent people all for the sake of building imperialism. I could tell you that the conquistadors that sailed across the Atlantic Ocean were not kings; they were sons of merchants who did not have any inheritance or any power, so they looked for those in the Americas.

But get-rich-quick schemes always fail. To think that our Western history, our basic political power, is in the belief that either we inherit greatness or we steal it is essentially what it means to be white. “Check your privilege” is not just a rallying cry from black voices; it’s also an overall demand. It is synonymous with “Police yourself, dammit, because we’re sick of your entitlement.”

“ People perceive your skin and assess for themselves whether you are a friend or foe with that first impression. ”

“Police yourself.” Be aware of your white skin, your white relatives, your white friends, because black people always have to. Be aware that your white skin signifies your resources, your wealth, that are provided simply because of the political significance of being white. I don’t care if you are on welfare or make over $100k a year. People perceive your skin and assess for themselves whether you are a friend or foe with that first impression.

I stand with the #blacklivesmatter movement because I believe in the equity of kindness. I believe that all people should experience joy and love. As a woman with a mental illness, when my depression hits, there is no language equivalent to grief. There is no use in running from my complex history. I feel robbed of happiness and cannot imagine fighting my illness for much longer. Someone turns up the volume of the voices inside my head, telling me, no, you’re not good enough. No, you’re not even worth a penny. In these moments, I want someone – anyone – to just hug me and validate my feelings.

I think we all are seeking validation for our emotions, our experiences, our pasts. And so, by saying that I stand with black lives, I am validating their experiences of trauma, pain, 
grief, and loss. Their complex pasts and emotions. I am saying that I want a future where their skin color does not influence all their life experiences.

My call to action is to shut up. Shut up about your guilt, your allyship, and talk more about why you think you deserve what you have. Why you think the world permits you, and not a black woman or man, to have what you have. It will be uncomfortable because, in the end, you will see that how much power you have will always dictate our lives. It is then about reassigning and diversifying that power. It is about inclusivity, not exclusivity. Not radical ideologies that tout extreme measures to keep the white man in power and we’re looking at every authority figure, past and present.

Equality scares people. If we give more power to minorities, what happens to the white dominant class? Do we then become the “minority” because we become the inferior ones, the oppressed ones? My answer is hell no. White people will never know anything about true oppression. History has always favored us; we were not slaves. We were not driven from our land. Just because racial and gender equality are forcing us to assess our haves and have-nots does not mean that we are now the inferior class. It just means that our actions will be held to a different standard.

Everything we do will now have the obstacle of never being truly enough.

So, my question to you white people, myself included, is – can you be okay with that? 
Can you, for just once, give the platform to minorities? To support the movement that’s trying to fix the system? Can you put forth more equity rather than hateful ignorance? Or must you always have everything?

From the desk of an angry white woman