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It’s Now Up to Whites to Dismantle Racism

5 minute read

I received a text Wednesday afternoon that simply read “No indictment,” and my heart dropped. I’m no rabble-rouser, but Wednesday felt different. We are in the midst of my generation’s civil rights movement and there was no way that I was going to stay inside. I’d taken on the fight as far as I could alone–it was time to join others in the streets of New York to demand change.

Hear me out, white people: the ball is completely in your court. You created the mess, so it’s up to you to clean it up. Black people, as much as we’ve tried, can’t dismantle racism. White people created the social construct of race to subjugate people of color, so you are the only ones who can change it.

Black people do everything you ask us to do. We get college degrees, work in corporate America, and speak the Queen’s English. Yet, to many of you, we’re still just 3/5 human. White people (and our President) love to reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a role model for how to behave in a time of unrest. What they always forget is that despite the fact that he was a well-dressed, well-behaved Christian pastor he was still murdered.

Some critics argue that black people are only protesting white-on-black crime. But the reality is, guys, that black Americans are having two simultaneous conversations. Internally, we’re constantly discussing and putting action behind how we can better our communities (and since the crime rate in New York City has been in a nosedive, it seems like we’re doing a pretty awesome job). Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton aren’t the only ones on the front lines. You have black men in my Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant standing on corners making sure women are getting home safely and running a summer basketball league to give kids something constructive to do. Restoration Plaza, a nonprofit community development organization, provides work training and computer literacy programs. Top Ladies of Distinction, a professional humanitarian organization, mentors teen girls from across the city. I could go on listing black organizations and people that are making a major impact on our community, but that doesn’t fit white media’s (and Don Lemon’s) narrative of black people, right? If whites came to our neighborhoods or spoke to us at all, they would see our tireless work. Instead, it’s easier to peddle assumptions, outdated references, and blatant lies as fact.

The second conversation is the one you already know about: how to tackle systemic oppression of the black community. To truly engage in this discussion effectively, white people of America, I beg of you, stop bringing up black-on-black crime. It’s irrelevant to the question of why a black man who kills another will be put under the jail, while a white police officer doesn’t even get charges sent his way. That is where our anger lies. This is why we’re flooding the streets and disrupting life as usual. Murder is murder, and all of our lives are equally precious, so why is there a discrepancy in penalties?

So what’s next? Black people have done everything we can do. Fixing this is up to white people now. Righting these wrongs now rests on the shoulders of the amazing white people who get it. We appreciate you for standing in solidarity, but it’s only half your battle. The second and most important step is to share what you know with the more prejudiced white people around you. Marching with us is preaching to the choir. After you’re done taking it to the streets, take it back to your family gatherings, church sanctuaries, and frat houses. Trust me, they’ll believe you over us.

Let them know that this isn’t a competition. A win for blacks is not a loss for whites. Instead, when blacks win, America wins. Tell them that loving us as much as they love our music, style, and sports stars would make America truly the greatest country on Earth. Isn’t that what we all want?

This country was set up so that whites could feel superior to blacks even if it means they only have one more lima bean than us. It’s been this way since slavery and continues today much to all of our detriment. Poor and middle class whites, you might want to invest in an Al Sharpton from your ranks because you’re getting royally screwed over as well. White friends and family, I’m telling you this because I love you and you deserve to know: cops are killing your people, too, and being cleared of any wrongdoing. White-on-white crime isn’t sexy news, so it’s barely covered, but it’s happening. Unfortunately, you’re too obsessed with the idea of being white to notice.

Stephanye Watts blogs at iso14below.com and is the creator of the web series “Year of the Real Black Girl.” She lives in Brooklyn.

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