An Open Letter To Tomi Lahren and Those Who Believe Her Words

Dear Tomi Lahren,

          After watching your video, I’m just wondering something here.  Are you a self-proclaimed white supremacist?  Are you all about white power?  I don’t see where you have proudly declared yourself as such, yet almost everything you have to say about Black people and Black liberations mimics exactly what white supremacists say.  It’s uncanny, really.

Allow me to break down the full three minute garbage heap you’ve posted.

“Am I even allowed to say that?”

            Yeah.  Black is the preferred vernacular, or People of Color.  Considering that this awards show was on Black Entertainment Television, why are you so stunned that there were black people featured on it?  Are you stunned that things can be void of whiteness?  I digress.  Black is the preferred vernacular.  When speaking of black people, you should use the term black.

“Well, too damn bad”

            So why even–ask—if you can use the terminology if you do not actually care what the correct terminology even is?  You’re being dismissive.  You are trying far too hard to be any form of controversial, while merely coming off dismissive, with a side of supremacy.  “I’ll call you what I want to call you.”  The extent of your othering is also blatantly clear.

“Complain about the plight…”

            Where to start with this mess… Well, first of all, you’re again being very dismissive of legitimate, fact supported biases and discrimination that Black people face in our country.  Of course, after watching your video I can certainly see that facts are wasted on you.  These celebrities are still black at the end of the day.  Still more likely to be killed by police, and still from the same systemic oppression that millions of other People of Color face in our country.  This doesn’t mean that “all black people are from poor, tragic lifestyles”, which I’m sure is where you’d love to take it.  It means that all Black people in our country face an incredibly uphill battle for opportunities.

            You should also take into account the very real struggle that presents itself for Black people aiming to become celebrities in a society and industry that heavily promotes white representation in every facet.  The fact that these men and women have faced those biases and been told time and time again that they can only play the roles that white people want to see them in (see:  slaves, servants, ‘thugs’, drug dealers, gangsters, bad guys, villains), and have not only overcome those biases but found ways to thrive in this industry is remarkable and, well, magical to say the least.

“Victimhood”

            You can stop right there.  In what way are Black people fighting for liberation and equal rights playing the victim?  Not a one Black person in this fight is asking for handouts for any reason, nor crying about being a victim.  Here we are again with your dismissals.  These things do not affect you, so you do not care or see the issue.  Your privilege is mighty strong.  What Black people are fighting for is a battle that has been ongoing since we first brought Africans over to use as chattel slaves.  The “crazy” notion you seem opposed to is that Black people are human and just as valid and equal as the people who held them down all of these centuries.  I think it is quite cute you think the end of the Civil War solved all of Black people’s discrimination, dehumanization and denial of rights.  No, actually it’s not cute at all.  It’s quite unbecoming and demonstrates how unconversant you are with American History.

“Police bashing”

            This is but an extreme misconception and falsification spread by fearful white people who have done no research into what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for, let alone the Movement for Black Liberation.  Discussing and raising awareness of police brutality and biases in policing is not the same as police bashing.  Why do you think this way?  Do you think all police are the issue?  Do you think the police need to be “bashed”?  Where are you getting this from because from what I see, there is clear cut, fact based criticism of the way we run our police departments.  I see no issue with criticizing a government based institution, especially when that institution is not doing its job or adhering to the rules put in place.  I do not know where you get this from.

“Perpetuates a war on cops”

            THERE IS NO WAR ON COPS.  In fact, let’s look at this year alone in police killings, shall we?  22 cops killed to date by gunfire.  One of those was killed by friendly fire.  18 of the police killed to date were white, 2 were Black and one was Latino.  The perpetrators:  11 white, 4 Black, 3 Latino and 2 unknown at this time.  Of the four Black perpetrators, zero of them did not maintain any link to the Black Lives Matter movement, nor did they pledge any allegiance to the movement, or any “war on cops”.  These shootings took place overwhelmingly during serving warrants, evictions and responding to calls such as “domestic disputes”.  So, if you think there is a war on cops, it is overwhelmingly white men who are perpetuating it.  Additionally, and just for S’s and G’s, the statistics show an intense white on white crime crisis taking place, given the majority of both cops and perpetrators were white.

            Even the quote you’ve pulled from the speech Jesse Williams’ gave does not contain any evidence of calling for or encouraging a “war on cops”, let alone ANY violence towards cops.  Let’s look at what he said:  “Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day.  So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.”  He is stating facts.  In 2015, black people were found to be 3 times more likely to be shot by police without any de-escalation involved.  This means that police will negotiate and talk-down armed white people at three times the rate they will black people.  That is a fact and you disagreeing or not liking a fact, does not change its accuracy.  What he is stating in his last sentence is that if Black people do not start getting treated by police the same as white people, there will be a calling to restructure their function in black communities.  Either shoot white people at the same rate, treat black people the same as white people, or black people will separate and set their own rules.  Nowhere in that quote did he call for harm or murder of police.  Again, check the statistics and ask white men whey they’re killing police left and right.

            Furthermore, your measures of tone policing are unwarranted.  You do not get to tell someone how to handle being discriminated against.  To repeat what Mr. Williams stated, “Sit down.”

“Going home to make a sandwich?”

            Is this a slight exaggeration—maybe?  However, it is not that farfetched.  The officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene was not arrested, was not indicted and very well could have gone home to make a sandwich following the public execution.  You immediately deflect by outright plagiarizing the Marshall Project’s Heather Mac Donald and stating that “it’s not without trying”, and brought up the cases wherein the victims “tried to grab the officer’s gun”.  This is to say that of the 36 black men who were completely unarmed and died at the hands of the police last year, because 5 of them –might have—reached for an officer’s gun, all of them deserved to be shot.  Never mind the fact that the police often use the “he reached for my gun” excuse after having shot an unarmed person, but you think that because 5 of 36 people may have reached for the officer’s gun, you should dismiss all 31 other cases.  The article you so quickly quoted also goes on to discuss the very few cases wherein an officer’s stray bullet may have struck a bystander and killed them.  If this is the case, shouldn’t you be more concerned about the police firing rounds?  It is dangerous for everyone, is it not?  If you continued reading, it delves into that as well.  I’m sure you stopped after you found a sentence or two to substantiate your claims.  The statistics do not always tell the whole story and there are varying factors involved.  What constitutes unarmed?  To me, personally, I feel that unless someone is an active shooter, the police should never fire their weapon.  I feel that a knife is not enough for the police to shoot someone.  There are varying factors, absolutely; however whether you look at the grand picture, or the minute details, the result is still the same.  Black people are killed in our country with impunity and the perpetrators of the crimes face little to no consequence.  They can go home, and make a sandwich.  

“Beat the Police”

            Assault on a police officer does not carry a life sentence, let alone a death penalty.  Again, this goes into grey areas:  what constitutes assault on a police officer?  Why are the officers not utilizing non-lethal means of defending themselves before shooting?  Whichever way you’d like to play it, assault on a police officer (while a crime) does not eliminate your right to due process, nor does it carry a life sentence.  While we’re on the subject, why do you routinely elevate some lives over others?

“Free Pass”

            As I mentioned before, nobody has asked for any kind of “free pass”.  Nobody has asked to run around beating the police and getting away with it.  Nobody has asked to rob stores or people and get away with it.  Equal accountability by the law is what the objective is.  What is sought are reasonable and appropriate consequences, no matter the race.  White people are given the benefit of the doubt, sentenced lighter and even let off the hook for the same crimes that black people are shot dead for.  This can go one of two ways:  either start giving white people harsher sentences and treatment, the same as black people, or start giving black people the benefit of the doubt and adjust sentences to reflect the same sentences that white people receive for the same crimes.

“Can’t be Critical”

            That’s not what Mr. Williams said.  By all means, criticize the movement; so long as you have an established record of also criticizing the oppressors.  Your response to this tickled me.  You first are telling black people to essentially “get over” slavery and then you turn around and use your own ancestors “fighting to end slavery” to try to excuse you from not having an established record of criticizing the oppressors of Black people.  HA.  Laughable, but while we’re here, it’s time for a bit of a history lesson, since you are clearly lacking.

            The Civil war did not magically end slavery, free Black people and make everything okay.  Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, “freed” enslaved people in the Southern states were basically at a loss on what to do and the same went for the southern states.  The ending of the Civil War (which for the record never had a key agenda of abolishing slavery in already established states—it was about not having slaves in newly won Texas), brought a whole new world of issues to the table.  Were black people citizens?  What rights did they and did they not have?  It took a full 3 amendments just to clarify that yes, freed enslaved people were full citizens.  The southern states were having none of that and began to rectify a set of laws, referred to as Jim Crow laws.  While the federal government deemed freed enslaved people the right to vote, own property and work, President Andrew Johnson did not give one hell about that, and declared that states had the right to take those amendments how they wanted to.  Which then sent the south hooting and hollering in segregation and legal lynching of Black people if they did even the smallest thing, such as try to shake a white man’s hand, offering a cigarette to a white woman, show public affection to one another or not put white people first in every aspect of their lives.  The end of the Civil War did not end the plight of Black people.  I noted how you threw Democrats under the bus, and rightfully so-they did fight for slavery.  However, you failed to mention it was a Republican (Rutherford B Hayes) who enacted and encouraged the white shit-show known as Jim Crow.  Plessy vs Ferguson in 1896 reinforced the ideals, stating it was the state’s right to take the new amendments (the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments) how they please, which allowed Jim Crow to exist from 1877 up until the 1960’s.  Hell, I’ll even settle with 1954, when Brown vs the Board of Education was concluded, calling for the end of segregation in public schools.

            So, although we had amendments stating that black people were allowed to vote, southern states had the right to put whatever they wanted to in place to prevent that from happening, such as charging hefty fees on black people if they wanted to vote, or requiring “literacy” tests.  We see much of the same scenario now, just not as blatant.  Jail up all the black people, convict them of felonies and make laws that you lose the right to vote if you are a convicted felon.  Between that and redistricting, black people still to this day do not actually have the right to vote.

            In conclusion, the end of the Civil War did not magically make racism or racist systems in our country go away.  If anything, it made them slowly get less conspicuous.

“Privilege”

            I know you did not attempt to state that a black man in America has any form of privilege, but also, I know that you did.  Jesse Williams did not just speak for himself on that stage– he spoke for millions of black people across our country.  He has combated the same institutions and systems to get where he is.  Privilege is your ability to dismiss the very real racism and discrimination that black people face daily because it does not affect you in the least.  Privilege is you having the skin color that represents and is protected by the white structure that is our nation’s systems.  Privilege is your being able to be on a platform spouting your misinformation, narrow world view and lack of knowledge of history.  Privilege is something you hold, not Jesse Williams, and not any black person in America.

“I won’t be apologizing for my whiteness”

            This is a short answer—No one wants your apology.  Nobody wants white people to apologize.  What’s wanted and more so needed is for white people to actually gain the education needed to combat these racist systems in order to establish equal treatment of the law, by the law for the people.  Keep your apologies.  They are not needed.

“It’s not white people dividing America—“

            Indeed, it is.  The discussion of race and racial relations in our country is not what divides us, but rather the blatant lack of care, compassion, critical thinking and education of white people that does.  It is on us, Tomi.  It is whiteness that maintains the divide.  If you would put aside your privilege, fragility and white defenses and educate yourself on what it is black people are actually talking about, you would understand that you are maintaining the racial divide simply because you do not want to admit that racism still prevails, all while hypocritically demonstrating racism and intolerance.  I will ask you again, are you sure you are not a white supremacist because not only do your words mimic exactly the same words white supremacists say, but your overall attitude matches theirs to a T.

“You are not a humanitarian”

            Do you not understand what a humanitarian is?  Do you know what that word means?  Do you have any understanding of the work that Mr. Williams’ has done?  I’m sure you do not, as all you do is sit up in your privilege and condemn anyone for taking action for equal rights and liberation.

“..feel sorry for themselves”

            No.  You are incredibly wrong.  He is empowering black children.  He is teaching them that in a society where the color of their skin is grossly underrepresented, cast as ugly and associated with nonstop negative stereotypes, to love their skin, love themselves and to persevere through even the most discouraging, trying and extreme circumstances.  He is teaching black girls that they are beautiful, and that even through all the negativity that we white people present about black people, they ARE beautiful, they ARE worthy, and they DO MATTER.  These are concepts beyond your comprehension because in America, the default is whiteness.  The go-to in America for the staple of beauty is white women like yourself, so you have no idea what it might be like to not be well represented and to constantly have your image displayed as “ghetto” or a “costume”.

            Jesse Williams’ speech was eloquent, well worded and completely founded in truth. Y our response was nothing more than uneducated, racist babble that unfortunately is the mindset of far too many white people in our country.

            The next time you want to attempt to use abolitionists as a means to excuse your inaction, violent silence and dismissal of the oppression of black people, make sure you are currently an abolitionist fighting against those structures today.  From an abolitionist to you, Tomi, shut your mouth and sit down.

            All I have left to say is directed to black people.

I support you in your liberation.

I support you if you choose to separate.

Just please, don’t leave me with the likes of Tomi Lahren!

Onyx Contributor:  Stephanie M.
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