So, tonight I came home after a meeting with a progressive voice in Baltimore. I was exhausted and my kid was running amok around the house. I sat down and did what most of us do; I started perusing my Facebook. Funny memes here and there about this PokemonGo epidemic and a lot about what’s going on movement wise.
I came across a status by my friend, Monica Howard, and went to comment. I did. “I hollered.”
I started to look at the other comments and came across this one.
A large part of what I do, and what I view my job to be is to correct white people when they are wrong. I am by no means an “expert”, however I have put in countless hours of research, data analysis, and most important, actively listening to black people and people of color. I was silent for 27 years. I said the same things a lot of white people say, and I thought along the same lines. Until I woke up and took the time to research and educate myself. So when I see fellow white people saying things that I used to say, I know I need to intervene. There are some, however, like Michelle Grewe that says things I would literally never even think of— they are such preposterous things to say.
By the time I got to it, 2 black women had already tried to correct her– nicely. She wasn’t getting it, and even stated that “if I was with you when we were both kicked out of some place for something we both felt had to do with the color of your skin, and then I’m on the fence about racism in America.. How messed up is that?” and “…A real friend would have endured some aspect of racism along your side in some way, not the way you experience it, and not a life-long deal but they still experienced it in some way.” She continued on about herself and her experiences in the racism she’s apparently endured, AS A WHITE WOMAN IN AMERICA.
Now, let’s get this straight right now. White people cannot be victims of racism in America. Racism requires a system behind it to support the notion and allegation that a race or sect of people is inferior to the other. America was built on white supremacy, and this system still thrives to this day.
Take for example, “I lost my job because the company I worked for was sold and the guy who bought it was Black and fired all the white people.” Okay, and that is terrible, however you walk down the street and have tons more options because your resume will not be dismissed for the mere reason your name is too “ethnic”. You will not find thousands of employers unwilling to hire you simply because you are white. It is not as simple as a one-time discrimination from a prejudiced person. So, white people in America are not capable of being victims of racism as it stands today.
Furthermore, being called names like “cracker,” “mayo,” or “n—– lover” are not the same as actually being called the n—word. These words have never oppressed us, and they still do not. The n—word was used to oppress black people, to other black people, to ostracize and dehumanize black people. The n—word was used during the 4,000+ lynchings under Jim Crow and is still used today to dehumanize and attempt to humiliate black people. In no way do the words we white people get called compare. Being called these things is not you being a victim of racism.
Back to it:
So, I stepped in.
“Michelle, I’m gonna intervene here. 1) Coming onto a post like this, by a black person discussing racism and centering it on yourself, whiteness and white feelings is NOT acceptable. 2) If you have to add a ‘but,’ you do not mean what you said prior. 3) The difference is, you walk away as a white person, and face no racism, whereas after you two depart, Monica still has to walk home as a black woman and face the scrutiny you escape walking away. 4) on the fence? What? I don’t even know how this is a thing. 5) as a white person, you are not enduring racism, even alongside your black “friends.” You are being name called, however are not oppressed in any way. You get to walk away from it. Black people do not. So, no. You have not ‘endured’ racism. 6)we as white people need to educate ourselves FIRST before educating others. Please get a firm grasp on what racism truly is before stepping up to fight against it. Learn how to respect black people, women in particular if you are going to try to step up to the plate. This not something to take lightly and it is damn sure not something to skim read. Critically read before you start talking.”
I used the nicest words I could find. I do not agree with coddling, however I also don’t like to just jump in rudely. She responded with more centering coupled with white defenses and fragility. She denied saying things she indeed said, she refused to listen to the black women involved and centered completely on herself.
As a white abolitionist, I must say; sometimes we get called out. It is vital to listen, to understand, genuinely apologize and correct going forward. These are not just good practices within the fight, but they are basic moral grounds most everyone should have. Defensiveness has no place here.
We continued on for quite a while. She wasn’t getting it; still trying to defend her stance that because she allegedly had been kicked out of a home because of her nephew being black, she must have experienced racism. We explained a variety of ways that it was her nephew who experienced it—not her. She then moved into what is called “white savior” behaviors, saying things such as:
“Well then, if you don’t want white people to talk about racism, we’ll just leave the country racist. Is that your solution?”
“So white people can’t talk about racism. Do you think oppression will end without white people talking about racism?” for clarification: this was in regards to my telling her “You’re clearly new to it [regarding her misunderstanding of what empathy actually is], since you lack basic understanding of what it is. You have demonstrated through your own words that one must experience something to be able to empathize and that is not the case.”
“I’ll stop. I only wrote an article that’s got like 3,000 shares. You want me to stop talking about racism?” Literal quote–Did you read it in a Valley Girl voice like I did?
“..Do you really want me to shut it up? Because I’m trying to stand up for black people, but if that’s a problem because I’m not qualified being white and all, then maybe you guys need to rethink what exactly you are trying to accomplish because telling white people to shut up about racism against black people isn’t exactly going to end racism. It will only make it worse.”
She then blamed the man in Dallas on all black people, and ultimately “caught that block.”
Here was the response she’d posted to her page:
Let me say this. She routinely refused to listen to the black voices on the thread. She would also not listen to me. She continuously denied the fact that white people cannot experience racism in the US, and accused –us—of “continuing the divide.” She clearly still did not listen or take in anything we said, as shown by her “black racists” comment.
We came to correct. We came to bring it to her attention. She chose to ignore and dismiss. She chose to continue to get defensive, deflect and deny. Nobody told her to “shut up.” I told her to “stop.” And I do believe another person told her the same thing—meaning, stop dismissing and denying, stop centering. I at one point explicitly agreed with her questions, that YES, she should stop writing about racism and she should stop talking about it because she clearly lacked no real grasp on what racism actually is.
She exhibited no respect for any of the black women on that thread.
Here’s the kicker, though, because yes. It gets worse.
She actually is the author of an article I’d read the other day, titled Ten Ways White People Can Make Black Lives Matter. This is the article she was boasting about. (Which was cute, by the way; 3,000 shares and she thinks she’s something special. Except it wasn’t cute: What are her intentions if she is boasting about such things? What are her intentions if she’s even keeping track?) So, not only did Michelle Grewe write this think piece, she even quoted my friend Monica in the article; the same article where she is discussing the need for white people to listen to black people. I wonder if she has read Ashleigh Shackleford’s piece For White People Who Want to Attend Black Lives Matter Rallies. I doubt it. Her feelings would be completely crushed and she might fall into deep despair to see that black people as a whole, largely do not rely on white people, nor need them. Additionally, as I questioned before, if you are seeking pats on the back, shares/likes/friend requests and cookies, then why are you here? Go sit down, you are not needed. You are here for you and not black people. You are here for how it makes you feel, not for what needs done.
If you are going to be an accomplice in this fight—and I do mean accomplice, you better be willing to toss out your feelings and defenses so that you can actively listen, learn and educate others. You need to be willing to give it your all. All of the money you can give, all of the time, the effort, the fight you can give. You don’t get breaks. Think about how long you were silent for before taking a break. You better be willing to sit on the sidelines, get zero recognition, and dammit you better be willing to do what it takes by any means necessary. NOTHING and I do mean NOTHING should ever shake your commitment to this cause. Black people want equal rights? I’m here for it. Reparations? Got it. Separation? Okay but I’m for real gonna camp out on the fence line and cry all night.
It is said that to be an effective learner, you need to be an effective listener. Michelle Grewe is clearly not an effective listener. If she were, she would have needed none of this explained.
Ally theater, in this scenario, is when a white person is convinced they are an “ally” in the fight, and that they are doing well, doing the things they should, helping, and fighting the good fight. In all actuality, they are in it for rewards, they are in it for bragging rights and they are in it for themselves. These FAllies (capital FA for Fake Ass) always end up showing their true colors. They get their feelings hurt when a black person says something in a non-coddling way (read: however they want to say it). They get defensive instead of seeing where they may have gone wrong so that they can correct themselves. They have not checked their privilege at the door, despite the exceptional number of signs telling them to.
Black people do not need to walk on eggshells and protect white feelings. No. Never.
How this woman wrote this article, and then turned around and dismissed black voices, black woman’s voices—nonetheless, is beyond my level of tolerance and understanding. We have to be here to uplift, empower, learn from, listen to, fight for, support, and respect black women. It was three black women who founded this movement. Would she dismiss Opal, Alicia or Patrisse this way? I believe she would. I do not even think she knows who those women are.
In fact, in her article ABOUT Black Lives Matter, she did not even pay respect to the women who founded it once. She is the definition of ally theater.
To Michelle, I hope you will learn your lesson, take your L, collect and check yourself so that you can prevent further wrecking yourself.
To any other white people reading this who think they are invested and committed to this fight: You better check your privilege daily. You better wake up every morning and ask yourself two questions.
What are you willing to risk?
What are your intentions?
You better not ever center any of this on yourself. You better stick back in the shadows. You better not brag. You better not pat yourself on the back, or accept pats on the back from black people for doing the things you should’ve been doing for a long time now.
As I said to a black sister who thanked me for checking a white “ally” earlier today,
“Save them thanks for about 400 years bruh ….at least 27”