I was hoping that being socially distanced this February would let us avoid some of the issues that make me angry every year. While these behaviors are year-round problems they seem to dramatically increase every February because a lot of white people want to take part in Black History Month but don’t get how these behaviors come across. I believe this stems from society not knowing how to talk about race and I have created a quick list from things I’ve clocked on social media this last week. Hopefully, this list helps those of you who are serious about doing better.
- Don’t co-opt phrases like “Black Excellence,” Black Girl Magic,” or “Black Boy Joy,” or anything similar to those phrases. Only Black people get to say what belongs in those categories because it’s awkward to have people tell us what we should be proud of and it’s extremely arrogant of you to think that you get a say.
- Don’t swoop in with your Black trivia facts to try to “outdo us.” We’re actually Black so we don’t see this as the fun competition some of you do and we don’t need you to explain our culture/history to us. It also shows that you’re only stepping into your “work” to be seen as opposed to any of the right reasons. This is gross!
- Don’t claim to be an ally if you’re not an ally for EVERYBODY. Black people can identify in a variety of ways so when you claim to support Black Lives Matter but then are openly homophobic, transphobic, sexist, racist against other people of color, and so on it shows us that you’re only a fake ally for the few people that fit into your narrow view of what Blackness is.
- Don’t tone police us. We get to have feelings and you swooping in from your place of privilege to tell us how to behave will never be a good look. Ever. If you disagree with the way a Black person is reacting to current events, politicians, a TV trend, etc. then keep it to yourself.
- Don’t ask Black people to explain things you don’t want to look up. Do the research! Stop asking Black people to explain things to you when the internet is right there. Find a legitimate source and educate yourself. Your laziness shouldn’t ever require us to do labor for you.
- Don’t do that thing where you act like you want to help us by giving us unsolicited advice and then getting mad we don’t want it. This is deeply problematic because it shows us that you believe we are beneath you in some way. When you feel the urge to do this stop yourself and unpack your self-importance instead.
- Don’t tell us we’re wrong about something being racist. It’s always race-related and you doing that shows us that you’re not paying attention. Your excuse that “there are always more sides to the story” especially doesn’t work here.
- Don’t try to equate the Black experience to stuff you’ve gone through as a white person. No matter how similar it seems, your interactions with the police, job searches, representation in the media, and everything else you experience is different than ours. If you stop trying to center yourself when we’re talking about our experiences, you would be able to listen and learn instead.
- Don’t tell us we’re being sensitive, especially when we bring up issues you’re hearing about for the first time. We get to be mad about magical negroes, colorism, our streamer’s “Black Voices” sections being stuff created by (and starring) white people. You cannot put two Black people in minor roles and pretend it’s a movie about Black people and this nonsense needs to stop at once.
- Don’t tell us representation is getting better and expect us to rejoice with you over the bare minimum being done. You can be happy with the slow, and problematic progress, this country sort of attempts to make at times. However, we don’t have to be because this is an actionable item that could’ve been fixed forever ago.
- Don’t appropriate Black culture. Ever. Getting a hairstyle that would get a Black person sent home from school, become the topic of conversation in the PWIs they work at, or lead to them not even get hired for a job is not cool. Neither are your attempts to “sound” Black. These are high-key offenses and I’m mad we are still having this conversation in 2021.
- Don’t recommend Black trauma porn to us. We’re not the ones that need to see it to feel empathy towards Black folx. You also don’t get brownie points for letting us know you watched it and had feelings.
- Don’t ask us if we’re “mixed.” This shows that you don’t have that many Black friends because you assume Black people can only look one way. Unpack that on your own time and do better. Also, stop using “mixed” as a blanket term and instead only use it for individuals that tell you they specifically prefer that term. Then use it for those individuals and not in the general sense.
- Don’t correct the way we pronounce a word in a bitchy way. There are so many reasons we might pronounce something a certain way and you using that moment to show that you think you might know more than us is disgusting.
- Don’t write our stories for us. If it’s not your experience then why do you think you should be telling the story? This is another instance of you using your privilege to do something we don’t get to do. Decenter yourself instead and support writers who should be telling the stories you claim you want to see.
- Don’t come to our Facebook when you’re frustrated and/or having a bad day. We see you seek us out to have your feelings on our statuses when there are a plethora of other people posting similar stuff. This is a toxic trait that shows what you really think of your Black friends. I also hate these because sometimes you know it’s wrong and will send a secret apology about how rough your life is at the moment. As if that excuses you from going full Karen on us and we need to forgive you for your shit behavior.
- Don’t read things like this and refuse to see your own problematic behaviors. You don’t get a pass for any of the reasons you think you do. Again, that is your privilege calling from inside the house and I would like for you to ignore the call. You need to unpack why you think that you get to do any of this and reflect on how to be a better person moving forward.
This list is exhausting but not exhaustive. Please do better.