White People Need To Be Better People

In the article “Black Women Do Not Exist To Save You“, Hanna L. Drake highlighted the narrowness of Doug Jones’ Senate victory in Alabama against Roy Moore in spite of Moore’s history of racism and allegations of pedophilia. Her blog post, and accompanied video that I have shared here call for a more critical look at who is saying #TrustBlackWomen and why.

The election data showed that an overwhelming majority of white people in Alabama voted for Roy Moore.

Election results by race and gender

I think Hannah summed it up perfectly. Those election numbers are undeniable, and this isn’t the only instance when a majority of white people have voted to uphold white supremacy, even when that vote might mean acting against their own best interests in other areas.

White people need to be better people. Period.

It did not take long to receive some “not all white people” pushback after sharing Hannah’s article across one of my social media networks.

I said what I said.

Another response white people provide when talking about race that is rooted defensiveness is the sentiment that “you don’t win help by slighting your own supporters.”

I often witness this kind of defensiveness when people of color share a legitimate thought about the reality of our lived experience in a way that intentionally or unintentionally does not take into account the comfort and fragility of a white person. Familiar decision statements on the derailment bingo board are “If you weren’t so hostile, people would listen to you.”, “You are damaging your cause by being so aggressive.”, and “I was on your side, but your anger changed that.”

“Instead of actively focusing on how we participate in oppression, responding defensively can be an attempt at manipulating marginalized people into making us feel better about ourselves and taking care of our feelings first before we’re able to listen; ultimately derailing any critical dialogue that would have taken place. It’s quite an effective silencing tactic.”

–From my note: “On Power & Privilege Denial, and “Hurt Feelings” in Social Justice Work

We Are Not Beholden to Our “Allies”

Defensive responses like those call for white people to really think about what “support” actually means.

“Support” that’s dependent on protecting the egos of white people for the sake of keeping them around isn’t support at all.

If folks stop “supporting” because the feedback like Hannah shared in her blog post doesn’t feel good, they were never truly supportive in the first place.

White folks who are doing their own work serve best when they understand this truth about themselves and are able to accept feedback without getting defensive. There’s too much reality about the ways white supremacy works and is maintained by white folks, and it is impossible to have a conversation about that without implicating them. Including those who might consider themselves in the “not all” category.

I also recognize that people of color have been socialized to comfort white people for their own survival by protecting their feelings, reassuring their need to feel distance between themselves and “the bad ones”, laughing at jokes that aren’t funny, and other forms of not telling them the truth out of fear of what that could mean for their lives or the lives of people they care about. I don’t make judgements about those types of survival decisions, but I’m not willing to entertain the “my willingness to support you is dependent on your ability to make me feel good about myself” stuff on the part of white people.

I read a tweet around the time of the election that said:

“I don’t think people get that Black women don’t turn out because of some maternal instinct to save everyone. We get usually hit first and worst by oppressive policies so we are saving ourselves. You just benefit.”

The Black Women of Alabama did what they had to do because the white folks in that state could not be trusted to do the right thing; whose investment in whiteness and white supremacy outweighed the need for collective humanity, even though voting the way they did meant voting against their own interests in many instances.

I’m not willing to detract from the chilling, inescapable implications of that election data so that the “many” white people who are doing “what they can” can take comfort in some false sense of security that they aren’t a part of the problem.

There’s a crisis in the white community and white people need to talk to each other about why they continue to make these decisions over and over again.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones

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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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2 Responses

  1. July 28, 2019

    […] Comparisons Between Light and Darkness as Tools of Anti-BlacknessFrom January 2018: White People Need to be Better PeopleFrom February 2018: White Denial, Mental Health, and Mass […]

  2. June 3, 2020

    […] White People Need to Be Better People. Below are a list of resources in no particular order. Have any you’d like to add to the list? Share them in the comments section. H/T to Student Affairs Professional Demetrius T. Gary for the curation. […]

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