Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Following Up: My Response to #SACHAT Shaming


Thank you for your email & reaching out to me. I have given a lot of thought about what to say or how to respond to you in a way that would encourage you to do more learning and growing but that would also satisfy my need to hold you accountable publicly for your tweets and subsequent pain you caused me.

I am choosing to write this in my blog for this reason; you took social media and publicly shamed me in a conversation with our colleagues seemingly not caring that I might see it. You publicly shamed me in an #sachat conversation that was intended to focus on the massacre of nine black people, my people, and instead shifted the conversation to focus on you and your feelings. In my opinion, it is unfair for you to publicly shame me, to not publicly apologize, and then ask me to privately labor for you, educate you, and give you time and energy.

When deciding if I was going to engage with you, I ventured over to your blog, because, you know, I “track” people – on June 19th you wrote in your post “The Mistake of Waiting For the Right Thing to say” :

What happened in Charleston this week is systemic. Despite efforts in our society to ignore it, racism is
rampant in our country. We only acknowledge it when it manifests in tragedy….The United States government is intrusively involved in the political climate of other countries while our own country is broken. It’s easier to fix others than look deeply at ourselves and agree to fix our home. Be present in conversations. Be available. Listen to others. Learn what’s really happening in our country. Understand the lives of those who are devalued by systems and processes in our country.”

I thought about how amazing that sounded, that you could articulate what needs to happen in order to address race and racism and yet there seemed to be a disconnect between what you espouse and your actual praxis. You talk about systemic racism and the need for our country to look deeply at ourselves to fix our home and I am calling you in to do the same. Instead of being present, available, and listening- you ran, dismissed me, and proceeded to subtweet about me instead of @ me or send me a direct message to discuss your feelings lingering from a conversation we had two months prior.  Not only did you shame me but also garnered blind support from other colleagues saying that I need to #getalife without realizing that this is my life. The day after six black women had just been murdered in the name of white womanhood and white supremacy, I come to the place where I have developed a community, where my voice is elevated as a black woman to find you, shaming me in the midst of a conversation on race and in the midst of my mourning. The day before my black family celebrates our historic holiday, Juneteeth, there you are shaming me and here I am now doing exactly what I shouldn’t have to – labor and claim my right to be seen, heard, and respected. This conversation was happening about my life, my survival, and the lives of my people, and sandwiched between a terrorist attack and a celebration, your words in that moment at that very inappropriate time had impact. You turned a space intended for processing into a mockery of my request that white colleagues show up for these conversations. 

When I proceeded to challenge your tweets, publicly, and sent you my email to engage further, you didn’t write me to apologize for your words or their very obvious impact on me, instead you apologized for the miscommunication of not emailing me sooner because I didn’t send my information in a Direct Message. Your apology read as “I apologize that you didn’t do what I asked you to, this is why I haven’t reached out” instead of just owning your words and actions displayed through your passive aggressive engagement on #sachat. Instead of apologizing to me you ask to hear my story and to understand my experience but what you must now realize is that I cannot trust you. Your privilege does not afford you access to me. I am not a performance art piece; I am not here to be consumed by you for your entertainment or education. I am a human being. I have feelings, pain, anger, frustration, and hurt. If you cannot relate to me on a human level there is no need to attempt to relate to me at all. As a white person I want to encourage you to reflect on your own story. Unpack what lessons you have been taught about your identities. What truths and lies you have been operating with, whether consciously or unconsciously, and then reflect how that has shown up in your engagement with me.

If you are committed to “the work” -truly, fully, unwaveringly committed, then you will sit in the discomfort of this, you will sit, stew, think, read, read again, talk to other white colleagues who are aspiring allies**, talk to my white social justice family members who have offered time and energy to engage with you (and who I will tag on twitter so you can connect), and truly reflect on the ways in which your privilege, as well as your white fragility, shows up.

Hopefully you are able to engage with this and not just dismiss it. Understand this is not to shame you for your actions but to bring to your attention what I have noticed (as one black woman) is a blind spot for you. That I, as someone who likes to be in community with people who like to be in community with me, can name that you as a white person occupying space with brown/black folks means showing up, being present, and sometimes dealing with the discomfort of accountability. As you hopefully read in the piece I emailed “11 Ways White America Avoids TakingResponsibility for its Racism”:

How, where, and when you give me feedback is irrelevant – it is the feedback I want and need.
Understanding that it is hard to give, I will take it any way I can get it. From my position of social, cultural, and institutional white power and privilege, I am perfectly safe and I can handle it. If I cannot handle it, it’s on me to build my racial stamina.

The Struggle Continues, 

Bulaong Ramiz

**Please note I use the term “ally” because I feel as though it is accessible to white people but I do not believe people with privileged identities can be “allies” to marginalized/oppressed identities