I’m making this about you because it is always about you. From the bliss of your ignorance to your choices of morality. You are the face of our oppression, and amid the din of these chaotic times, our eyes naturally turn to you, our friendly neighborhood white.
Allow me to walk you through the moment I am addressing in a more palatable setting. I present to you an exhibit in a museum of America’s sins. Around us are the names of people who have ossified into platitudes about the danger and the “curse” of whiteness, all written in spilled blood, dried from the generations before and still drying from yesterday’s installation. Our main showcase, Today, From the Age of Information and Social Media, is a triptych of our current events, a three-part saga of these past six months: COVID, murder, and protest. The common thread, the peace de résistance of this project, is Black death at the hands of—and hinged together by—the system built to protect you unconditionally. Your name, your brother’s name, your father’s name, and his father’s father’s name are etched into the rococo frame encasing this recurring tableau of plague and death. A white arm, brutalizing a Black child. The reds and blues that patrol my neighborhood at night. This is all for you.
You sit here now, reading this, in the room I have constructed, imagining the blood on your hands in the third person—a he, her, or them that sleeps in your shadow. While you fight them, the government bickers over the economy, farms destroy the superfluous resources of our great nation in need, medical officials work sleepless nights with meager PPE, and us Negroes perish by the day to serve you. Furthermore I have taken the time to paint you a pretty picture for your consideration.
And while the world burns around us and my family lies slain around me, I am meant to thank you for your contribution to the cause.
You see, I am forced to appreciate your efforts because you don’t have to do any of this. The discomfort you feel from being on the cutting edge of protest tactics and posting social media info is born of choosing justice. The irreparable damage of confronting your families on their covert or overt white supremacy is a cross you bear that I must, and will, be grateful for because your work is optional. But this weighs on me: Why should I be grateful when you thrive off the efforts of the Black folx, past and present, in ways I cannot even plan to see in order to manifest true equity?
Your well-meaningness is piss pittance compared with the price of the Black blood that was spilled to create and maintain your comfort. Your open ears are a burden upon the teachers, the Black people, Black women, and Black queer folx who repeat themselves across generations for a modicum of improvement that hardly makes a difference to you. They exhaust their lives fighting for a justice they will never see while you reap the luxuries of our culture—y’all get Noname, J. Cole, Kendrick, and Cardi off this—hardly remembering the names of the fighters who generated the resources we rely on and you profit from. On a good day you will remember the names of the dead whose deaths become the banners for these battles in the war for justice. But it will be you who receives the flowers and laurels owed to the Black wardens of their legacy.
This is of no fault of your own but due to our collective atavism: the joy we feel when fighting alongside the mighty.
Our appreciation is born of understanding who you are and who you think you are. I recall the battle of Helm’s Deep and the white light of Gandalf riding Shadowfax as the dawn peaks over the horizon. We, in the thick of battle, look up to see the bracing faces of white men, pouring down upon our enemies. We cheer you on because you are the last line of defense, you are the glimmer of hope. You, you, you, galloping valiantly in the morning after I am long dead in the thick of night. And that is why I am angry. I am furious at myself for accepting the call to educate my white peers and feeling a pappy’s pride over their Instagram stories. I am mad because I fear our calls for destroying the system are little more than frivolous wishes that will cost countless Black leaders’ livelihoods before you, upon your throne or horse or in your ivory tower, deign to raze the land with us. Or not.
I rage at the realities of Black folx’s sacrifice for this country, extending from our unfathomable love for life and humanity. We create, fight, educate, and expand reality for everyone, only to be left undefended when the words must become deeds or the deeds exceed the budgets of familiarity. How will we feed our children when we have spent our lives cutting off the heads of the Hydra you are riding? I am angry because I am afraid of the squalor that will be left behind when this particular exhibit is over and my crew and I clean up the display. I don’t want to have to wait for another shipment of Black blood to start this exhibit again, just so that our “heroes” can hop in and hop out as quickly as they came.
I address this letter to you, to consider the longevity of your support. Your stamina and the infectiousness of your morality means so much, and I implore you to draw on that on any given day. When you are hiking in Colorado, grabbing coffee in Seattle, or drinking a beer in Boston, I hope you decide to continue this uproar, as this unprecedented age rolls on.
S. P. is a poet and writer out of Washington, D.C., currently working at a nonprofit. He has spent the past few years wrestling with Afropessimism and primarily writing poetry and short stories related to Blackness and nostalgia. His most recent work can be found in Critical Theory and Social Justice Journal of Undergraduate Research: Volume 7.