White men, America needs you. She’s in danger of crumbling, and only you can save her. Those are the words you always wanted to hear right? I mean, we always knew that you were going to be the ones to save us. After all, that’s what all the action movies have told us. Are your ready? Before you get too excited, I have to tell you: You won’t need your AR-15.
Your mission: Unite the country. You can handle that, right? I mean, we’re the United States. It’s right there in the name, right? United we stand! We’re all in this together! When we all come together as a human race, instead of a single race, it’s a thing of beauty.
That is beautiful. It will look great on the t-shirts and mugs, but there’s just one tiny complication: We don’t trust you. I know this shocks you. I’m sure this thought has never even crossed your mind. And THAT’s the problem. Before you get in your feelings and accuse me of race baiting and divisiveness, let me take you on a tram ride through American History:
In the Civil War we were united, and our reward was Black Codes and Jim Crow. In WWI we were united, and our troops went to war segregated, and when they returned, a lot of the black ones were lynched while still in their uniforms. In WWII we were united, except for Japanese Americans, who were in camps, and once again, our soldiers went off to war in their segregated units, and the white ones were welcomed home with the GI Bill, the launching pad of the middle class. The black ones were welcomed home with unemployment and the reminder that they still were second class citizens. During the struggles for civil rights, we were united…oh wait…no we weren’t. In the AIDS crisis, we were united, except the gays. After 9/11 we were united, except for the Muslims. And now that Trump is president, we’re all united…oh wait…But all of us on the left are united, right? You’re on my side, right?
Let’s talk about that. In the last few weeks, I have had so many white people tell me they were on my side, I thought my name was Nationwide. Fun Fact: The last person I would trust is a white man who tells me he’s on my side.
I spent nine years in a relationship with a white man. He was on my side. One of our biggest and most ongoing fights was that he didn’t listen. He would tell me about a problem, and I would suggest a solution. He would shrug it off and tell me why it wouldn’t work. A few days later, he would come home with a solution from one of his coworkers. Without fail, it was exactly what I had said.
The day after Trump’s election, I went to my neighborhood gay bar in the West Village. I needed to be with people who were on my side. Of course, the topic was the election. As I ordered, the guy beside me was pontificating about the election. “You know why she lost,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “ Who showed up for Obama but not for Clinton?” And then he pointedly turned and looked me up and down. I was the only black person there, except for the guy at the end of the bar. I decided to let that go. I turned my attention instead to the conversation that the rest of the bar was having. There were 4 guys at the bar, as well as the bartender. They were saying how it was poor and uneducated whites that elected Trump. I chimed in that that was not the case. 57% of white people voted for Trump (there are exit polls that confirm this BTW). They continued to speak over me, as if I had said nothing. This included the bartender, who was a friend. The black guy at the end of the bar still said nothing. This is where I put my $60,000 of student loan debt for my theatre degree to work. I repeated myself, except at a volume where they had no choice but to hear me. The black guy at the end of the bar still said nothing.
In the last few years, my patience for white men on my side has dwindled. A few days ago, a well meaning white friend posted something about the riots that said how MLK changed the world, and he never rioted. He was on my side. I challenged him to name 5 things that proved that Dr. King had in fact changed the world. He gave 3, including the now expired Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act that was signed AFTER Dr. King was murdered.
Tonight, I was on a Facetime call with 3 white friends: 2 women, and 1 man. They were all on my side. Given the last week, the topic was race relations. As I was trying to say something, and he proceeded to talk over me. I. LOST. MY. SHIT. This interaction ended with him very quickly exiting the call, and the ladies explaining how he didn’t mean to talk over me. I knew that already. THAT’S the point. He has never been called out for doing this. He has done this so long, and nobody has questioned him on this, that he thinks this is his right.
Gentlemen, let me tell you an ugly truth, and I say this with love.: You are the shittiest allies ever. Seriously. With friends like you, who needs enemas? Look at the evidence. Is it any wonder we don’t trust you? Recently, I have had so many white people profess their friendship, and it’s worth exactly nothing. As James Baldwin once said: How can I believe what you say, when I see what you do?
So, my heroes, given your Herculean obstacle, how can you save our beloved republic? Well, here are a few things you can do, but I warn you, it’s going to require your greatest superpower: Empathy.
1. Shut up- I know this sounds harsh, but it needs to happen. More than any other group in America, you have the right to speak. It’s time for you to realize your privilege and let others speak.
2. Listen- It’s not in your skill set, we know, but give it a shot. The people around you- female, gay, black, latin, et al need this from you.
3. Believe them- Whatever your female, LGBTQ, POC friends say, take it as the truth. It’s probably gonna hurt your feelings. That’s a given. Until this point, you have not been held to task, and that is privilege. Acknowledge it and release it.
4. Changed Behavior- After you have heard what others have to say, actually put it into practice. Prove you can be trusted. Prove that you REALLY are on our side. Show that you are capable of learning and putting others first. Seek out resources. Don’t rely on friends to give them to you. Especially not POC friends. They are tired right now, and don’t need another thing to do.
At this moment, you are probably wondering why this all lays on your shoulders, and I will once again be honest: Because it never has been before. Your POC friends, your LGBTQ friends, your female friends, they have all been doing the emotional labor for you. It’s time for you to pull your own weight.
And if you don’t want to do all this, that’s ok too. Just know that America will die. The rest of us are tired. We have centered you and your feelings for too long. At this point, if you decide to let America fall, we’re good with that. After all, misery loves company.
PS- Cis gay white men, I’m talking to you too.