Ah, social media. At its best, it can be a place for marginalized folks to come together, as seen in the many pages and Instagram feeds devoted to showcasing the beauty of people of color. And at its worst, it can be where emotionally infantile, entitled white people complain about it. People who are able to recognize that mainstream media generally praises white, Eurocentric beauty standards seem to understand our joy at being able to share and uplift images of beauty that reflect our cultures. It’s a wide web world out there, and I’m sure some white people see our slideshows and just scroll on by, which is totally their prerogative.
But some complain, and I’m about two address two specific complaints because I just saw them both, in rapid succession. I’m not going to individually name these people or screenshot their bullshit because painting them as anomalies wouldn’t accurately represent how common and, sadly, sincere these protestations are.
We can file these under “Why isn’t there a white history month?” One would think that the inanity of this question is basic, common knowledge. And it is, in a sense. At its root is a basic thought from a basic bitch and I’ve seen a disproportionate amount of it lately, so I’m going to say a few words. Feel free to disseminate this information when confronted by this particular shade of basic-ness.
The first is the White Woman™ who snottily comments on multiple pictures of beautiful black women “WHATEVER, IT’S NOT A COMPETITION”. Groan. Miss, you have had the world confirming that people who look vaguely like you are beautiful since Victoria first had a secret. Can a lowly Twitter handle called “Pretty Brown Skin” or whatever not simply exist without your derision?
Then there’s the (I honestly think he thinks he’s) well-intentioned white man who says he’s tired of us making everything about race, he’s past it, it’ll go away if we stop labeling things by race, etc. Today, one of them genuinely asked us to give him some credit. To “have some empathy for a non-racist white man who has to hear about race every day.”
ABSOLUTELY. Please clear a path so that I can run over and simultaneously pat you on your back and dry your tears. Never mind my own. Or the tears of my nieces and friends’ babies and little black girls everywhere who are told directly and indirectly that they are less than. By all means, let me pause from holding my niece as she cries at hearing again that her hair is ugly because it “doesn’t move” to come tend to your grown white ass. That makes sense.
Not that I can’t identify the source of your pain, mind you. Quite frankly, I don’t know how you manage to soldier on, sir. I can’t even imagine your struggle as you do the very least, just not be a racist shitbag, and manage to carry on despite not receiving vocal accolades and kudos for your un-work.
Or … maybe it IS work? Perhaps you’ve tattled on yourself with this falsely noble request? Is it actually very difficult for you to not think about race? Is it a fight to begrudgingly agree that yeah sure you’d bang Beyoncé but you could never actually date One Of Them? Are you frustrated when you have to stop yourself from saying “nigger” every time you think it? “African American” just doesn’t quite trip off your tongue in the same way, does it? My heart breaks for all that you have to overcome.
And this next thing I’m about to say is really gonna make it burn when you pee, but sometimes I actually do vocally thank someone who is not a part of a marginalized community but who steps up and is continually a good ally. The status quo is so fucked up that you really just have to not be racist to be a part of the solution, but if you ask for recognition for it, you lose. In moments of extreme insult or injury, I have absolutely made a point of thanking those who have supported from their place of privilege, and SO many white people are busy doing the good work of simply being good allies. Not co-opting the oppression of others, not jumping into conversations about systemic racism to loudly complain about that one time they got a sunburn, and absolutely not asking for credit for their allyship.
It’s incredibly hard to quietly do the right thing when you need attention more than you need to do the right thing, isn’t it BooBoo? It’s really difficult to contribute where you can and then fall back when that makes more sense if you’re used to being the voice that people listen to, isn’t it?
And that’s the point. You can’t even see that structurally, you have had the mic since forever and that passing it around doesn’t silence you but goddammit let some other people get a few words in! Let some other shades of beauty shine. (And also body types, but that’s a whole n’other conversation.) Do you feel that threatened? Or do you just think we don’t deserve it? Because you see how those options make you a scumbag who’s not at all the altruist you’d like credit for being, riiiiiiight?
When I’ve seen #AsianManAppreciation or #StunningDesiWomen I have NEVER thought why are they celebrating themselves. I have NEVER thought it’s not a competition. What I have done is send a little virtual high five and swoon and drool at images of beauty being shared in every skin tone under the sun.
If you’re a white man who’s tired of hearing about race, imagine how we feel. For you, it’s a thing you “hear about,” not directly suffer from. I’m tired of hearing about it too, but I’m more tired of the denigration of my people so pardon me if I don’t put your emotional fatigue first. And by the way, I’m a bit tired of talking about it as well. But talking about race doesn’t perpetuate racism; racist practices, behaviors, and ideologies do. And since people like you can get so confused about what even constitutes racism, I will keep talking about it.
Since you don’t understand how ridiculous you are to chime in sincerely asking for “empathy” and “credit,” I will keep talking about it.
Your little girls are told every day that they are beautiful and can see their features celebrated everywhere they look. Let us have our Twitter slideshows. And if it hurts you that badly, how ‘bout you keep your mouth shut about it. Put your fingers in your ears and skip off down the lane to a place where race is never discussed. Since I don’t have that option, I will keep talking about it.
We shall overcome, but we’re not there yet. As soon as we are, we’ll organize a parade for you. I promise.