This week, given the atrocities in the news, it has felt insensitive to even think about posting anything else. The fight against racism – and analysing my part in it – has filled my thoughts every hour of every day. And so it should – as a white person I have lots of work to do. Lots. However there seems to be conflicting opinions on what form that work should take. What is the right thing to do? Should we try to show our support and solidarity? Should we shut up and allow the black voices space? How do we show solidarity in a way that actually means something? Actions that some say are a good place to start, others say are pathetic and tokenistic. (No tiny violins wanted, and I apologise if this comes across that way). Uncomfortable is just a feeling that we need to get used to. This movement needs to be sustainable, not a one week wonder, and that means adjusting what we say and do from here on out.
Here’s the situation: feeling guilty that posting a black square comes across as performative, but also feeling that not showing your solidarity would be wrong. Feeling guilty for not speaking out sooner. Feeling guilty for benefitting from a society that has done much to benefit you and much to endanger others. Feeling guilty for sharing posts and pushing your name to the top of the pile, but also feeling guilty for encountering a post that makes you think hard and not sharing it. Feeling guilty that it may come across that you’re just trying to look like you’re doing the right thing, when you really want to be doing the right thing. And FEELING GUILTY FOR FEELING GUILTY, because in the grand scheme of things, guilt is a pretty mild emotion to experience in a time when others are experiencing fear, heartbreak, worry, and all manner of emotions that are difficult enough to witness as a white person, but must cut so much deeper if your skin is black. My white guilt does not matter.
No matter how hard I try, I will never understand. In the same way that a man will never understand how it feels to be a lone female when you hear footsteps behind you, I – a white person – will never understand how it feels to be black. And I think about that often.
Is the Black Lives Matter movement the only thing I – or anyone else – is going to post about from now on? Of course not. The social media blackout will not last forever. I didn’t even consider not posting #BlackLivesMatter because of the impact it may have on my fairly new business – if people don’t support that very simple statement, I do not want their custom. And luckily only a few people unfollowed me following my post on Saturday – I say ‘luckily’ not because I care about losing a few followers here and there (I frankly could not give one), but because that means that almost all the people who follow me have values that align with mine. And if they don’t, then good riddance.
Anyway, I digress. Basically, I am trying to figure out the best way to move forward in a way that continues business as usual – knitting and crafting and connecting with people around the world – whilst also acknowledging that it is not business as usual. I’m hoping that May / June 2020 will be a watershed moment in the fight against racism, and that from here on out progress will be made. Hoping. Really hoping. And knowing that for that to be the case, people like myself need to put. In. The. Work. We need to have the awkward conversations with people who believe they haven’t benefitted from white privilege, and believe the racist state of the world isn’t their problem. The conversations taking place on social media need to continue offline, because the people who probably need to hear them the most, aren’t reading.
We do need to carry on with our lives, but we need to weave anti-racist work into those lives. That includes social media. I hate the thought that Blackout Tuesday will be a flash in the pan that is swiftly forgotten about. Posting about my latest sweater project tomorrow doesn’t feel right – as if today was merely a token – but is it any better to keep sticking my oar in? Should I do the work behind the scenes (reading, signing, donating, talking) and post about my new sweater? Or is that just insensitive? I really don’t know. The struggle of ‘how to do the right thing’ is a mighty privileged struggle to face; trust me I’m aware of that. I just want to find the best way to do the work that involves actually making a difference, not just sharing empty statements on social media.
To my black followers: I am not asking for your advice, you don’t owe it to me. We white people need to figure this out for ourselves. I hope I can play my part in trying to make this world a better place for you.
To my white and non-black followers: we will no doubt f*ck up, and in trying to do the right thing we will probably do the wrong thing, but let’s try our best, right?
Some resources I’ve found useful (and will add to):