Let’s Talk About White Fragility (Dear John Part 2)

White Liberalism is dangerous.

White Liberalism does not hold white people accountable.

Please listen to the voices and experiences of people of color (POC). Then do the work. Using your relation to Black people and POC is an empty placeholder in your resistance to confront your inner bias.

White friends and family, please do not use me as a placeholder and align yourself next to me when you are speaking to a Black person/ POC.

Speak for yourself. Speak as if you and I have never met before, you’ve never been in my home, been invited to events, and enjoyed my sweet potato pie recipe. Remember that you knowing me or any other POC doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.

Please stand alone.

Additionally, the Black people/ POC that you do know would never approve of your comments. They would be disappointed in you.

Please stand alone.

Below is the comment from John, followed by a family friend’s comment. This blog post is a response to the family friend’s comment I received last night. Thank you for starting a conversation and awakening something that lives deep inside me. Again, thank you for reading.

Love always, Tianna.

P.S. I am at home- unemployed and finishing grad school with nothing else to do but write my blog posts. Please come correct. This is the letter written by a 28-year-old Black woman who was raised by two Black parents that never allowed John to speak directly into her life.

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John’s comment.

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Family friend’s comment.

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Below is my response to the family friend.

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Hi there, thank you for writing.

I was going to respond in a private message, but I truly feel that my response will be of use to others. Before I begin, I write this with love. I know the impact you’ve had on my mother’s life, as you have been friends for decades. I know you write in love. I am not here to create division, but to uplift and share my truth.

I want you to know that if you were not a friend of my mother and father, I would have never responded to your comment.

I’m exhausted. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this is different.

The comment that John posted on my blog expresses disappointment. If you read between the lines, you may think John was a hard-working teacher who felt like he failed the youth in Dallas, TX. Maybe John is a disgruntled teacher who needed to retire years ago. But if you look closer, his comments reek of racism and coded language against Black students.

I don’t have children yet, but please know that if my child’s teacher ever said what John said, I would have his teacher’s license revoked and my child transferred to a new class. Immediately.

For just a second, let’s take race out of it. You remember me as a kid. I had a big smile, always excited, and full of energy. If you were sitting in my parents’ living room and I came home from school crying, you would wonder what was wrong, right?

What if I was six years old and I told you that my teacher said that education wasn’t valued in my Black household?

What would you say?

What if my parents rushed to my elementary school to sit down with my teacher and John told my parents that he would be lucky “if I brought a pencil or my textbooks to class?” Can you imagine my parents’ response?

I’m not sure if you remember, but my mom read and corrected the essays and papers of my brother and me. My father quizzed us for spelling bee competitions. If we didn’t use correct grammar at the dinner table, my parents wouldn’t respond. We spent our childhood in public libraries; my brother immersed in fiction novels and I carried around a journal because I wanted to be a writer.

Do you see why John’s comments are dangerous? What if his students believed him?

Here are examples of coded language.

  1. “The reason many Black students fail is fairly simple: it’s because education isn’t valued in the home” = Stereotype (Black people are unintelligent and not interested).

2. “You call a parent to discuss their child and they immediately get defensive or worse you get cussed out” = Stereotype (Black people are defensive, violent, angry, and loud).

3. “Forget about getting some kids to do homework” = Stereotype (Black people are unintelligent, ignorant, dense, and stupid).

4. “You’re lucky if they bring a pencil or their textbooks” = Stereotype (Black people are lazy, lack effort, and incapable).

Imagine my parents’ response if someone said these things above to my brother and/ or me. Do you remember when my dad came to my elementary school in Groton, CT because my teacher was teaching us that Christopher Columbus was a savior and discovered America?

Do you remember when my brother was skipped over for the Academically or Intellectually Gifted Program by his elementary school teacher? My parents fought to have him tested and he passed with flying colors.

What I am telling you is that John’s comments are racism on a small level; racism that prevents little Black and Brown kids like my brother and me from reaching our fullest potential.

John’s comments chip away at the confidence, self-esteem, autonomy, pride, and joy of Black and Brown children all across our country.

It starts at a young age. John’s comments are rooted in systemic racism, discrimination, explicit and implicit bias.

The math is simple- If John thinks (X) about Black people, then John doesn’t need to be in the classroom with Black students.

John shouldn’t be a teacher.

Easy.

Your comment of “Tianna, I am NOT defending him, but I don’t see his comment as racist, more as his perception and frustration. If he was truly racist, he would have taught somewhere else. We don’t know what his school district was like, so it’s difficult to understand.”

Do we need to know what his school district was like?

Is it difficult to understand?

Your example of white fragility demonstrates the excessive reasoning that limits and reduces the voices and experiences of people of color. White fragility seeks to understand, to request information, to do mental jumping jacks, because the truth is too evident, too uncomfortable. John is racist. I don’t need critical reasoning exercises or any additional information.

It is a form of policing and systemic racism where you, a white woman, discount my experience and opinion because we “don’t have the full story” of what John was thinking.

In my blog post, I said I want white people to listen to Black people and people of color when they share their experiences. I said I want white people to do the work. John can be a liberal white person. He can be well-intentioned AND the ideology that John upholds is still dangerous.

I believe your comment “I can never understand all you’ve gone through, but my husband does, as does his family, who are well documented direct descendants from slave owners” is an attempt to establish solidarity. I understand this. While your husband is a Black man, it’s truly unfair to bring him and his family into this. You have to stand alone. Human rights for Black lives can’t be based on your direct alignment to Black people- your husband, his family, or my family. It has to be rooted from within. If you never married your husband or met my parents, you still have to do the required work.

While your comment is well-intentioned, it’s poor. As a Black woman, I told you something was racist. You, a White woman, who will never experience racism, commented to tell me that John’s comment wasn’t racist.

You stated that “if John was truly racist, he would have taught somewhere else.” Do you think police officers that are racist go work somewhere else too?

There are John’s in positions of power all across America.

Racism first starts with John. John designs the infrastructure, media, our communities, housing, hospitals, and schools. John decides who has access to healthy food, clean air, and clean water.

John educates our children. John decides the location of our communities’ resources and how easy it is to find said resource. John decides what law to uphold, who to arrest, and who to hold accountable. John decides who to protect.

And then, John decides how and when George Floyd dies and what narrative to use. John decides we need additional information and critical reasoning skills to make sense of what we already know is true.

Repeat.

What I want you to understand is that John’s comments are just as violent as white U.S. government officials harassing me to the point where I am diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and need to quit my dream job to escape trauma.

For months, I was harassed by a white official who works for the United States Government. This man and his white colleagues laughed when I said I also worked for the U.S. Government and presented a diplomatic passport and three forms of official identification. He and other white officials thought I was a liar and drug dealer= stereotypes of Black people (lazy, unqualified, ignorant, incapable, and unintelligent).

These white men thought the same things about me that John thought about the Black students he taught in Dallas, TX for 15 years.

My parents taught me to be kind, strong, compassionate, and to use my voice. You know my parents, so I was never taught to hold my tongue. That is why I spoke up about my experience and that is why my story is in the New York Times.

I am not angry. I am engulfed in rage. I cannot even begin to tell you how I feel right now. It is 6:46AM and I haven’t been to sleep yet. I hardly sleep anymore. I have PTSD because of John’s actions from 2018.

My response to you is out of kindness. I am urging you to do the necessary work to look at your internal bias and your white fragility.

The only way to first create change is to look within.

Take care and be safe,

Love,

Tianna

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https://www.gofundme.com/f/A-Love-Letter-To-Durham-North-Carolina. ** Please consider donating to my community.

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