Dear Black People: An Apology From A White Woman

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Dear Black people,

I just wanted to say this: I’m sorry.

When I was six years old, I used the n-word in school. Yes, I was repeating something I overheard and had no real concept of what I was saying. Yes, I was a child. But I’m still so sorry that word has ever passed my lips. It disgusts me, and if I could travel back in time, I would ram a bar of soap down six-year-old me’s throat. I don’t use that word now, and no one would have known I ever had if I hadn’t told on myself. That’s the point — I’m holding myself accountable. I fucked up. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for believing my own heritage meant I understood more about what you go through on a daily basis; I don’t. Yes, at one point there were “no Irish need apply” signs hanging in shop windows. Yes, it was awful. But it’s 2020. There aren’t any “no Irish need apply” signs in any windows. I’ve never been discriminated against in the workplace because of my name or my race. I’m sorry I ever thought I “got it.”

My first three boyfriends were Black or mixed. I’m sorry I thought being called a “reverse Oreo” and a “race traitor” compared to the vitriol my boyfriends received for having the audacity to date a white girl in the Deep South. Eugene, Daniel, Taurian, if any of you read this, I’m sorry I didn’t stand up for you more.

I’m sorry if I ever thought my love of 90s rap, encyclopedic knowledge of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and having a Black best friend meant I had any real understanding of Black culture.

I’m sorry for thinking that having a diverse group of friends meant I didn’t “see color” when what I should have said was this: “I see you. I see our differences, and you are beautiful because of them.”

I’m sorry for the number of times I’ve joked about being afraid of the police. I am afraid. But I’m afraid of being given a ticket. I’m afraid of possibly being raped. I am not afraid of being killed because of my skin color, and therein lies the difference.

I’m sorry to my Black friends who ever felt uncomfortable eating in certain restaurants and going to certain stores with me. Refusing to patronize those locations after the fact is not enough. I should have walked out right then. I’m sorry I didn’t.

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I’m sorry I didn’t speak out when my hyena-like giggling went ignored while your laughter earned snide glances; I’m sorry for all the times I never said anything when I overheard comments about “loud Black women.”

I’m sorry for the generational trauma your community is living with; I’m sorry you’ve been told to “get over it” because it happened a long time ago. Slavery is illegal, but white privilege is still the norm. I’m sorry more people don’t see that, and I’m sorry for benefitting from it.

I won’t apologize for being white. I didn’t ask to be born white any more than you asked to be born Black, but I am sorry white privilege exists. I’m sorry systemic racism is so pervasive that micro-aggressions go unnoticed by white people like me.

I’m sorry that you have had to live in fear, that you have ever had to think twice about calling 911 in an emergency situation.

I’m sorry for all the times the Black community has had to grieve the senseless deaths of your Black brothers and sisters, brutally killed for the most ridiculous of reasons: the amount of melanin in your skin.

I’m sorry any of you have ever felt the need reconsider naming your children something you find personally meaningful versus something that “sounds white.”

I’m sorry for all the times you’ve censored yourselves for fear of perpetuating the “angry Black person” stereotype. You should be angry. I’m angry, and I’m not the one being directly impacted.

I’m sorry for not educating myself more, for not using my platform to speak out against racial inequality more.

I’m sorry you have to teach your children how to “correctly” approach police officers because you’re afraid for their lives.

I’m sorry you have to educate groups of young Black people on the best way to get through a protest with minimal damage. I’m sorry you’re being tear-gassed and beaten. I’m sorry little Black boys are carrying signs that read “am I next?” I’m sorry you have anything to protest at all.

It sounds incredibly trivial in the grand scheme of things, but I’m sorry for not addressing the shade range — or lack thereof — in foundation reviews I’ve done in the past. I’m sorry for not patronizing as many Black-owned brands as I should have. That will change from now on.

It is my job to educate myself, not the duty of the Black community. I am an imperfect human being, and I won’t always get it right. If I say anything offensive, please call me out on it so I can apologize.

Love,

Someone who will never understand but who will always stand with you.

To my fellow white people: we have to do better. Here is a list of resources I’ve compiled, and you can find more on Fatima’s blog.

Books:

1.) Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad

2.) White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

3.) Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Donate:

1.) Official George Floyd GoFundMe

2.) Black Lives Matter

Shop:

1.) Black-owned beauty brands to support (all cruelty-free and vegan)

Sign (Edited June 27):

1.) Justice for Big Floyd

2.) Justice for Breonna Taylor

3.) Justice for Elijah McClain

For the next week, my previously planned Instagram content will be on mute to support black voices and promote black-owned businesses. It’s the absolute least I can do. Leave any links to black-owned businesses and charities in the comments. We need to keep this dialogue open long after it stops trending.

This isn’t a popular hashtag. These are human lives.