Dear White Friend

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By Wednesday, Nov 16 Letters  19 Comments

Editor’s Note: Andrew Flint of Stockbridge received the following letter today from a friend in New York City.

Dear White Friend,

It is important that you understand what I am feeling as a 32-year-old Black man now that Donald Trump has been elected President, with specific regard to race. It is important not only because you care for me, but because you need to protect and fight for me and for all others who lack the camouflage of white skin. Otherwise — and I mean this without hyperbole — we are the walking dead. And you, by your silence, ignorance and passivity, will be killing us.

I am more scared than I’ve ever been in my life. I am broken. There is a feeling when someone says or does something with racial animus to me. It is a trembling, a quaking pain that is unbelievably pervasive, as though all the water molecules in my body were suddenly replaced by that person’s pulsating hatred. At this moment, and for a long time in the future, it will feel like that but more, that the very air around me has done it, the atmosphere itself hates me for no decent reason. There is already a fear as a Black man, an extreme adrenaline rush, when a cop pulls behind me on the road. The entire country has just pulled behind me with their lights flashing.

I want to express to you the absolutely defeated feeling I have. I want you to know the sorrow that comes with having a revitalized and powerful White Supremacist element in this country, my country. I want you to know that the “not all Whites” excuses are irrelevant and actually harmful when the truth is that the strong majority of Whites were willing to vote for a man who has both spoken and acted in ways that are deeply bigoted and violent. I want you to think of the racially violent acts now committed daily by people with his name on their lips. I want you to think about what it feels like to me that so many of my fellow Americans hate me, and that I have no idea why. That I have no clue as to what we ever did to deserve this. And that they are excited and empowered to do more harm to me now than ever before during my lifetime.

I also need you to know how furious and hurt I am that life goes on as normal. Not just that the media and entertainment are already working so hard to normalize what cannot humanely become normal, but that people are walking on the street, having conversations, petting dogs and cats, anything beyond being sick and screaming over how this all must feel for me, for non-White people. I cannot believe it when I see someone look okay. This election was an act of terrorism. That is how I feel. Terrorized by White America. And it is an ongoing act of terrorism, as these White smiles I see only remind me that they are camouflaged against the brunt of it, that I am the target, and that they’ve never had skin in this game like I do.

I want to be optimistic, I really do, but honestly I don’t believe that White people will do the work necessary to save this country. And I lay the burden of saving America on White people because of this: In the ‘50s and ‘60s White Supremacy was static, stable, complacent. The appetite for Black and Brown blood in the streets was limited because it was bitterly shocking. Now, however, White Supremacy is ascendant. There is an active thirst for that blood. My blood. My blood in the streets will be met with celebration. And I don’t think that there are enough White people good enough to be strong enough to protect me and fight for me. I really don’t.

It will take a whole lot more than a safety pin. You will have to pick apart the very fabric of your understanding of race, examine the threads of your beliefs and separate even the tiniest fibers of prejudice you may see. Headscarf make you scared? You’ve ripped her faith away and humiliated her. Poor English language skills annoy you? You’ve made the doctor miss the symptoms of a lymphoma. Black man make your heart rate rise? You’ve shot him in the back as he ran away. Work at this. Diligently destroy the impure fibers, and when you can honestly say that you have, then you can re-weave. But this is only step one.

Step two is to make sure that every White person you know is actively doing the same thing. If they are not, if they refuse or dismiss the imperative, then you must literally disown them. Otherwise you are agreeing with them, you are complicit in their beliefs, and you are killing me.

Step three, resist and undermine in any way you can possibly devise the systems of White Supremacy as well as misogyny as they exist now and as the incoming administration advances them. And always, no matter the situation, confront racism and misogyny immediately and directly. I’m talking about friends, family, strangers, always, anywhere, anytime. There is no scale to racism and misogyny. They are never minor, never casual, always inestimably consequential. They are always a massive threat to humanity.

One last note, remember that Black and Brown people don’t owe you explanations to basic questions. The moment you as a White person comes asking some basic thing, I know you don’t really care because you’re too lazy to do the legwork and figure it out. We’ve literally written books so that you can understand. Think hard before you ask me to speak, be completely stumped, because I am tired and you need to respect me. And another thing, I do not owe you thanks. It is to be expected that you would fight for my safety, as I would yours. So do not go telling non-White people about how great you are for being an ally. Being an ally simply brings you to the level of basic human decency. You should be ashamed if you’re bragging about that.

I’m not going to thank you for reading this yet, because I am not sure what you will do in the future. I hope that my love for you has been well placed all these years, and that you’ll prove it by listening to, trying to understand, and then acting on what I’m saying. And if you can’t, it is time our relationship ends. If you hear me and believe my words to be worth hearing, please do pass this along to those who would like to hear it and to those who would rather not.

Love,

CF Edley III

P.S. This letter leaves out so much, I know. I have focused on White Supremacy. There’s a whole other interlocking letter regarding misogyny to be written. I haven’t even mentioned Climate Change, or any real policy issues. Believe me, it is not for not caring. There are interpenetrating universes of immense suffering. I am devastated. I hope that you are too.


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19 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Patrick Fennell says:

    CF, since the war on poverty started under the Johnson administration more people are in poverty, many are minorities. Under Obama more people are on SNAP and EBT cards, urban America is in worse shape than ever before, NAFTA and other trade agreements have hurt the working class, again especially minorities, and yet every year minorities for the most part vote teh democrat and liberal tickets, with poor results, almost every major city in the US is under democratic rule. Even under small town liberal select-boards minority hires are few and in between, especially law enforcement, when is the last time GB hired a woman, Latino of black? Their idea of helping the poor is affordable housing next to the sewage treatment plant.
    Is Trump the answer? Who knows, but over the last six decades neither major party has made improvements or improved education for minorities and recently MA rejected more charter schools that would have gone to cities like Pittsfield.

    Let’s give Trump a try, what we had wasn’t working well at all. An open mind will help too.

    1. Jim Johnston says:

      More drivel from Patrick. I was pulled over by a very nice hispanics police officer in GB last week, and have seen a young woman police officer walking a beat on Main Street several times this fall. Get your facts straight Patrick!

    2. Paul says:

      PF, Frankly I don’t see the relevancy of your comments to the subject piece. Giving Trump a try as you suggest does nothing to quell the rising tide of bigotry in America. His silence as incoming “president” on the racist crimes committed “in his name” is inexcusable and speaks volumes to his trajectory.
      What you suggest wasn’t working is not solved by tossing out the baby with the bath water. It’s solved by fixing what we have ….. and what we have is a great platform called America to move our ideals forward

    3. Michael Wise says:

      The snarky labels of national-media political name-calling don’t mean much for real decisions about real problems, not locally, not even nationally. On the ZBA that made the actual decision about that affordable housing project, the registered Republican along with three of the Democrats voted for the permit, while the most “liberal” of the Democrats — that would be me — voted against it.
      This letter is not about sociological metrics. It is a heartfelt reaction to how election rhetoric has unleashed demons. The KKK and the white nationalists are cheering and parading, while anonymous cowards who have been throwing racist spitballs from the shadows of on-line comment sections are invited to come out into the open.

    4. Jon Piasecki says:

      Patrick wants us-filthy liberals- and those of other races and religious identities to “give Trump a chance”. Trump has had billions of dollars of the media spotlight and with his 24/7 365 day chance he has promoted race hatred, bigotry, white supremacy, all with an endless stream of lies to get elected. I am sorry Andrew, but you are wise to be wary of white people , as there are quite a few ready to demonize others be they black, brown, Jewish or Muslim. There are plenty of folks like Patrick and Carla around as well. They are apologists for hate. While the safety pin will not help there are many of us who despise Trump and we will stand with you in this uncertain time to come.

  2. Ariel Bock says:

    Thank you for sharing this powerful and personal letter. It has given me a lot to think about.

  3. Eleanor windman says:

    Last night at 2:30 pm a policeman came to my door…he had a threatening stance, shone a flashlight in my face. I couldn’t see who was out there..I was frozen in terror. My dog was barking and someone had complained. I understand that..I apologize for my dog…but for the first time I had a true understanding of what it might be like to be a black man in this country…i’m an old white lady and I felt powerless and frightened.

  4. cliff weiss says:

    CF, there is another (I’m sure there are several more) kind of hatred and racism that you perhaps, don’t understand or experience. The hatred you speak of and experience is initially based on people’s reaction to color or other physical characteristics that makes one easily identifiable as they are walking down the street or in a supermarket aisle. There is another kind of hatred and racism that occurs, perhaps with equal frequency, against those that are not easily and /or physically discernible at first glance. These folks encounter hated and racism in the course of everyday life, due to the fact the haters don’t know the person’s religion , gender, whatever when in the course of “normal” conversation. There are folks that I encounter on a daily basis who have no clue to the hatred and ignorance they espouse as part of their normal lives. actions, or speech.

  5. Ann St. Clair says:

    Dear CF,
    This is not meant to apologize–as no apology is enough. Nor is it meant to say I am some sort of good person because I haven’t thought, said, or done anything racist in my life. All white lives are privileged, supported from birth by slavery and discrimination. As you point out, being consciously unbiased only makes me baseline human. As a woman who has dealt with misogyny all her life, I can say I know something of your fear, of being a target because of what I look like and what I was born as, but while most women including me) are destined to be physically, psychologically, and sexually abused, few are lynched and hung from trees–unless they are black or brown women.

    This is meant only to remind you that MOST Americans have not voted against you. MOST Americans do not want to kill you or harm you in any way. But I think most Americans are so lazy they did not even bother to vote. People like us voted, but not even all people who think of themselves as unbiased against Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Asians, Jews, people with physical or mental problems, and oh yes, women could drag themselves to the polls. I am disgusted and frightened as are you, but having fought all my life, I recognize that you are being blinded by emotion when you say you don’t believe white people will do anything to oppose the threats that confront us. You feel utterly alone. It’s a familiar feeling. But right now, I’m determined to work harder and smarter. I have no intention of allowing Donald Trump to have a go at destroying any progress we may have pieced together to improve things so far–WITHOUTCONSTANT, TOUGH OPPOSITION.

    Let’s not forget what Steve Bannon said in a radio remark in 2010: he is a Leninist, committed as Lenin was to sewing chaos to destroy the state! Trump is the perfect vessel for his intentions. The craziness of his behavior (prompted and supported by Bannon) during the recent campaign worked beautifully to confuse the media and the electorate. We must be alert to this and fight it always. We can’t spend our time fighting among ourselves. Thanks for expressing how terrible it is to be a black person right now more than ever. But know that many of us want to walk beside you. Let us do it.

  6. Carla Smith says:

    Good grief, the high drama performance of the liberal left is on full display in these comments. Have website comment sections become the new “daytime soaps”?

  7. Tamara says:

    I lived in California for years,my Child who is White as well as I lived in an area where there were more Hispanic 51%Asian 38%whites7% and blacks or mixed made up the rest,we were a minority for the first time, I was raised to respect people for who they were not the color of skin,nor where they came from. It is sad that people have to fear to live,anywhere. I was not fearful being a pregnant white woman,because I had respect for my neighbors and neighborhoods,I felt comfortable,but there were random murders,because of gangs,but I had great neighbors who watched out for each other.We need to watch out for each other now,as a big neighborhood and stop this petty bickering,I fully understand where this Proud Black man is coming from,he is expressing his fears,where is the compassion from some of these prior letters? I challenge some of you to totally deny ever having a fear so bad,and put it out here so others can see ,how would you all feel having others say hurtful things in a public forum? I bet you ,that you all would feel awful and wished you never said it.We need to be neighbors and treat each more kindly because like it or not,these are trying times ,Respect! Not Disrespect,Thank-you!

  8. Michele Quigley says:

    Thank you for this passionate article. I am with you.

  9. Kathleen Williams says:

    CF, I imagine that I cannot say anything that will reach your level of suffering, but I’m writing this anyway because I keep going over your comments in my head.

    I feel certain that the great majority of voters who chose Trump did it IN SPITE of the flawed biases that he has shown, not because of them.

    They chose him because they have been abandoned by the system that has taken their jobs and their spendable income, created destructive trade bills, made them unable to send their children to college, and left them hopeless. Their options were limited after Sen. Sanders’ removal from the race, and they were left with a candidate who had 1% and Wall Street backing and a history of championing the overthrow of foreign governments—or Trump.

    I know that the KKK and the American Nazis are applauding this man’s success, as well as some very predjudiced voters— but those sections really do not qualify as “the ENTIRE COUNTRY”. We are all going to be in some danger now, environmentally and conscientiously; but I think that a preponderance of Americans are making headway with overcoming their cultural biases and aiming toward compassion.

    I believe your letter will help to influence this, and I am glad it was published.

    1. Paul Tierney says:

      Kathleen, Thank you for writing. I’m glad CF’s thoughts are resonating in your head, as they are in mine. Those were some tough (but fair) words. Yours is the most reasonable & compassionate defense of voting for Trump that I have read.

      Having said that, I disagree on several points.
      Voting for Trump in spite of his racism means that racism is not a deal-breaker. It means that Trump voters are willing to sacrifice Black lives for economic gains for themselves. Racism costs People of Color in every facet of their lives: health, education, employment, poverty, unfair treatment by law enforcement & the “justice” system, and more.

      Yes, on Election Day there were only two choices. But in the primary Republicans had 17 choices and they chose Trump as their candidate. None of the others were even close to being as racist as Trump. Not to mention misogyny, religious bias, disrespect for judicial independence, instigating violence, etc.

      Also, Trump supporters had a responsibility to look at his promises critically rather than taking everything he said at face value. Much of what he promised he couldn’t possibly do. He was lying to them and they had a responsibility not to be so naive. He’s already backing off from many of his promises. Trump supporters had a responsibility to see that Trump was scapegoating others and to reject that simplistic solution for our problems.

      I agree we are all in danger now. I think many Trump supporters are going to be sorely disappointed. We have a lot of healing to do.

  10. Stephen Cohen says:

    It just seems that most Americans can’t understand that the hatred directed against our fellow black citizens is different from anyone else’s experience because of slavery. We gleefully killed off the native Americans we stole the country from, and then brought to our shores our black citizens’ ancestors in one of the most horrible acts in human history. Now, one half of our voting population (and probably one half of our eligible voters) have endorsed, or at least accepted, the racist, mysoginistic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rants of our President-elect. It is devastating to contemplate how the writer of the letter must feel. It is particularly repugnant to me that anyone could suggest that we give Mr Trump a chance. A chance to do what? To put into effect the policies he stands for. God forbid.

  11. Len Levine says:

    Seems to me that our country’s problems have finally come home to roost. With this election of a man with zero experience at anything but real estate and who probably has never picked up a hammer will be our next leader. Just shows the frustration level of a divided America.
    Our politicians have let us down…. Both parties! Why is the question. In my opinion it might have to do with being a career politician who cares more about securing his job than legislating as he/was hired/elected to do. How many terms do we give these people and would you as a business person keep ineffective employees on your own payroll. So I ask, why do we allow these people more latitude than we give each other.
    It’s too late for this past election cycle but let’s look forward to the next ones in two or four years from now. We must stop thinking about our own problems if we are going to enact change or make America great again or be better together. Catch phrases don’t enact change, people do!

  12. R.C. Austin says:

    The propensity for a heightened racism seems ever present, and ever evident, here in the United States. Some of us expect the worse, always. No party, at any time has done right By black Americans. The government insists on giving us inches when we want the full human measured mile. I’m afraid I have become desensitized orsimply perhaps, I have no time to fear…shit, the worst has already been done! As a Black man, I simply have to move on, mentally, spiritually, and likely someday physically. Also, I simply don’t believe the white man is capable of saving this country. We are all just treading in the wake of Melville’s white whale…and who is gonna slay that beast if not the Black man? It’s probably better for the weary to become the narrator of the tale on some other, distant shore.

  13. liz says:

    CF….i am terrified…these “thoughtful” comments terrify me. your letter is from the heart. i hear you.

  14. Bernie says:

    To CF Edley III,
    Yes. I am devastated too.
    Thank you for your letter.

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