I do believe that most white people are trying. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t bother writing, because I wouldn’t believe that anyone would engage with it or wrestle with it in their context. When it comes to marginalization of any kind, the marginalized person is always going to know more than the oppressor, because the nature of marginalization requires the marginalized to learn their own language and the language of their oppressor to survive.
Here is an example: wealthy people (oppressor class) often do not know the cost of regular grocery items like a gallon of milk, a gallon of gas, things that poor and middle-class people (marginalized class) have to purchase and use on a regular basis. the wealthy person is ignorant of such things, because they have a poor or middle-class person that works for them that handles those responsibilities. But the poor or middle class employee not only knows what milk and gas costs, They know what top end milk and top end gas and top end car services cost. They know with dinners out at expensive restaurants and hiring a caterer and interior decorator cost, because while it isn’t their life, they have to have this knowledge to navigate the world they live in.
So going back to me believing that white people are really trying. I do think you guys are trying, but you are the rich people in this scenario and you have no idea what is happening in Black world because you have the option to not spend any time in Black worlds. Black people do not have the option to simply avoid white spaces. We know your world because we have to navigate it to survive, you do not know our world because it is not required of you.
White people are trying and it is a blind leading the blind situation. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you don’t have endometriosis. If a friend of yours told you she was diagnosed with endometriosis, would you stop being her friend? Because, you don’t know anything about her disease. You don’t know how to recognize the symptoms, you don’t know how to cure it, you’re not even sure what the pain management plan is. Chances are that if you cared about your friend you would read up about the disease, But you would also listen to her when she said no amount of reading will really make you understand what is going on in her body.
Now, let’s take that example a step further. Let’s say that some of the things you guys have done as friends for a long time aggravate her illness. Like for example, you have bottomless mimosa branches, and now she knows that orange juice is not good for her and neither is alcohol. You have a choice: You can keep going to brunch at the same place and watch your friend yearn for bottomless mimosas, or you can change up the plan to accommodate your friend.
You are not responsible for all the bottomless mimosas she had before her diagnosis, because neither one of you were aware of how it was impacting her at the time. But now that you do know, you were a responsible for what you do going forward.
Although race is certainly not a disease, it is a socially constructed identity that impacts all of us whether we are aware of it or not. I am cisgender, So I investigate spaces for transphobia in an effort to minimize the trauma my transgender friends have to deal with on a daily basis. At the same time, I know that as a cis woman there are plenty of things I still don’t get, plenty of ways I put my foot in my mouth, plenty of things that I say that are unintentionally hurtful. When a transgender friend trusts me enough to tell me about the harmful impact of my words, I usually mumble something like, I didn’t know, I’ll try to do better. Sometimes I ask questions to better understand, sometimes those questions are dumb and they are things that I could have googled. Usually my friends are patient with me, but If they are not, I also understand. It’s on me to show up for them better.