It’s about time someone recognized it — white liberal guilt is an empty sham meant only to make people feel better but not actually affect change for the black community.
In a New York Times Op-Ed published Friday, writer Chad Sanders was just as critical of their overtures as some conservatives, but offered a solution to the white people in his circle that is as severe as it is revelatory: He encouraged people to shun their own family members if they do not support his version of the fight against racism.
Sanders began with piece a provocative statement: “My book is coming out in a few months, and I don’t know if I’m going to be alive to see it, because I’m a black man,” he wrote, setting the tone for the piece. (Later, Sanders would cite the controversial killings of black individuals like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin to back up this claim.)
Sanders then shared an anecdote that eviscerated the obnoxious, pandering virtue signaling that has pervaded the establishment media, social media and even the halls of government ever since Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
When his literary agent he described as a “liberal white woman in her 30s” informed him a meeting would be rescheduled to observe a “Blackout Day,” he found it absurd.
“To paraphrase, my agent was pushing back a meeting necessary for the completion and timely release of my book — which is about how black people can apply the lessons we derive from traumatic experiences to our careers — so that white people could reflect on how to help black people,” Sanders wrote.
“I countered,” he continued, “insisting that our meeting take place as scheduled because black people’s lives are in danger, and I shouldn’t have to sacrifice momentum on a book written for black people because white people are performing empathy.”
Sanders also said many white people were reaching out to him, “spilling over with guilt and overzealous attempts to offer sympathy” and draining his “time and energy” for their own purposes.
He quoted one such text as an example of those he had been receiving by well-meaning white friends, old co-workers and acquaintances.
The message expressed sympathy, apologized for racism in America, acknowledged the words were sent from the safety of a “Snuggie of white privilege” and threw in some heart emojis for maximum impact.
Sanders proceeded to shred the sentiments, and especially bristled at how those sorts of messages usually ended with ” seven oppressive words — ‘Don’t feel like you need to respond.'”
“Not only are these people using me as a waste bin for guilt and shame,” Sanders concluded, “but they’re also instructing me on what not to feel, silencing me in the process.”
He wrote that he resented how those words apparently indicate the “transaction is complete because the message has been conveyed.”
Many on Twitter apparently felt something similar as their white friends and acquaintances reached out to them in the wake of Floyd’s death:
white allies… stop checking in on black friends. if I “need to talk,” I will talk to other black people. not you. use that energy to reach out to your white friends and family who are silent and/or anti-black. that’s where you’re actually needed.
— Moses Sumney (@MosesSumney) May 31, 2020
i am calling for a national moratorium on texts from guilty white liberals
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) June 1, 2020
Good to know what now is when they wanted to tell me that they’re the person they are today because we had….chemistry together in 10th grade apparently
— ? Camille ? (@Cake986) June 1, 2020
It had to be said.
My inbox has been flooded.
Also dawned on me that I’m clearly their approachable black friend. I never asked for that title.
— TALK TO ME NORMAL! ?? (@doubleo8s) June 2, 2020
This wouldnt have happened if it wasn’t for “ALLIES” needing to PERFORM and get kudos for being decent human beings
ALLIES fell right into a trap w/o thinking critically about the work. You wanted to be seen as “doing the right thing”.
A damned square
— FJ says “Remember #BreonnaTaylor” (@FeministaJones) June 2, 2020
It’s worth noting that Sanders’ sentiments in this respect are still somewhat extreme. (It’s more than a bit of a stretch, for instance, to claim: “When you tell me I don’t have to respond, you rob me of the last shred of agency I have in this unwanted exchange by giving me permission to do what I already would have done.” Maybe Sanders’ acquaintances legitimately just don’t want him to feel like he must respond to each of them?)
Still, much of what he wrote is a refreshing acknowledgment of the emptiness of ridiculous hashtag activism, which at best is lazy and at worst dehumanizing, as it capitalizes on the suffering of another to find forgiveness. (Christians can do that through prayer and confession to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but many on the left apparently need a proxy like Sanders).
Sanders provided “three suggestions on more immediately impactful things to offer instead.”
Two of those suggestions were essentially boilerplate call-to-action recommendations.
But one of them was drastic, to say the least.
First Sanders asserted that those who really want to help can use their money to fund “legal fees for black people who are unjustly arrested, imprisoned or killed or to black politicians running for office.”
Another reasonable and relatively benign suggestion was to protect “fellow black protesters who are at greater risk of harm during demonstrations.”
But the most severe and shocking advice he had for those bogged down by white guilt was for them to text “relatives and loved ones telling them you will not be visiting them or answering phone calls until they take significant action in supporting black lives either through protest or financial contributions.”
According to Sanders, if you really want to show how much you truly care about the struggle against racial inequality, then you would cut off the people you love until they comply in ways deemed satisfactory.
After all, it isn’t enough for them to be the kind of people who treat everyone with dignity, but loved ones must additionally comply with his measures to deserve love and acknowledgment from their own families.
“Yes, these actions may seem grave,” Sanders wrote.
“But you insist that you love me, and love requires sacrifice. Text messages are unlimited on most data plans. Emojis are not sacrificial.”
Sanders is right that sending texts apologizing to random black people and posting hashtags are useless forms of contrition, but why isn’t it enough to just not be racist?
He essentially argued that unless a family member makes sure they are “supporting black lives” in the way he deemed appropriate, they should be marginalized and shunned by loved ones.
Emotional blackmail is never a good strategy, but it is especially counterproductive in a cause that at its core should be about human love and unity.
Families are about unconditional love, not just loving those whose politics are correct.
When family members are turned against each other, it causes strife and division not just for them, but eventually for society as a whole.
The author’s experience of racism sounds heartbreaking, and the obvious resentment he still carries permeated his opinion piece, but without the proper attitude or solutions, the problems and the pain will continue to plague not just Sanders, but the whole world.
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